It’s rare to have a film maker remake his own film, only a few have even tried. I love 1964’s “Danse Macabre” starring Barbara Steele so I’ve always been curious about this remake known by many names including Web of the Spider “. Well, with a bottle of Patron and an ice cold Rollin Rock, I sat down to enjoy this second trip to Blackwood Manor.
Setting it apart right off the bat, is a lengthy prologue of Edgar Allan Poe wandering a dark crypt. Deranged madman (the actor, not the character) Klaus Kinski, torch in hand, escaping possible ghosts and demons. Soon we find that Poe is recounting the story in a tavern to a mesmerized crowd. His rants are observed by reporter Alan Foster, who has been following him for some time. He joins Poe’s table with Lord Blackwood. While discussing Poe’s work and debating the statement that Poe’s work is indeed fact, Lord Blackwood wagers Alan that he cannot spend one whole night in Blackwood Manor because it is haunted. Alan accepts and takes the long coach ride to the deserted mansion.
Exploring the mansion, he comes across a painting of a beautiful brunette who catches his attention. He can’t seem to take his eyes off her for long, that is, until he meets Elizabeth Blackwood. She appears behind him as what he sees at first as a painting, but soon he sees that she is flesh. She quickly makes her move but before she can seal the deal, she is interrupted by Julia, the woman in the painting. With the major players in place, the passion play commences, each woman fighting for Alan’s love and perhaps their own souls.
Remaking Danse Macabre aka Castle of Blood has its pros and cons. Let’s start with the sets. The original set pieces were heavily influenced by the Universal horrors of the 30’s and 40’s, most notably Castle Dracula and the Old Dark House; this film’s sets are the love children of Hammer and Roger Corman. The story in either form is somber in tone and better served by black and white photography.
Though Barbara Steele is sorely missed here, Michèle Mercier (Black Sabbath) brings her own sex appeal and desperation to the role of Elizabeth. She is a woman that definitely needs to be saved, whether it’s possible or not.
Karin Field as Julia is a definite step up. Not that there was anything wrong with Margarete Robsahm performance the first time around, but she came off a little more spoiled and devious, whereas Karin’s Julia is more sympathetic so we are allowed to make up our own minds about her.
Anthony Franciosa as Alan Foster doesn’t quite blend with the period for me. His haircut makes screams 70’s and reminds me of James Caan. Oh well. The biggest addition is Klaus Kinski as Poe. Though not in the film much, he is a commanding presence which is a blessing and a curse since he plays Poe as a crazed and sinister drunk, Interesting. Another interesting note is though many of the films scenes are identical and performed by talented actresses, there is a lack of sexuality. I guess it comes down to the golden rule, “some people have it, some people don’t”
Web of the Spider is definitely worth a look if you can get your hands on it. It’s a film that really deserves to be judged on an individual bases. It will never replace Danse Macabre, not for fans of Director Antonio Margheriti nor most viewers, but unlike most remakes today, it certainly has its merits.