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Web of the Spider (and more Trailer Trauma)

Web of the Spider

(Release Date: November 7th)
An intrepid reporter by the name of Alan Foster (Anthony Franciosa), accepts a wager from Edgar Allan Poe (Klaus Kinski) and his companion, Thomas Blackwood, to spend a single night in the reputedly haunted Blackwood Castle on All Souls’ Eve. Shortly after settling into the spooky abode, the reporter meets the beautiful Elisabeth Blackwood (Michele Mercier) and begins to witness ghostly phenomena and visitations from beyond the grave, as an assortment of specters relive the last moments before their ghastly murders. Soon, Foster realizes that the damned spirits of Blackwood Castle require human blood to continue their unnatural existence! (From Garagehouse’s official synopsis)

Director Antonio Margheriti (often credited as Anthony M. Dawson) spent most of his career at the mercy of subpar scripts and minuscule budgets. The state of the Italian film industry throughout the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s dictated that his skills be mostly applied to rushed genre rip-offs, which led casual viewers to assume the worst about his filmmaking abilities. The truth is that he was one of the most talented working-class filmmakers in Italy and even his worst films display significant technical artistry. Unlike Dario Argento, Mario Bava, and Lucio Fulci, he never fully committed himself to any specific genre and usually avoided putting too personal a stamp on his imagery. These choices, though practical, probably account for his general mainstream obscurity. With little fanfare, he made some of the best gialli (including Naked You Die, 1968), spaghetti westerns (including And God Said to Cain, 1970), ‘macaroni combats’ (including Code Name: Wild Geese, 1984), and Indiana Jones rip-offs (including Ark of the Sun God, 1983) ever released. Early in his career, he made the first space-bound Italian sci-fi movie, Assignment Outer Space (aka: Space Man, 1960) and an enduring trilogy of Gothic horror films, beginning with Castle of Blood (Italian: Danza Macabra, 1963), continuing with The Virgin of Nuremberg (aka: Horror Castle, 1963), and culminating with The Long Hair of Death (Italian: I Lunghi Capelli della Morte, 1964).

Web of the Spider is, indeed, one of Margheriti’s most unseen horror movies, yet it may produce bouts of deja vu in the director’s ardent fans, because it is a loose (slightly sauced-up) remake of his seminal Gothic horror masterpiece, Castle of Blood. Apparently, Castle of Blood didn’t make a lot of money and, with horror becoming more popular in Italy as the ‘70s rolled around, Margheriti thought it was worth a second shot. He later claimed to regret the choice of shooting in colour. I agree that the results are inferior to the original, but cinematographers Sandro and Memmo Mancori’s colour photography is still quite evocative and the bigger budget ensures an opulent upgrade. That said, Margheriti utilizes more modern cinematic techniques than he did for the more stately Castle of Blood, such as free-roaming, handheld cameras and sudden crash zooms. These sometimes elevate the material, especially in cases where low views, Dutch angles, and wide-angle lenses magnify the madness and horror of certain situations, but also tend to cheapen some shots that are meant to establish a Gothic mood. Fortunately, above-average cast members Klaus Kinski (who is confined to basically a bit part), Anthony Franciosa (whose William Shatner-like instincts make him perfect scare fodder), Michele Mercier (who is the next best thing to the original film’s incomparable Barbara Steele), and, to a lesser degree, the less utilized Karin Field and Peter Carsten, offer a sense of old-fashioned stature that tends to balance the tonal issues and drive the film through its glacially-paced middle act.

Margheriti’s biggest mistake is an extended expository sequence in which a character illustrates a point by killing a living snake on-screen. Surely, special effects would have sufficed.

I don’t know if Web of the Spider was ever available on US VHS, nor has it ever appeared officially on DVD in any territory. It did pop up on television from time to time, but it was crammed into 1.33:1 pan & scan. Garagehouse Pictures discovered an uncut, domestic theatrical negative and presents it here in 1080p and its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Garageband hasn’t listed exactly how they scanned the footage, but I’m willing to guess it was a 4K restoration process, since that is what they usually do. The results are very typical for the company, which tends to prioritize a natural film look over heavy post-scan restoration. While I think the transfer could definitely use a bit of a colour boost, the lack of over-sharpening and prevalent grain texture serves the film. This is especially true of the darkest sequences, which could’ve easily been crushed into black blobs in the hands of a more restoration-happy studio. Also, despite my comment about boosting colours, I am very impressed with the vibrancy and hue separation during these spooky sequences.

