The Spider Woman

The Spider Woman

Infobox Film
name = The Spider Woman

image_size =
caption = Film poster
director = Roy William Neill
producer =
writer = Arthur Conan Doyle (original stories)
Bertram Millhauser (screenplay)
narrator =
starring = Basil Rathbone
Nigel Bruce
Gale Sondergaard
music =
cinematography =
editing =
distributor = Universal Studios
released = January 21, 1944
runtime = 63 mins.
country = USA
language = English
budget =
gross =
preceded_by = "Sherlock Holmes Faces Death"
followed_by = "The Scarlet Claw"
website =
amg_id = 1:46066
imdb_id = 0037303

"The Spider Woman" is a 1944 film starring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes. Unlike most other adaptations of the Holmes stories, which retell only one of the original stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, this film incorporates elements from the novel "The Sign of the Four", as well as the short stories "The Dying Detective", "The Final Problem", and "The Speckled Band".

Plot summary

Holmes fakes his own death in order to investigate a number of bizarre apparent suicides, that he is convinced are part of an elaborate plot by "a female Moriarty". Holmes notes that all the victims were wealthy gamblers, so disguised as "Rajni Singh", a distinguished Indian officer, he stalks London's gaming clubs.

It is not long before he encounters the villain of the piece, Adrea Spedding. Holmes discovers that she seeks out men short of money, persuades them to pawn their life insurance policies with her accomplices, then kills them.

Holmes sets himself up as her next victim, discovering that she uses the deadly spider, "Lycosa Carnivora", whose venom causes such excruciating pain that the victims kill themselves. Holmes also finds the footprint of a child nearby.

Searching for evidence Holmes and Watson visit eminent arachnologist Matthew Audway, who may have supplied the deadly creatures. Holmes soon realizes that the man he is speaking to is an imposter, but the villain makes his escape. Searching the premises Holmes finds the corpse of the real Audway, as well as his journals, which allude to something or someone from South America immune to the spider venom. This baffles Holmes until he finds the skeleton of a child. However, Dr. Watson points out that the proportions are all wrong, so it cannot be a child, but a pygmy.

Holmes and Watson continue their investigations at a nearby fairground, but Holmes falls into the clutches of Spedding and her gang. Bound and gagged, Holmes is tied behind a moving target in a shooting gallery, at which Lestrade and Watson take pot shots with a .22 rifle. However Holmes manages to escape, and Lestrade and the police arrest Spedding, her gang, and the pygmy.

The film ends with Holmes theorizing that the best place to commit a murder would be in a crowded place... as he and Watson gradually disappear into the crowd. [Davies, David Stuart, "Holmes of the Movies" (New English Library, 1976) ISBN 450 03358 9]


* Basil Rathbone – Sherlock Holmes
* Nigel Bruce – Dr. Watson
* Gale Sondergaard – Adrea Spedding
* Vernon Downing – Norman Locke
* Dennis Hoey – Inspector Lestrade
* Alec Craig – Radlik
* Arthur Hohl – Adam Gilflower
* Mary Gordon – Mrs. Hudson
* Teddy Infuhr – Larry

The character Matthew Audway (as listed) should read Matthew Ordway.


*Gale Sondergaard returned to the role in a non-Holmes sequel "The Spider Woman Strikes Back" (1946).

*Filmed during World War II, the moving targets in the shooting gallery are Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito cartoons.


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