Web of the Spider (1971)
Remaking one’s own film isn’t exactly a common occurrence but it has been done before. Look no further than Alfred Hitchcock to realize that even the great ones attempt to offer up all new versions of an earlier triumph. I’m referring to his 1934 film The Man Who Knew Too much which he remade in 1956. If Hitch can do it, then why not Antonio Margheriti who just seven years after helming the black and white thriller Caste of Blood turns to color for this eerie remake with cult favorite Klaus Kinski appearing as none other than Edgar Allan Poe.
“Only Poe’s demented mind could send you here on such a night.”
Klaus opens the movie in a suitably eerie setting. That of a graveyard and ultimately a crypt where he will seemingly lose his sanity. I say seemingly because we’re about to cut to an inn where Klaus as Poe is telling the tale to a group of terrified listeners. (Others may say Klaus had lost his sanity long ago which is why he was so DAMNED convincing on camera in the first place.) One of the interested listeners is Anthony Franciosa as an American reporter gone abroad looking to meet Poe. In very little time at all, Franciosa is coerced by Poe and another gentleman to take a 100 pound wager to spend a night at the supposedly haunted Blackwood Castle. It’s sure to make a good story for the readers back home and Klaus sees to it that Tony is dropped off at the castle gates.
And so begins Tony’s own descent into madness when he comes to realize that Blackwood Castle is far from deserted. Or is it all in his mind? Black cats, howling winds and wolves followed by loud creaks within the walls begin. The paintings adorning the castle walls look real and prove to be just that when Michele Mercier steps forward to meet Tony. She’ll show him to a cozy room and there’s more than a hint of sex in the air.
When a second woman (Karin Field) appears, jealousy rears it’s ugly head. The two women will verbally spar as if Tony is the prize and Michele will win out. Suddenly a male figure will burst into Tony’s chambers following his bedding Michele and plunge a knife into her. Tony will charge after the man and shoot him dead. Or does he? The bodies will disappear. The appearance of Peter Carsten as a world renowned doctor will shed some light on the mystery of what has just unfolded before Tony who is beginning to doubt his own sanity. He’ll take Tony on a journey through the castle’s history allowing scenes of violence to play themselves out as if Tony has taken a front row seat at an interactive dinner theater.
A touch of nudity follows as one might expect in a Euro thriller when Tony will play witness to a young couples arrival at the castle that will also unveil more murders and vampirism. Will Tony succumb to madness or the fangs of a sect of vampires attending a ball that recalls Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers? Thankfully now that the film has been issued in an all new blu ray edition from Garage House Pictures as opposed to numerous low budget editions in terrible condition, you might want to check out the proceedings yourself to see just how Tony fares in the end. After all no one has ever survived a night at the castle to collect their wager.
The blu ray offers dual versions of the film and other bonus materials making it a nice addition to the library here at Mike’s Take. As is usual in movies featuring the workaholic Klaus, he’s dubbed, robbing the film of the added attraction of his one of a kind voice.
I’ve avoided comparing the film to the earlier version that in itself is a must see for Horror Queen, Barbara Steele’s appearance. Perhaps I’ll feature that version on an upcoming discussion. It should come as no surprise that it to can be found here on the shelf at Mike’s Take. Spider is a rather odd title in the career of Franciosa. He’d been a Brando(esque) leading man in the latter part of the 1950’s, alternated between TV and leading roles in westerns, war efforts and Fathom with Raquel Welch in the 60’s. Aside from this thriller and the odd feature he’d move back to TV for much of the 70’s before appearing in one of Dario Argento’s better efforts, Tenebre in 1982.
If you like this sort of thing that was commonplace in the decade that preceded it, give it a look for both the Margheriti and Klaus factor. Factor? Perhaps “cult” might be a better word.