THE SPIDER (1931)

TServo4
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Joined: 9:04 AM - Feb 07, 2006

6:13 PM - Aug 14, 2006 #1

Just saw this delightful Fox murder mystery directed by William Cameron Menzies. Edmund Lowe plays Chartrand the Great, a world famous magician. His show is interrupted when a memer of his audience is killed and he and his assistants are accused. Using his wit and psychology as a magician, he outs the killer.

Pretty good. Great sets by Menzies, of course, and lots of atmosphere. El Brendel is great as the comic relief and WB regular Ruth Donelly also adds some jokes. The killer wears a spider ring, hence the title. Lots of spooky, ghosty stuff during Lowe's magic act. A streamliner if there ever was one, it runs at a pretty brisk 59 minutes. The print that I saw was UCLA's restored print, complete with exit music.----
-J. Theakston
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Renfield
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10:51 PM - Aug 14, 2006 #2

Sounds like a nifty early sound mystery thriller. I'd like to se it, too. Perhaps it'll appear on Fox Movie Channel. Joe "Renfield" Meadows
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Rick
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3:34 AM - Aug 16, 2006 #3

This is one I've never seen and you make it sound well worth catching. Thanks. But...
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El Brendel is great as the comic relief


...I'll believe that when I see it.
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haevensnacht
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12:23 PM - Aug 16, 2006 #4

I would be interested in seeing the UCLA print, but this was not a very good movie in my opinion. It's all about Menzies - he's amazing, but the plot is just ridiculous. I love these old drawing room mysteries, but the idea of a shot ringing out in the middle of a theater and no one knowing who shot it (and it is on more than one occasion if I remember right) is just too much to be remotely plausible.

Still, Menzies' art direction and magic tricks are wonderful. It's similar to 'Trick for Trick', which Menzies did not direct, but he was "Technical" on.
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Renfield
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8:36 PM - Aug 16, 2006 #5

El Brendel was the "comic lead" of 1930's Just Imagine, and lots of classic film fans learned to loathe him in it. However, it was a case of too much of him amongst really tepid actors. In small doses, he could be funny, such as his turn as Olaf, the butler, in The She-Creature.Joe "Renfield" Meadows
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TServo4
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9:50 PM - Aug 16, 2006 #6

Frankly, I think Brendel gets a bum rep. There's nothing particularly obnoxious about him , and in THE SPIDER, he's actually quite tolerable, as opposed to some of the lesser '30s comedians that showed up in similar films. The Columbia shorts are a hoot and his comedy is simply on a different level that can't be taken at face value.

As for the story, I found it to be fairly well written. Yeah, some of the premise is ridiculous, but that's where "suspension of disbelief" comes in. Menzies is particularly restrained in this one, but has some great sets. The ending is a bit of a cop-out, but hey, for 60 minutes, it's pure escapism fun.----
-J. Theakston
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KNOBTAIL
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Joined: 1:22 AM - Sep 22, 2005

10:18 PM - Aug 16, 2006 #7

I found it enjoyable. Edmund does a good job, as well as in Chandu. Another early forgotten horror with Lugosi. The print that I have is not as nice as I would like it to be. But then again its from 1932 . I seriously doubt you will find Fox offering this movie. I agree for that era it was a bit goofy, but then movies were meant to be enjoyed. So I give the SPIDER an 7 out of a 10
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CountCujo
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Joined: 12:17 AM - Sep 03, 2006

5:17 PM - Sep 02, 2006 #8

Chandu the Magician was delightful. Definitely a forgotten Lugosi piece. Do any of you know how I can get a hold of The Spider?
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TomWeaver999
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Joined: 3:38 AM - Nov 22, 2004

6:25 PM - Sep 02, 2006 #9

This won't do you much good, Mr. Cujo, if you're not a New Yorker, but just a few days ago the Film Forum programmer asked me if THE SPIDER was worth adding to an upcoming series, and I gave him an unqualified yes. So we New Yorkers may get a chance to catch it on the big screen soon.

<< he could be funny, such as his turn as Olaf, the butler, in The She-Creature. <<

In scenes with his wife Flo something (Bert?), who I don't think was in too many movies.
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TServo4
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1:06 AM - Sep 03, 2006 #10

Well, people who live in NY state had a chance to see it at Capitolfest in Rome last month, so it can't be *that* rare... or perhaps FF took cue from the Captiol. Who knows?

I don't think I'll be double dipping on this film though. Fun as it was, I just couldn't imagine not seeing it on a 40 foot screen with carbon arc projection in a 1928 movie palace. Call me a snob, but that's just magic.

As for Brendel and Bert, they were doing vaudeville together since the late 'teens! I saw both of them fairly recently in a programmer called I'M FROM ARKANSAS, and that's late '40s, so I guess they appeared together from time to time. I've also got a episode of YOU ASKED FOR IT! with them performing. Definitely an act that worked better in person or on stage rather than in film.----
-J. Theakston
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htg1941
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htg1941
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6:57 PM - Oct 03, 2006 #11

I saw "The Spider" on the big screen at the Capitolfest at the Capitol Theater in Rome, NY in august. It was an enjoyable little film ... only about an hour or so long (or short).
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black hangman
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1:35 AM - Oct 04, 2006 #12

I recently got in the 1945 Fox version of THE SPIDER. Set in New Orleans, Richard Conte plays a Sam Spade type detective who sets out to solve the murder of his blackmailing partner, played by Ann Savage (a very brief appearance, unfortunately). The film little resembles the 1931 version, but is well cast, with Mantan Moreland providing just the right comic touch, while helping out Conte. Kurt Krueger is the stage magician, with Fay Emerson and Walter Sande also in the cast. Not a film shown very much, but I found it a nice little mystery. Has anyone else seen this forgotten "b"?
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CreepingBride
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3:57 AM - Sep 17, 2010 #13

TServo4 wrote: Fun as it was, I just couldn't imagine not seeing it on a 40 foot screen with carbon arc projection in a 1928 movie palace. Call me a snob, but that's just magic.
I can just imagine how great that would be... the movie is wonderful to stare it. Menzies does some astounding work here.

  

  

I think that Lowe is good as Chatrand the Great... I've been reading about the history pre-war magician acts and spook shows lately, and Chatrand's mix of stage magic, hypnotism, and mind-reading is just how I picture all that.
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Dr Kelp
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Joined: 2:34 AM - Nov 27, 2016

5:06 PM - Sep 21, 2018 #14

Watched this today and I did enjoy it. For years I thought that this had no fantastic content, because I don't consider magic act illusions and fake seances has genre. However after watching this I've changed my mind. The mind reading act that supposedly is a fake turns out to be real as the John Arledge character actually unmasks the killer using the technique. It does have some spooky faked effects during a seance and other faked hypnosis stuff. Acting is pretty bad other than Lowe and the policemen are all idiots.
Raise your hand if you think el Brendel is funny. I'm waiting. Still Waiting. I guess if you do you're too embarassed to admit it. Don't blame ya. 
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Joined: 7:25 PM - Dec 22, 2009

11:47 AM - Sep 22, 2018 #15

*Sheepishly raises hand* Not sure if funny is even the right word, but i definitely find him very amusing.
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