The HD version of film is presented with only one audio option: English mono in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio sound. As per usual, I will now remind you all that these movies were almost always shot without sound and the international casts tended to speak their native languages. In this particularly case, most of the principle players are definitely speaking English, including Kinski, and some, such as Franciosa, are dubbing themselves, which makes the English dub preferable to the Italian one. In terms of sound quality, the track is consistent with few notable dips in quality or bouts with distortion. However, the sound has very limited dynamic range and there are signs of overzealous noise reduction, such as dialogue sounding clipped, rather than tapering off naturally. Riz Ortolani’s fantastic soundtrack takes its cues from both classic-era horror melodrama (driving, shrill strings and organs in particular) and the ‘70s rock/pop-influenced scores he and other Italian composers were writing for spaghetti westerns. The music is rich and warm, despite the single-channel treatment.

Extras include:
  • Italian version of the film (1:50:45, SD) –  Apparently, the original negative Garagehouse found was a US cut, which runs 1:33:18. They have included the complete Italian cut, but it is taken from a weak, standard definition source and slightly misframed (somewhere around 1.30:1). The Dolby Digital sound is good and the footage is decent enough to enjoy the differences between the versions. I guess the best option would’ve been to insert SD shots between HD ones, but that might have been too distracting for some viewers.
  • Commentary with George Reis and Keith Crocker – Reis of DVD Drive-In and Crocker of Exploitation Video and director of The Bloody Ape (1997), run-down the cast & crew’s careers, dig into the behind-the-scenes story, and compare Web of the Spider to Castle of Blood.
  • Commentary with Stephen Romano – The Garagehouse cover artist, novelist, screenwriter, and exploitation fan/expert takes a more laid back approach to his track, but rarely wanders off subject and his content rarely overlaps with the first track.
  • Deleted scene (4:02, HD)
  • Gallery with posters and lobby cards
  • Two-part Super 8 version of the film (16:49, 16:33, HD, in black & white) – The drastically edited, pre-VHS/Beta German home projection version of the film.
  • German Trailer
  • Antonio Margheritti trailer reel (15:39, HD)
  • Garagehouse Pictures trailer reel (8:37, HD)


 Web of the Spider (and more Trailer Trauma)

 Web of the Spider (and more Trailer Trauma)

 Web of the Spider (and more Trailer Trauma)

 Web of the Spider (and more Trailer Trauma)

 Web of the Spider (and more Trailer Trauma)

 Web of the Spider (and more Trailer Trauma)

 Web of the Spider (and more Trailer Trauma)

Web of the Spider (and more Trailer Trauma)

Trailer Trauma Part 4: Television Trauma

(Release Date: November 28th)
In addition to unearthing Web of the Spider, Garagehouse is releasing the fourth part of their ongoing Trailer Trauma. Following Trailer Trauma, Trailer Trauma 2: Drive-In Monsterama, and Trailer Trauma 3: 80s Horror-Thon, the studio has switched gears slightly with Trailer Trauma Part 4: Television Trauma – a collection of short-but-sweet TV spots, rather than theatrical previews. Due to their brief runtime (most of them are between 30 seconds and one minute long), Garagehouse has compiled a mind-melting 268 clips into 3 hours (and 1:30). These are divided into sometimes obvious, sometimes vague sections, such as WIP (women in prison), Roger Corman/Empire Pictures productions, bikersploitation, water-based horror movies, gialli and other Italian-based exploitation, kaiju, Shaw Brothers and other martial arts movies, blaxploitation, satanic movies, killer animal movies, sexploitation/sex comedies, sci-fi, ‘70s and ‘80s cult horror mainstays, and more.

All of the footage was scanned from the original negatives in 4K and presented in full 1080p HD video. As in the cases of the last three Trailer Traumas, nothing has cleaned-up or remastered, rather, the image is presented in all of its raw, grainy, artefact-filled glory. Because each trailer was designed for television viewing, they are cropped between 1.33:1 & 1.45:1, and are sometimes slightly letterboxed. The uncompressed, DTS-HD Master Audio mono sound is every bit as inconsistent as the video quality, but, again, only because the rough quality is part of the fun.

Extras include:
  • Commentary with Rue Morgue and Birth.Movies.Death writer Michael Gingold, My Best Friend's Exorcism: A Novel (pub: 2017) and Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction (pub: 2017) author Grady Hendrix, and Temple of Schlock’s Chris Poggiali – This trio of genre experts does everything they can to keep up with the super-quick clips in this breathless and exhausting commentary track.
  • Garagehouse Pictures trailer reel


 Web of the Spider (and more Trailer Trauma)

 Web of the Spider (and more Trailer Trauma)

 Web of the Spider (and more Trailer Trauma)

 Web of the Spider (and more Trailer Trauma)

 Web of the Spider (and more Trailer Trauma)

*Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-rays, then resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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