The Web of the Spider (1971, Antonio Margheriti
Anthony Franciosa struggles with the role of an anachronistically-dressed nineteenth-century journalist who, on a wager, spends the night in what is reputedly a haunted house. I cannot fully judge this film from the somewhat pale-looking copy, drawn from Spanish TV (and with a new Spanish dubbing that is neither that of Cinearte or the later Arcofón effort), but at 104 minutes, it felt overstretched, particularly in the long scenes of Franciosa looking around the house. The story is bookended by scenes of Klaus Kinski as Edgar Allan Poe, no less: he looks nothing like Poe, is not even made to look slightly like him and, despite some early recitations from Berenice, the film’s horror is nothing like the Bostonian’s. Still, if it fails as a representation of Poe, it’s pretty good Kinski. Among the other players, the only one of note is Silvano Tranquilli. Margheriti’s previous version, the 1964 Castle of Blood is reportedly better.
Death Smiles at a Murderer (1973, Joe D’Amato)
You know you’re in for something different when Giacomo Rossi-Stuart gives quite a good performance! By contrast, Ewa Aulin is wooden, even if this is no problem with the role she plays here, although Kinski, incongruously top-billed, impresses as usual in his marginal role. This was the first film D’Amato actually signed – and, it must be added, under his real name. The necrophilia theme and the story of a married couple who adopt a mysterious female foundling are elements that would turn up in later films by the director. I can’t say I fully understood the story but I was kept absorbed throughout – only the very end, involving Attilio Dottesio’s inspector, seemed a little over-telegraphed. Berto Pisano’s score is a great asset. Will certainly watch this one again.
A doppia faccia (1969, Riccardo Freda)
This was, I think, the first of the Rialto krimis to be made in co-production with Italy, as well as the first real flop in Horst Wendlandt’s Edgar Wallace series, which he therefore temporarily interrupted before the success of Argento’s first films spurred him into a brief revival of the Wallace franchise (if you can call it that). This back story is unfortunate as it’s an excellent film (perhaps Freda’s last really successful venture) as well as quite close to the Wallace spirit, if you accept the modernization. It is also noted for boasting one of Kinski’s early lead roles and, in a role akin to that of a Hitchcock protagonist, he feels compelled to underplay – with fine results once again. Sydney Chaplin also appears , much changed since A Countess in Hong Kong just two years earlier – here he looks like Raymond Burr! Photography by Gabor Pogany.