The Spider Labyrinth (1988)


The Spider Labyrinth (Il Nido Del Ragno)

Italy. 1988.


Director – Gianfranco Giagni, Story/Producer – Tonino Cervi, Photography – Nino Celeste, Music – Franco Presanto, Special Effects – Sergio Stivaletti. Production Company – Retaliana Splendida


Roland Wybenga (Professor Alan Whitmore), Paola Rinaldi (Genevieve Wise), William Berger (Inspector Blasco), Stephane Audran (Mrs Coomb)


Alan Whitmore, an American professor specialising in ancient languages, in sent to Budapest by his superiors to contact Professor Roth who has mysteriously dropped out of contact while working on an important translation of religious tablets dating from the third millennium B.C. Shortly after Whitmore’s arrival, Roth is found hung. Whitmore finds himself in a deepening mystery, threatened by an ancient cult of spider worshippers who kill all who uncover their existence.

The Spider Labyrinth is one of the better Italian giallo thrillers, owing as it does more than a few dashes of inspiration to Dario Argento. It is a well-budgeted film. This shows through in its classy photography and the fact that it has gone on location in Budapest (and makes the most of the setting). It only in its plotting and theme that it relapses to a B film.

Throughout director Gianfranco Giagni conjures an effective atmosphere of building dis-ease – of swings that were occupied a moment ago now swaying emptily, of balls eerily bouncing into shot, people in the background in restaurants and the street turning to look at the hero or muttering to themselves, the heroine who persists in posing provocatively in the nude in front of her window. The plot revelation of the spider cult comes fairly way out and with some outre images – like the mysterious woman who attacks victims, leaping onto them like a spider or hangs from the ceiling and draws them up to her with a tendril of webbing from her mouth; and the wild image of the girl who is woken in the night to find herself in a maze of sheets where she is stabbed through the forehead while her screaming face presses out against one of the sheets. There is a climax that suffers from cheesy effects but nevertheless remains potent for the bizarreness of the image of a human face transforming into a spider creature, which then implants a spider inside the bound hero’s wrist. A film of admirably unusual atmosphere.

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