Sunday Matinee: The Spiders

sunday-matineeBefore he made such silent classics like Metropolis, Fritz Lang started his film career as a writer in the late 1910s. In 1919 Lang made his first couple of movies, Halbblut and Der Herr der Liebe. Both of those films are lost.

Lang was then original assigned to direct The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Lang knew the screenwriters and helped them sell the story to the production company Lang worked for) but was pulled off by the company to direct the serial thriller series The Spiders. The Spiders was original going to be four movies. Only two parts were ever made.

The popularity of Louis Feuillade’s serial thriller movies Fantômas and Les Vampires started influencing other studios to make their own adventure thrillers with shadowy villainous criminal organizations. In Les Vampires it was a massive organization called Les vampires with sexy Musidora playing the black clad villain Irma Vep. In Lang’s The Spiders it’s actress Ressel Orla playing Lio Sha an agent of the evil criminal organization “Die Spinnen” aka The Spiders.

SpidersIn the first movie, The Golden Lake, Carl de Vogt stars as Kay Hoog, an adventurer who while attending a party at a club announces that he has found a message in a bottle with a map from a missing Harvard professor. The message explains that there’s a lost tribe of Incas still alive and in the possession of a massive treasure. Hoog decides he’s going to find that treasure. The Spiders find out about the map and send Lio Sha after the treasure too.

In the second movie The Diamond Ship, Hoog is after a Buddha shaped diamond that will allow the holder to become the ruler of all of Asia. Once again The Spiders have sent Lio Sha after the diamond too. Both films are thrilling with adventure, thrills, gun fights, death defying escapes, lost tribes, a hidden city under San Francisco’s Chinatown, evil hypnotists and more. It’s shame the studio cancelled the last two parts as the story is incomplete and just sort of stops. Kind of a “We won this round”. The end.

This is early Lang while he was still learning his craft. That said we are lucky to be able to see these movies at all. They were thought lost until a print was discovered in the 1970s. The movie has been restored from this print and until another copy is found this is as good as it gets (that said it looks pretty good but it feels like some scenes might be missing). Still worth the watch, OK Fritz Lang is still better than some films being made today.

Author: Shane Hnetka

Shane Hnetka has spent most of his life watching movies and reading comic books. He has decided to use this vast knowledge for evil instead of good.