I don't know why anyone would think 1946's The Spider Woman Strikes Back featuring Gale Sondegaard would be a sequel to 1943's The Spider Woman featuring Gale Sondergaard. I mean, the earlier film was a popular picture in the Sherlock Holmes franchise with Rathbone and Bruce; the later picture has a woman and spiders and such not-quite-A-listerts as Brenda Joyce, Kirby Grant, Milburn Stone, and Rondo Hatton. Who could confuse the two? Certainly they would not have titled this film in hopes of cashing in on the earlier one. Ridiculous! Must have been a co-inky-dink.
Anyway, young Brenda Joyce (one of the Janes in the Tarzan films) plays Jean Kingsley, who is hired as a caretaker to Zenobia Dollard (Sondergaard, Anthony Adverse, The Cat and the Canary, and -- yes -- The Spider Woman), a blind woman with a rather evil secret. Spoiler: Zenobia is not really blind. Not a Spoiler: She lives in a really creepy old house. Jean may be a bit of a dim bulb because she does ot realize that Zenobia has been draining her blood every night, using the blood to feed to her plants in order to develop a poison which she uses to kill off neighboring cows, because if the cows are dead, then the neighboring farmers would be hurting financially and sell their farms to Zenobia at bargain prices. Got that? This clear-cut and logical plot seems oh so obvious.
Kirby Grant (musician/singer/occasional western star and future Sky King on television) plays the handsome, drab he-man to the rescue, Hal Wentley. Gunsmoke's Milburn Stone is Mr. Moore, some sort of an agricultural expert. The great Rondo Hatton (who had suffered acromegaly as a result of poison gas in France during World War I), is the lurking, mute servant Mario in what was likely his last film.
Written by Eric Taylor (who had previous penned five Ellery Queen programmers, three Crime Doctor flicks, 1943's The Phantom of the Opera, Dick Tracy, and a handful of Universal horror flicks), The Spider Woman Strikes Back was directed by Arthur Lubin (director of many early Abbott and Costello flicks, who would go to direct the Francis, the Talking Mule movies).
Not an outstanding flick, but an enjoyable one if you are in the right mood. If for no other reason, watch this for the severely underused Rondo Hatton.
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