Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

THE SPIDER WOMAN STRIKES BACK


THE SPIDER WOMAN STRIKES BACK (1946). Director: Arthur Lubin.

"But it won't really be dying -- you'll live on in this beautiful plant!"

Jean Kingsley (Brenda Joyce) arrives at an isolated community where coincidentally an old boyfriend, Hal (Kirby Grant), just happens to be living. Jean has been hired by a supposedly blind woman named Zenobia Dollard (Gale Sondergaard) -- without either ever meeting the other -- to be her live-in companion. [You would think that name alone would have frightened Miss Kingsley off.] Zenobia seems quite charming, if a touch smarmy, and has a brutish deformed servant, Mario (Rondo Hatton) who has rather poor manners. While a nervous Jean tries to find out what really happened to Zenobia's last companion, who supposedly went off to get married but was never heard from again, Mr. Moore (Milburn Stone) of the Department of Agriculture is trying to find out where the weed is that's poisoning so many of the farmers' cows. Sondergaard is as excellent as ever as the rather batty, vengeance-minded woman who feeds both spiders and human blood to her collection of carnivorous plants. One supposes the title of this film was meant to tie the movie in with the great Sherlock Holmes film The Spider Woman, made two years earlier, which also features a deadly spider and stars Sondergaard [as Adrea Spedding, a completely different but similarly evil character]?

Verdict: Gale Sondergaard and flesh-eating plants-- wow! **1/2.

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