The Spider Woman (1943)

The Spider Woman (1943)
7.1
  • 3892
  • Approved
  • Genre: Film-Noir
  • Release year: 1943 ()
  • Running time: 63 min
  • Original Title: The Spider Woman
  • Voted: 3892

Sherlock Holmes takes on a case that the press has dubbed the pajama suicides. Eminent men are going to bed in the safety of their own homes, with everything seemingly being normal, only to commit suicide in the night. Holmes fakes his own death in the hopes of giving him a freer hand in the investigation and is convinced that a woman, a female Moriarty as he describes her, is behind the deaths. The dead men were all eminent and very wealthy. He impersonates a wealthy retired Indian military officer in the hope of drawing out the woman and he soon meets Adrea Spedding but she quickly sees through his disguise and proves herself to be the challenge Holmes predicted she would be. She is a worthy adversary and soon traps him setting him up in a carnival shooting gallery that seems to assure his death.

#PersonCharacters
1Basil RathboneSherlock Holmes
2Nigel BruceDoctor Watson
3Gale SondergaardAdrea Spedding
4Dennis HoeyLestrade
  • Most Entertaining In the Series by 8

    This might rate as the most entertaining of all the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films, which I still think are the best renditions on film of the famous detective.

    This has a surprising amount of action and is simply a fun story to watch. Packed into just one hour are such scenes as Holmes faking his death, a near-poisoning of he and Dr. Watson by gas, a strange little boy who hops around a room, tarantulas on the loose, on and on.

    Nigel Bruce is his normally funny Dr. Watson and Gale Sondergaard makes an excellent villain. Credibility is stretched in the beginning and ending scenes but it's an enjoyable ride all the way through.

  • Pretty good Holmesiana by 8

    The 1942-43 Holmes/Watson films are often pathetic nonsense involving Nazi spies and have Holmes dashing all over the place firing guns at all and sundry, which doesn't work at all.

    Yes, this is wartime, and the targets in the fairground shooting gallery are Hitler, Hirohito and Mussolini, but this is a proper detective story about mysterious murders.

    It's an amalgam of Conan Doyle's original stories The Sign of Four and The Final Problem rather than a farrago of cod secret agents, and it works pretty well as a mystery.

    Gale Sondergaard makes a marvellous villain, and plays excellently opposite Rathbone's Holmes.

    Well worth while

  • The Female Of The Species Is More Deadly Than The Male by 10

    Sherlock Holmes matches wits with THE SPIDER WOMAN, a fiendish femme fatale responsible for a series of ingenious London murders.

    Holmes & Watson face one of their most dangerous enemies in this highly enjoyable little crime mystery. Angry arachnids, toxic gas, Hitler's deadly heart and a very sinister little boy are only some of the elements Holmes must contend with in order to solve the latest crime spree to baffle the Metropolitan Police. Behind it all is the malice of a clever, cruel & cunning woman who gleefully challenges the great detective to do his best to stop her.

    The movie is not without its faults. The brief running time and abrupt conclusion are unfortunate, and the ultimate reason for all the murders is really not all that exciting, but the vivid characters and dangerous adventure more than compensate for the film's shortcomings.

    Basil Rathbone & Nigel Bruce remain perfect in their leading roles. Rathbone obviously relished playing the cerebral genius and he gets to spice out his characterization with a couple of dead-on disguises. Bumbling Bruce only grows more lovable with each passing film, playing his part with fierce loyalty as well as charming naiveté.

    Oscar winning actress Gale Sondergaard portrays the title role with deadly feline guile, teasing Holmes the way a cat plays with a mouse. Alec Craig & Arthur Hohl steal a few screen moments as eccentric entomologists. Back for their recurring roles are Dennis Hoey as dogged Inspector Lestrade and dear Mary Gordon as Mrs. Hudson.

    This film -- which was based on wisps of plot from Conan Doyle's

    The Final Problem, The Empty House, The Speckled Band, The Sign of Four, and The Devil's Foot -- followed SHERLOCK HOLMES FACES DEATH (1943) and preceded THE SCARLET CLAW (1944). Miss Sondergaard reprised her villainous role two years later in THE SPIDER WOMAN STRIKES BACK (1946).

  • Kiss of "The Spider Woman" by 7

    One of the best in Universal's Sherlock Holmes series, The Spider Woman dispenses, for the most part, with the overt WWII subject matter (which was also reasonably sparse in the previous outing, Sherlock Holmes Faces Death). The climax does make use of the image of Hitler and other Axis figures, but this was (aside from a brief mention in Dressed to Kill) the final direct war reference in the series. This bears mentioning because the film benefits strongly from the general lack of wartime subterfuge. Rather than battling Nazi agents, Rathbone's Sherlock is embroiled in a truly Holmesian mystery, surrounding several apparent suicides...which Holmes, naturally (and correctly), deduces to be homicides.

    Though the opening credits proclaim "Based on a Story by Arthur Conan Doyle," The Spider Woman adapts (quite freely) major incidents from no less than five of Conan Doyle's tales...The Sign of Four, The Speckled Band, The Final Problem, The Empty House (also referenced in Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon), and The Devil's Foot. False advertising, maybe...but the script (courtesy of Bertram Millhauser) manages to weave them all into a framework that makes for a fun and intriguing mystery.

    Other assets include the performances, which are better than in some of the earlier films (though Rathbone and Bruce never disappointed), and the more sure-handed guidance of regular directer Roy William Neill...by this time, a vast improvement over the direction in his first Holmes outing, Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon. It's also appropriate (if somewhat superficial) to note that Holmes's hairstyle, which changed for the better in Sherlock Holmes Faces Death, thankfully does not revert in this one (nor at any time for the duration of the series) to the shambles that it was in the first three films.

    All in all, one of the best made, and most entertaining, films in the Universal series. It doesn't quite rise to the heights of The Scarlet Claw, but it's easily one of the best.

  • Very decent Holmes mystery by 7

    I'm becoming a huge fan of Universal's classic Sherlock Holmes series. The more of them I see, the more I enjoy the series and the more I am impressed by Basil Rathbone's excellent portrayal of the great literary detective. This mystery follows a mysterious series of suicides and it sees Holmes and his good friend Dr Watson at their best once again. While I wouldn't consider this entry in the series as one of the very best, it's certainly very good and anyone who likes this sort of thing will no doubt enjoy themselves. Really, though, Holmes could be investigating what makes steam come out of the kettle and it would be invigorating and exciting just thanks to the way that Basil Rathbone plays the man. The mannerisms, the voice and the screen presence of the great actor combine to create a fantastic representation of the eloquent detective and you really can't imagine anyone but Basil Rathbone playing Sherlock Holmes in these films. One problem with this entry in the series, however, is that it's very short at just an hour long and this ensures that the film can never really get it's teeth into the central mystery plot line, and it feels somewhat underdone because of this. However, this is made up for with some great sequences, most notably the one in which Doctor Watson meets an entomologist that Holmes has hired, which I say is the best scene in any Sherlock Holmes movie, ever. These sorts of films work because they're a lot of fun to watch, and this instalment is no different. If you like Sherlock Holmes mysteries; this isn't as good as the likes of Hound of the Baskervilles, The Scarlet Claw and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; but it stands up as an admirable entry into the series in it's own right!

#PersonCrew
1Charles Van Engercinematographer
2Roy William Neilldirector
3William Austineditor
4Bertram Millhauserwriter
5Arthur Conan Doylewriter