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SPIDER, THE(director: Robert D. Webb; screenwriters: from the play by Charles Fulton/Jo Eisinger/W. Scott Darling/Lowell Brentano/Irving Cummings Jr.; cinematographer: Glen MacWilliams; editor: Norman Colbert; music: David Buttolph; cast: Richard Conte (Chris Conlon), Faye Marlowe (Delilah ‘Lila’ Neilsen/Judith Smith), Walter Sande (Det. Lt. Walter Castle), Martin Kosleck (Mikail Barak), Kurt Kreuger (Ernest Campbell, alias Garonne), Mantan Moreland (Henry), Cara Williams (Wanda Vann, neighbor), Charles Tannen (Det. Tonti), William Halligan (Police Inspector), James Flavin (Officer Johnny Tracy), Ann Savage (Florence Cain), Margaret Brayton (Jean, police record clerk), Jean Del Val (Henri Dutrelle, hotel manager); Runtime: 63; rated: NR; producer: Ben Silvey; 20th Century Fox; 1945)
“The Spider was a poor remake of the 1931 film of the same title.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Warning: spoilers throughout review.

Robert D. Webb directs a lackluster B-film noir from the play by Charles Fulton. The crime thriller is set in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Ex-cop-turned-private eye Chris Conlon (Conte) is drinking in his favorite watering hole, the Creole Bar, where a stunning redheaded client suddenly appears who calls herself Judith Smith (Marlowe). She hires him on a $50 retainer to pick up an envelope from his crooked partner Florence Cain (Savage). Chris doesn’t trust his partner, whom he suspects is operating a shakedown, and has her come to his apartment to make the deal. Flo is to receive a thousand dollar jewelry pin in exchange for the envelope, but doesn’t receive the payment since she doesn’t bring the envelope. She tells Chris it’s in her apartment, and will go and get it once she dolls herself up. When she goes into the next room a shadowy figure who has been stalking Chris ever since he left the bar, climbs onto the terrace and strangles Flo to death with his gloved-hands.

Chris gets his neighbor, the black man Henry (Moreland), to help him dump Flo’s body in her apartment. As part of Hollywood’s racist history, Moreland plays his comic part with rolling eyes and a stereotyped Negro shuffle. The police suspect Chris but have no hard evidence to hold him, even after Flo’s neighbor Wanda Vann (Williams) mentions that Flo told her that she had a date with Chris that night.

Back in his office, Chris is jumped by a stranger with a heavy Roumanian accent who wants the envelope. When Henry comes in, he knocks the stranger out. Chris then takes the gun away from his assailant and discovers his name is Barak and he’s the company manager in the theater for the Great Garonne mind-reading act. At the show, Chris discovers his client’s stage name is Delilah and that she’s part of the fake mentalist act with Garonne. In her dressing room he learns her real name is Lila Neilsen and that Flo contacted her with info about her missing twin sister. Her sister was married to Garonne and disappeared some time ago. The original Garonne was her father, and he was replaced by the current one when he died.

When Chris sneaks back into Flo’s pad, he finds a newspaper article Flo stole from the police files and it offers proof that Lila’s sister was murdered and her unidentified body was the one buried in potter’s field. Chris now tracks down Lila’s sister to the Bourbon Hotel, the last place she visited. The hotel manager shows him the registry, and the phony name signed when the couple checked in was Eric Campbell. But before the manager can get to identify who made that signature at the theater, he’s strangled by the same shadowy figure who did the other murders.

Detective Lt. Walter Castle (Sande) holds Chris in jail on suspicion of murder charges. But when Lila visits, he gets her to figure out a way to get Garonne to write the name Eric Campbell.

The Spider was a poor remake of the 1931 film of the same title. It held very little suspense, and the plot was filled with gaping holes. But Richard Conte is a fine action actor, and gives this slight film noir story a little boost just by his presence.

REVIEWED ON 9/29/2002 GRADE: C –

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”