Brenda Joyce, gale sondergaard, kirby grant, rondo hatton, the spider woman, Universal, Universal Horror, universal pictures
Not to be confused with some kind of Marvel spin off, or even a follow up to the Sherlock Holmes feature some years before, The Spider Woman Strikes Back is a stand alone feature from the Universal vault that starred Gale Sondergaard, who also featured in the afore-mentioned Holmes film, The Spider Woman.
Sondergaard is given reign to flex her acting muscles and prowess as the local town’s wealthiest person Zenobia Dollard, and with that she carries a huge amount of privilege and entitlement of the land and those in her community.
Zenobia also hides behind her supposed blindness to get people to think she is a weak and ailing old woman, when she is anything but.
Our lead protagonist is Jean (Brenda Joyce), a young woman new to the town to become Zenovia’s personal assistant. It’s not long before Jean suspects that all is not well in the household, and that something sinister has occurred to her predecessors. Just as she starts to uncover Zenovia’s sinister plan, she finds herself ensnared with her life in danger.
Her only hope may lie in her only contact in town, Hal (Kirby Grant) to discover the death serum, concocted by spider venom and Jean’s blood.
Rondo Hatton is on hand to provide the lumbering muscle to protect and do Zenovia’s bidding, but he doesn’t offer much beyond this stereotype that he was now attached to.
Universal had grand plans to start a new series involving The Spider Woman, but much like The Jungle Woman, which was launched in a similar timeframe, it never registered well with the audience.
This may have something to do with the lack of enthusiasm from director Arthur Lubin, who strongly opposed the idea of directing a horror feature, but was forced to do so by Universal or else lose his contract.
Mostly though, The Spider Woman Strikes Back suffers from a convoluted script and little substance.
It’s a shame though as I could sense from watching the film that Sondergaard would have relished the opportunity to revisit the role.
As such, it has slipped into obscurity a little and Universal were beginning to suffer from trying to climb out of the shadows of Dracula, Frankenstein, etc. to make a mark on the horror genre further.
- Saul Muerte