THE SPIDERS PART 1: THE GOLDEN LAKE (Spinnen, 1. Teil – Der Goldene See, Die )

(director/writer: Fritz Lang; cinematographers: Karl Freund/Emil Sch√ľnemann; cast: Carl de Vogt (Kay Hoog), Ressel Orla (Lio Sha), Georg John (Dr. Telphas), Lil Dagover (Sonnenpriesterin); Runtime: 60; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Erich Pommer; Image Entertainment; 1919-silent-Germany-in German-with English subtitles)
“Lang made the story exuberant and exotic.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The future German-emigre to America Fritz Lang (“You and Me”/”M”/”House by the River”) directed his third film, this long lost cliffhanger serial which resurfaced in 1978, using an American as his hero. It’s comprised of two episodes from an unfinished silent serial: Spiders Part I: The Golden Lake (1919) and the lesser second part called The Spiders Part II: The Diamond Ship (1920). Two further installments were scripted by Lang, but were never filmed. It was inspired by the German pulp writer Karl May and is similar in tone, tongue-in-cheek humor and inventive nature to Louis Feuillade’s serials. Lang made the story exuberant and exotic. This review covers only Part I.

It tells of the Spiders, a secret society of criminals, with the notorious Lio Sha (Ressel Orla) one of their leaders. The Spiders seek a diamond, shaped like the head of Buddha, realizing that the wearer of which will rule Asia.

Kay Hoog (Carl de Vogt) is a wealthy American sportsman and playboy, a member of San Francisco’s exclusive yachting Standard Club. He finds while sailing a bottle with a message in it from a shipwrecked Harvard professor that tells of uncovering an Incan treasure in a subterranean Peruvian city and how he barely escaped from his torturers who want to sacrifice him to their Sun god. Kay goes there in a rescue attempt only to find he’s too late and then finds himself pitted against the dangerous Lio Sha, as they both try to wrest the treasure from the savages. Lil Dagover plays the exotic Incan priestess Kay rescues and brings back to his mansion in San Francisco.

The serial is filled with savage cruelties, damsels in distress and sinister Oriental villains. It also includes hot air balloons, deaths that have the Spiders leaving their calling card: a large model of a spider that sits on their victim’s chest, and a daring escape by our hero from the savage protectors of the treasure. It’s Indiana Jones type of fun, and the diabolical evil criminals are a precursor to Lang’s criminal films of the 1930s which were more developed and better realized.


REVIEWED ON 2/20/2007 GRADE: B-     https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/