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The Spider Woman (1943)

Passed | | Mystery, Thriller | 21 January 1944 (USA)
Sherlock Holmes investigates a series of so-called "pajama suicides". He knows the female villain behind them is as cunning as Moriarty and as venomous as a spider.


Roy William Neill


Bertram Millhauser (screenplay), Arthur Conan Doyle (story) (as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)




Complete credited cast:
Basil Rathbone ... Sherlock Holmes
Nigel Bruce ... Doctor Watson
Gale Sondergaard ... Adrea Spedding
Dennis Hoey ... Lestrade
Vernon Downing Vernon Downing ... Norman Locke
Alec Craig ... Radlik
Arthur Hohl ... Gilflower
Mary Gordon ... Mrs. Hudson


Sherlock Holmes takes on a case that the press has dubbed the pajama suicides. Eminent men are going to bed in the safety of their own homes, with everything seemingly being normal, only to commit suicide in the night. Holmes fakes his own death in the hopes of giving him a freer hand in the investigation and is convinced that a woman, a female Moriarty as he describes her, is behind the deaths. The dead men were all eminent and very wealthy. He impersonates a wealthy retired Indian military officer in the hope of drawing out the woman and he soon meets Adrea Spedding but she quickly sees through his disguise and proves herself to be the challenge Holmes predicted she would be. She is a worthy adversary and soon traps him setting him up in a carnival shooting gallery that seems to assure his death. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Here is crawling death sent to Sherlock Holmes by the most fiendish killer of all... See more »


Mystery | Thriller


Passed | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Holmes becomes suspicious that the criminal he is pursuing has been using some species of spider to perpetrate crimes. He calls on the assistance of expert Adam Gilflower of the Institute of Entomology, who identifies the spider as a Lycosa carnivora, and states that it is the most dangerous insect on earth. An expert would know that spiders are arachnids, not insects. Lycosa is the name of the genus for wolf spiders, but there is no species with the name Lycosa carnivora. Further, entomology is properly the study of insects, while arachnology is the study of spiders and related animals such as scorpions. See more »


The first time Sherlock Holmes refers to the deadly spider that caused all of the suicides and nearly killed him, he calls it an "insect". Spider are "arachnids", which have 8-legs and 2 body segments, unlike "insects" which are 6-legged and have 3 body segments. Holmes is unlikely to make such a mistake. See more »


[first lines]
News Vendor: Read all about the pyjama suicide. Here you are, governor. Thank you, sir. Thank you. Read all about it, another pyjama suicide.
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Follows Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1942) See more »

User Reviews

Many Imaginative Touches
8 January 2010 | by dougdoepkeSee all my reviews

The "hopping boy" with cat-quick reflexes is one of the most unusual and unsettling figures of the decade. I don't think I've ever seen such an imaginative and offbeat use of a young person in any other movie. The film itself has many imaginative touches, but among them, it's that bizarre little "hop" (never explained, and neither is the boy) that's so memorable. He's a perfect adjunct to the leeringly evil Adrea (Sondergaard) who looks like she's having a delicious time playing cat-and-mouse with the tricky Sherlock (Rathbone). In fact, their devious encounters are models of beautifully "layered" acting as each has several things going on internally at the same time. She's a perfect foil for the master detective, with a flashy smile that says one thing while her eyes say another. Too bad the imperious Sondergaard was lost to the blacklist of the early 50's.

I never did figure out just how the pygmy (Angelo Rossito in blackface) fit into the suicide scheme, but that's okay because the movie has so many intriguing touches, including the highly contrived but suspenseful climax. Even Hoey's Inspector Lestrade is wisely restrained, and when he walks off proudly arm-in-arm with the eye-catching Adrea at the end, it's a rather charming little moment. I guess my only complaint is with the poorly done process shot of the raging river that contrasts starkly with the well-stocked foreground. Nonetheless, this is one of the most imaginative entries of any detective series of the period.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

21 January 1944 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Sherlock Holmes in the Spider Woman See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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