The Spider Woman (1943)

Approved   |    |  Film-Noir, Mystery, Thriller


The Spider Woman (1943) Poster

Sherlock Holmes investigates a series of so-called "pajama suicides". He knows the female villain behind them is as cunning as Moriarty and as venomous as a spider.

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7.3/10
3,696

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  • Vernon Downing and Gale Sondergaard in The Spider Woman (1943)
  • Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce in The Spider Woman (1943)
  • Basil Rathbone, Dennis Hoey, and Gale Sondergaard in The Spider Woman (1943)
  • Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, and Gale Sondergaard in The Spider Woman (1943)
  • Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce in The Spider Woman (1943)
  • Basil Rathbone in The Spider Woman (1943)

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Reviews & Commentary

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User Reviews


15 February 2006 | james_oblivion
7
| Kiss of "The Spider Woman"
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.

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