The Spider Woman (Universal)
Opened in Chicago at the RKO Grand, Clark near Randolph, on Thursday, December 23, 1943, as the top-half of a double-bill ; an ad reads: "Double Shock and Shudder Show! Weird Mistress of Murder vs. The Master of Mystery! (with "Calling Dr. Death, "with Lon Chaney; the ad for that date reads: "Screens First Inner Sanctum Mystery!"); Reviews: Chicago Daily Times--"Sherlock Holmes adventures, of late, have had to do with Nazis, saboteurs, and espionage agents; but his most recent picture, we are happy to report, is back in the Baker st. groove. . . . Nobody but Mr. Holmes, in other words, could possibly have solved this case which involves such strange and esoteric clues as tropical spiders, murders that are suicides and suicides that are murders, and a pigmy from the Congo who, incidentally, tucks himself neatly into a large suitcase. . . . Basil Rathbone, again in the role of the quick-witted Holmes, starts solving this bizarre mystery in a highly unusual fashion by staging his own death. He tumbles off a cliff into a Scottish trout stream, right in front of the horrified eyes of Dr. Watson; and audiences are apt to find the scenes in which the faithful Watson and ill-tempered Inspector Lestrade mourn for him, are very touching scenes indeed. Mr. Holmes, it turn out, thinks its touching, too, as he happens to be right there disguised, of course, as an aged mailman! . . . Miss Sondergaard, handsome and dangerous-looking, is described by Mr. Holmes as a female Moriarty and she turns in an expert performance as a master mind;"
KIND: Sherlock Holmes mystery, based on yarn by the late Arthur Conan Doyle.
ACTING: Basil Rathbone plays straighter than usual. With reason because Gale Sondergaard, as the Spider Woman, a female Moriarty no less, is nobody to be off-hand and coy about. . . Brother, Sister, SHE IS POISON! . . . Nigel Bruce impersonates Dr. Watson in his customary beguiling fashion. . . . Other players are solid.
STAGING, PHOTOGRAPHY, ATMOSPHERE: Skeery.
STORY: Shucks, I aint agoin to tell you! But it really is one of the best of the stream-lined Sherlock Holmes series.
AUDIENCE APPEAL: Plenty. [Tues., Dec. 28, '43, p. 15]