Sherlock Holmes In The Spider Woman No-no-no, comic book fan's! The title of this film doesn't imply that! I mean, could you just imagine the sight a certain 'Marvel Heroine' being impregnated by a certain 'World's Greatest Detective'? Ouch! That would be very... errr... un-elementary. And nothing like this 62-minute movie made in 1944, Directed by Roy William Neill; and Starring: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, with Gale Sondergaard.

Sherlock Holmes in the Spider Woman

Please forgive me for fraining my own death, Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce), by suddenly plunging into that Scottish river the other day. I didn't mean to worry you so. Honestly I didn't. But then again, how else was I going to instigate a very cunning plan, where I -- Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) -- was able to figure out how that murderer cleverly covered up her crimes by making her victims appear to commit suicide.

Yes. That is correct, old chap. The killer in this case does possess a feminine touch. Admittedly, I wasn't able to corroborate this gender based nuance straight away. No. Of course not. First I had to assume the guise of a disabled Indian army-man, and visit the casino where all of these victims lost their money. Then I myself had to loose all of my money too, and pretend that this brash turn of events made me loose face. And finally, it was then -- and only then -- at that very moment in time -- when I was approached by a very nice lady called Adrea Spedding (Gale Sondergaard) -- I knew. I knew what was what.

You see, old chap, Adrea and her accomplice, Norman Locke (Vernon Downing), arranged for their victims to take out a huge life insurance policy, and then cash it in, by killing them with the use of a rare and exotic spider. Obviously I found this out not so long after my visit to the casino, where Adrea got me to do the same thing, and... and... and... ouch! What bit me?

Still. I suppose that's why what next transpires becomes somewhat probing, when me and Inspector Lestrade (Dennis Hoey) fly into action. As Adrea's nephew is no joke - a choke leads to some bloke - a pygmy looses the plot - and during a trip to the fun-fair, Doctor Watson shows that he's a very good shot.

Or not.

OK. So maybe this is my 'comic book side' speaking. But in a strange way 'The Spider Woman' reminded me of an old 1940's Batman comic I once read, where the Dark Knight had to pit his wits against the Catwoman.

Sherlock Holmes in the Spider Woman Film Poster, starring Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, with Gale Sondergaard.
Yeah. I'm not kidding you, pal. From my point of view this flick wasn't a murder mystery at all. Within the first fifteen minutes, Sherlock frains death, comes back to life, and then tries to track down and figure out how 'Spidey' was able to commit her cleaver crimes to begin with.

However, he doesn't do it in his usual 'Sherlock Holmes' manner. By following the clues and then deducing his deductions one after the other after the other. Instead, he finds the lady in question by pretending to be an Indian chap -- which Rathbone was great at portraying by the way -- before these two combatants mentally duke it out in a battle of wits.

Honestly. This film was a rather refreshing change of pace to what I've already seen before. Not in a disrespectful fashion I might add. Because as expected, there still is the normal inquisitive and timely method filtered via the other films. It's just that this time round -- as I stated previously -- there was a comic book edge to these proceedings too. A 1940's comic book edge.  Where 'hero A' has to perpetually outmaneuver 'villain B', despite having to play 'catch-up' until the final end reel.  

Furthermore, something else about this movie I got a right kick out of, was the heightened tension and suspense the plot-line exhumed, because the main villain of this piece really did put Sherlock through his tracks. For instance, there were a couple of scenes where I truthfully thought Holmes was in 'the sh*t', due to the fact that he was placed in a very tight and harrowing predicament.  

Sherlock Holmes in the Spider Woman movie poster, starring Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, with Gale Sondergaard.

Sherlock Holmes in the Spider Woman, starring Basil Rathbone and Gale Sondergaard.
Of course I won't tell you what these scenes actually entail, dear reader. No. That would spoil the surprise. Yet what I will do is present you with the following filmic-facts. Boy! Aren't I lovely! (1) 'Universal Studios' first released this production in New York, New York, on the very same day 649 British bombers attacked Magdeburg -- January the 21st, 1944. (2) Loosely translated, this project was entitled 'The Woman with Spiders' in France; 'The Cobweb' in Portugal; and just plain old 'Sherlock Holmes' in Italy. (3) As per usual, the majority of this movie was shot at 'Universal Studios', Universal City, situated within the American state of California. (4) Although this film wasn't directly based on any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original Holmes stories, it does manage to incorporate certain elements taken from 'The Sign of the Four', 'The Adventure of the Speckled Band', 'The Final Problem', 'The Adventure of the Devil's Foot', and 'The Adventure of the Empty House'. (5) Two years after this film was first released -- 1946 -- Gale Sondergaard played the title role in another 'Universal' film, called, 'The Spider Woman Strikes Back'. But no. According to the makers of that 'horror movie', their production bears no relation whatsoever to this particular Sherlock Holmes adventure. (6) It took less than three whole weeks to shot the entirety of this film. It happened sometime between the months of early May and June, 1943. (7) One of the taglines used to promote this picture, was, 'Here is crawling death sent to Sherlock Holmes by the most fiendish killer of all'. (8) After this flick brushed itself down, Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce starred in the next Sherlock Holmes movie, 'The House of Fear', whilst Gale Sondergaard starred in that horror movie I mention previously in point 5.

The Cast of Sherlock Holmes in the Spider Woman

Overall I'd say 'The Spider Woman' is a great Sherlock Holmes tale, and is a must watch for anyone who loves hunter / hunted type parables or timely comic book adventures.

Nuff said.


SHERLOCK HOLMES IN THE SPIDER WOMAN (1944) SHERLOCK HOLMES IN THE SPIDER WOMAN (1944) Reviewed by David Andrews on April 01, 2014 Rating: 5
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