Color, 1971, 93 mins. 18 secs. / 110 mins. 45 secs.
Directed by Antonio Margheriti
Starring Anthony Franciosa, Michelle Mercier, Peter Carsten, Silvano Tranquilli, Karin Field, Irina Maleeva
Garagehouse Pictures (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

A Web of the Spidermere seven Web of the Spideryears after helming his Barbara Steele-starring horror gem Castle of Blood, director Antonio Margheriti remade that black-and-white Gothic tale (falsely advertised as an Edgar Allan Poe adaptation) as a scope film in color with a bigger budget and a flashier cast. The result, Web of the Spider (or Nella stretta morsa del rango, "In the Grip of the Spider"), has been regarded as an inferior retread for years, not helped by the fact that it's been stuck with shoddy, terribly cropped, and usually unauthorized home video releases for decades. Fully restored to its original, very widescreen luster on Blu-ray by Garagehouse Pictures, it's easier to appreciate as a moody, sometimes sumptuous little mood piece that would be Margheriti's penultimate excursion into Gothic horror, followed by Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye.

After a delirious experience in the crypt of the foreboding and supposedly haunted Blackwood Castle, writer Edgar Allan Poe (Kinski) finds his tales of real-life supernatural occurrences falling on disbelieving ears at a tavern where he crosses paths with reporter Alan Foster (Tenebrae's Franciosa). One thing leads to another and AlanWeb of the Spiderends up accepting a dare to spend a night at the castle, with a cash reward waiting if he makes it out with his life and sanity intact at dawn. Over the course of the chilling Web of the Spiderevening, Alan makes his way from the graveyard outside into the house where he encounters an uncanny cast of characters including the mysterious and alluring Elizabeth (Black Sabbath's Mercier, most famous for her Angelique series of films), whose past is directly tied to the string of horrific occurrences in the castle's history.

The horror genre had undergone some seismic changes by the time this film came out, most notably with Night of the Living Dead and Rosemary's Baby upending American horror and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage pulling Italian horror into the '70s. As a result, this film felt very out of step when it opened, keeping that dusty, cobwebbed '60s horror aesthetic with only a slight increase in the level of eroticism and essentially no boost in violence at all (apart from the tiny bit of bloodshed now being in bright red color). The actors are all perfectly well cast with Franciosa making a good impression as the lead, though Mercier can't help but suffer compared to Steele with her blonde hairdo in particular doing her no favors. Also returning from the Web of the Spiderprior film is composer Riz Ortolani, who gives the film its most modern twist with a wild score highlighted by some anachronistic but fun guitar touches. All told it's a perfectly Web of the Spiderspooky and enjoyable chunk of Italian horror geared to fill out horror double and triple bills, best enjoyed divorced from its predecessor in your mind if at all possible and a stylish coda of sorts to a period in filmmaking already on the verge of extinction.

As mentioned above, video versions of this have generally been truly shabby and complicated by the fact that the film was prepared in several different versions with a wide variety of running times. The Garagehouse release features the longest English-language cut of the film, clocking in at 93 minutes and presented here in a sterling presentation from the negative with a nice emphasis on red and gold throughout. Anyone who wrote this one off on the basis of old video versions will be startled to see how much more enjoyable it is here, with the spacious compositions no longer confined here to actors' eyeballs and noses. The DTS-HD MA English track also sounds robust without the distortion and hiss you may be used to hearing with this film.

Two new audio commentaries are included, the first with DVD Drive-In's George Reis and The Bloody Ape's Keith Crocker; the latter admits to not being much of a fan of the film, but they do point out the merits Web of the Spiderof the production and spin off a lot of trivia about Margheriti's career (including a tangent about his controversial directing credit in Italy for Flesh for Frankenstein) and noting the attributes of the actors, including Franciosa's notorious temper. The second track by Stephen Romano (who also designed the striking new cover art) is much lighter and Web of the Spidermore freewheeling as he chats very quickly and enthusiastically about how to approach Italian films within this budget range made during the time period, with some particularly giddy (and hilariously profane) comments about Kinski peppered in as well. Next up in standard def is the much longer Italian cut of the film (which was never prepared in English apparently), with optional English subtitles. It looks watchable enough and is also presented letterboxed, albeit without as much spacious info on the sides; this won't be the go-to versions for most viewers as the extra wandering around and chit chat just makes the film feel a lot longer, but it's a great viewing option to have and should satisfy the curiosity of those wondering about the much-discussed extended cut. A "deleted scene" (4m2s) from the German release is basically an alternate, sexier version of the barnyard passage from the film mainly notable for some extra nudity and an attempted sexual assault not in any English version; it's presented here letterboxed as well with optional English subtitles. An art gallery features a host of international posters and lobby cards, followed by a two-part B&W German Super 8 condensed version (16m49s and 16m33s). On the trailer side you get the German trailer, an Antonio Margheriti trailer reel (two versions of Castle of Blood, Lightning Bolt, The Wild Wild Planet, The Stranger and the Gunfighter, The Squeeze, Killer Fish, Yor - the Hunter from the Future, and Code Name: Wild Geese), and bonus Garagehouse trailers for The Intruder, The Dismembered, The Satanist, Trailer Trauma, Trailer Trauma 2, and Ninja Busters. Obviously, you get your money's worth.

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Reviewed on November 7, 2017.