Reel Classics

The Spider Woman Strikes Back (1946) - Blu-ray Review

The Spider Woman Strikes Back (1946)

Sometimes the good country air can be harmful to your health.  Such is the frightening territory of this atmospheric thriller which sees a small-town recluse turn murderer.  The woman projects nothing but EVIL while, at the same time, being nothing but pleasant in conversation.  She’s a twisted woman who doesn’t think twice about poisoning cattle and people to get what she wants.  

"disturbing in its tone and its atmosphere... and begs for a re-evaluation"


 

You’d never suspect her, but the moody Zenovia Dollard (Gale Sondergaard, The Invisible Man’s Revenge, The Spider Woman) is all about conjuring up menace in the silence which fills her house.  Just don’t refuse her milk or else!

The Spider Woman Strikes Back is a mysterious B-grade thriller as one young nurse faces endless nights of isolation and paranoia.  Her fear, thanks to the freakishly weird things around her in the Dollard Mansion, reigns supreme.  Even the cattle are getting creeped out by the nightly poisonings.   

You see, Miss Dollard wants a young female nurse who is free and clear.  The aging woman is blind and relies on a companion to help her navigate her life in the small town of Domingo.  She doesn’t want a young woman with any connection to the outside world to set foot in the house for fear of her leaving her.  There should be no thought of her nurse running off to get married . . . like her last nurse did.  This is why she drugs Jean Kinsley (Brenda Joyce, who played Jane in several Tarzan movies) and goes out of her way, with her poisonous orchids, to keep her drinking her nightly milk offerings.The Spider Woman Strikes Back (1946)

It’s highly suspicious, you know?  Just as suspicious as the creepy mute servant, Mario (Rondo Hatton, The Brute Man), who stalks Miss Dollard’s house, lurking in the shadows with his distorted face and doing whatever she demands of him.  It is here where the horror movie, with its new monster figure in the form of Hatton, succeeds in attempting to do what Universal did before WWII.  But Hatton’s role as the would-be Frankenstein figure takes a bit of a backseat to the bizarre bloodletting that is central to director Arthur Lubin’s (Hold That Ghost) tale.

Something is not quite right here in the house and it begins with the tap-tap-tapping of Miss Dollard’s cane as she feeds her poisonous orchids some of Jean’s blood.  You read that correctly.  Blood.  These carnivorous plants feed on blood.  It keeps them happy and healthy, growing wildly tall and, just like that, Miss Dollard is the key figure in the cattle poisoning which has the entire town of farmers stumped.

The Spider Woman Strikes Back might be an offering from the tail end of Universal’s horror reign, but it is just as disturbing in its tone and its atmosphere as some of their other classics and begs for a re-evaluation.  It might be leagues away from a true REEL CLASSIC, but it is definitely a whole lot of macabre fun.  

The movie, while not a sequel to the Sherlock Holmes entry The Spider Woman, is definitely a cousin in spirit thanks to the casting of Sondergarrd, who trades her venomous spiders for deadly orchids as she attempts to poison her way back into land ownership.

The Spider Woman Strikes Back is now on blu-ray with a brand-new 2K transfer thanks to the efforts of Kino Lorber Studio Classics.

4/5 stars

 

The Spider Woman Strikes Back (1946)

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Kino Lorber
Available on Blu-ray
- November 2, 2021
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Gale Sondergaard (The Cat and the Canary, The Mark of Zorro) returns as the sinister Spider Woman, a role she originated as the femme fatale Adrea Spedding in the Sherlock Holmes whodunit The Spider Woman. In this non-canonical spin-off, she is even more diabolical as Zenobia Dollard, a wealthy blind woman shrouded in mystery. Jean (Brenda Joyce, Jane in several Tarzan films) is hired as Zenobia’s caretaker after all the preceding caretakers vanish without a trace. She becomes entangled in a web of horror as she discovers that her employer, aided by a hideously deformed household servant played by legendary creeper Rondo Hatton (The Pearl of Death, The Brute Man), has used the blood of her predecessors to create a death serum when it is mixed with spider venom—and that her own blood is now being harvested at night, while she is in a drugged sleep, to continue the experiment. Veteran director Arthur Lubin (Hold That Ghost, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves) delivers a terrifying tale chock-full of bizarre blood-drinking plants, old-dark-house spookiness and the wickedness of the Spider Woman!

Video

With a crisp black-and-white transfer in 2K, The Spider Woman Strikes Back  lands on blu-ray thanks to the crackling efforts of Kino Lorber Studio Classics.  Shadows, while not too terribly detailed, are thick and atmospheric throughout. Presented with an aspect ratio of 1.37:1, the film looks marvelous and easily beats the poor appearance on television and on home video DVD that has previously dogged it. The blacks and grays are handled expertly by the transfer.  

Audio

Bang! Bang! Bang!  Shots are fired on the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track which accompanies this horror flick.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Fans will delight with the NEW commentary by Film Historians Tom Weaver and David Schecter!

Special Features:

  • If the new 2K transfer is not enough to delight you, then maybe the new documentary short featuring interviews with Historian/Author C. Courtney Joyner, Make-Up Effects Artist Rick Baker, and Filmmaker Fred Olen Ray will!  

    Mistress of Menace and Muder: Making The Spider Woman Strikes Back

    Theatrical Trailer

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 3/5 stars
  Extras 3/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

3.5/5 stars


Film Details

The Spider Woman Strikes Back (1946)

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
59 mins
Director
: Arthur Lubin
Writer:
Eric Taylor
Cast:
Gale Sondergaard; Brenda Joyce; Kirby Grant
Genre
: Horror | Classic
Tagline:
Mistress of Menace!
Memorable Movie Quote:
Theatrical Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
March 22, 1946
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
November 2, 2021.
Synopsis: Gale Sondergaard (The Cat and the Canary, The Mark of Zorro) returns as the sinister Spider Woman, a role she originated as the femme fatale Adrea Spedding in the Sherlock Holmes whodunit The Spider Woman. In this non-canonical spin-off, she is even more diabolical as Zenobia Dollard, a wealthy blind woman shrouded in mystery. Jean (Brenda Joyce, Jane in several Tarzan films) is hired as Zenobia's caretaker after all the preceding caretakers vanish without a trace. She becomes entangled in a web of horror as she discovers that her employer, aided by a hideously deformed household servant played by legendary creeper Rondo Hatton (The Pearl of Death, The Brute Man), has used the blood of her predecessors to create a death serum when it is mixed with spider venom—and that her own blood is now being harvested at night, while she is in a drugged sleep, to continue the experiment.

Art

The Spider Woman Strikes Back (1946)

 

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