2 December 2007 | F Gwynplaine MacIntyre
Bugs with human faces! Cue the Zanti Misfits.
'In the Claws of the Arachnid' was screened in October 2007 at the Cinema Muto festival in Pordenone, Italy; the festival screened a colour print (with French intertitles) loaned by the Nederlands Filmmuseum; this print apparently reproduces the stencilled colours of the original nitrate release print.
Baltic film-maker Ladislaus Starewich was an early experimenter in stop-action animation. His most notable work was done with articulated puppets representing insects ... and, in this case, a spider. Although his insect puppets typically engage in human activities (such as operating a beetle-sized cinema camera), many of Starewich's creations are scrupulously realistic, and an incautious observer might actually be fooled into believing that Starewich is using genuine trained insects.
In this movie, for some reason, Starewich has varied his formula somewhat: the insects (carved from wood, more obviously than usual for him) have humanoid faces. When this movie was screened at the Pordenone festival, I'd been up and about since the previous night with no sleep: when I saw the human-faced crawlies in this movie, I was reminded of the Zanti misfits in their 'Outer Limits' episode. The effect was more distressing than comical for me, and I went back to my room and got some sleep ... so that I could watch the rest of the festival more attentively.
Since I saw this movie under distressed conditions, and I didn't stay till the end, I shan't rate it. I will, however, say that the rest of the Pordenone audience seemed to be enjoying it, and I've enjoyed some of Starewich's other films. Still, the human-faced bugs in this movie are well and truly WEIRD.