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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Web of the Spider (Blu-ray)
Web of the Spider (Blu-ray)
Garagehouse Pictures // Unrated // October 31, 2017 // Region Free
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted November 29, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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You know you're in trouble when the director of the very film you're about to watch considers it "stupid" and a complete waste of time and energy. Such is the case with Web of the Spider (Nella stretta morsa del ragno, 1971), a mostly scene-for-scene remake of Castle of Blood (Danza macabra, 1964). Castle of Blood, also available on Blu-ray, was shot in black-and-white, while Web of the Spider added color, but the director of both versions, Antonio Margheriti, later admitted (as quoted in Roberto Curti's Italian Gothic Horror Films), "the color cinematography destroyed everything: the atmosphere, the tension."

Margheriti wasn't entirely correct. As fellow Italian filmmaker Mario Bava frequently demonstrated, color done right could richly enhance the Italian-style horror film, and Web of the Spider's look is at times fairly effective, but neither is it terribly inspired. And there are other problems. The film's Italian-American star, Tony Franciosa, isn't up to the task and seems wildly out of place, as does Riz Ortolani's electric guitar-driven musical score. (Ortolani also scored Castle of Blood.)

Apparently an initial offering from new label Garagehouse Pictures, Web of the Spider offers an eye-pleasing high-def transfer "fully restored and mastered from an uncut, domestic theatrical negative" via Al Adamson's Independent International company. The all-region disc is loaded with extra features that somewhat offset the disappointing film.

The movie starts off brimming with chaotic, superfluous atmosphere, as famed writer Edgar Allan Poe (Klaus Kinski, unexpectedly well cast) madly roams cobweb-littered catacombs, searching for a particular tomb. Later, at a pub, while passionately detailing a premature burial, journalist Alan Foster (Franciosa) arrives, he a practical fellow who doesn't believe in the supernatural. This prompts a wager from Poe's friend, Lord Thomas Blackwood (Enrico Osterman), to spend a single night alone in Blackwood's creepy mansion. Soon after arriving, Foster encounters the apparent ghosts of previous occupants murdered there and forced to reenact their violent deaths. One of the spirits, Elisabeth Blackwood (Michèle Mercier), falls in love with Foster and tries to help him escape before it is Too Late.

The problems with Web of the Spider go way beyond the mere addition of color, which neither helps nor hurts when compared to Margheriti's earlier film version. The most obvious flaw is Tony Franciosa, the notoriously volatile, physically abusive jobbing actor, having recently been fired from the expensive "wheel" series The Name of the Game (1968-71). In Web of the Spider, Franciosa's wardrobe and hairstyle are so incongruous to the 1840s setting he looks as if he strolled onto the set straight from the airport. He gives it the old regional dinner theatre try, but never seems committed to his character, and that in turn never convinces the movie audience to invest much into his part or the story generally.

His autopilot performance contributes to another problem, which is that Margheriti can't convince viewers to accept the intriguing idea of ghosts materializing and, room-to-room, reenacting their horrible murders through eternity. What Stanley Kubrick pulled off so well in The Shining is beyond Margheriti's abilities, presenting these manifestations in the same "movie real" style as everything else, with Franciosa's inapt reactions further dooming their effectiveness.

Video & Audio

An all-region disc, Web of the Spider is presented in an impressively sharp presentation that accurately reflects the domestic version's 2-perf Techniscope release. This cut, running 93 minutes, is in English only, though the longer Italian version is included as an extra feature.

Extra Features

Garagehouse doesn't skimp on the supplements. The 110-minute Italian version is in standard-def, but is fully subtitled in English, as are the two German language Super-8 sound digest versions (running 16 minutes apiece), though oddly presented in 1.78:1 widescreen. A deleted scene in Italian is likewise subtitled. Also included are very fun Antonio Margheriti and Garagehouse trailer reels, all in high-def, all from domestic release versions of those titles. There's an art gallery and two audio commentaries, one by DVD Drive-In's George Reis and filmmaker Keith Crocker, the other featuring Stephen Romano.

Parting Thoughts

For fans of Euro-Gothic horror films Web of the Spider is worth seeing and it's not terrible, but it also never rises above mediocrity, either. Still, the good transfer and glut of extra features makes this Recommended.






Stuart Galbraith IV is the Kyoto-based film historian largely absent from reviewing these days while he restores a 200-year-old Japanese farmhouse.

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