26 September 2018 | jrd_73
"A gift to celebrate your departure from this world"
"I will show you my Full Moon cut as a gift to celebrate your departure from this world," so mocks Kyoshiro Nemuri to one villain at the end of In the Spider's Lair, the eleventh of the Sleepy Eyes of Death films.
This entry (also known as The Human Tarantula) was picked as the best in the series (and one of the ten best martial arts movies) by the writers of the 1985 book Martial Arts Movies, Richard Meyers, Amy Harlib, and Bill and Karen Palmer. They put it this way: "A nihilistic samurai cuts down all in his path in an attempt to understand his love/hate relationship with Christianity."
While I prefer Sword of Seduction (#4), Hell Is a Woman (#10), and maybe A Trail of Traps (#9) as well, In the Spider's Web has much to recommend it. First, the evil siblings make for good villains. These illegitimate children of the shogun were supposedly executed, but in fact have been shipped off to the country due to their sadistic behavior and incestuous longing. However, not liking the slow pace of the countryside, the two have found a new hobby. They kidnap the local youths and kill them for fun. The brother likes to practice his archery on the peasants. The sister has migraines which she eases by watching others die.
In addition to the villains, In the Spider's Lair features a great deal of action. This entry probably has the highest body count since Sword of Satan (#6). Third, the film stands as one of the most downbeat of the series. Often in the Sleepy Eyes of Death films there is a silver lining, not so here. Fourth, the film has an especially memorable music score. Some of the other entries have featured good music as well, but I particularly liked the score for this film. Finally, the swirling color over the opening credit makes for a pleasing beginning (even if the viewer has no idea what it is supposed to mean).
A few quibbles, the evil spawn of the shogun plot has been done by the series at least twice before. Also, while there is a lot of swordplay, none of the fights have that wow quality to make any one of them stand out.
These are minor complaints for what is one of the best in the series. A little over twenty years ago, I saw this film without subtitles. Understanding the plot definitely improves the viewing experience.