You’re hanging out with Edgar Allen Poe. A friend of his comes over and says, “I’ll bet you £100 that you can’t spend the night in my haunted mansion.” You might want to think that offer over very carefully before you accept it! That bet is the basis for the Italian horror film Web of the Spider.
The film opens with Edgar Allen Poe (Klaus Kinski) searching a tomb to confirm rumors of ghosts he’s been hearing about. However, fear or common sense gets the better of him and he leaves the tomb. He meets a journalist named Alan Foster (Anthony Franciosa) and they talk of the truth behind Poe’s stories. Alan of course doesn’t believe Poe. However, another acquaintance of Poe’s arrives, Lord Blackwood.
Blackwood challenges Alan to a bet and the journalist accepts, thinking it will be an easy way to make some money and perhaps lead to a good story. Spend one night in the mansion that's all he has to do. Blackwood takes him to the manor and leaves Alan inside. Soon enough the young man meets Elisabeth Blackwood (Michèle Mercier). She’s a beautiful young woman who quickly bewitches Alan with her charms. The pair make love and Alan is surprised by how he’s fallen for this beauty. This quickly goes awry when Julia (Karin Fields) shows up, stabs Elisabeth, and seems to drink her blood. Alan is shocked and horrified by this but cannot stop it.
Shaken and depressed by what he’s seen, Alan finds another occupant of the manor, Dr. Carmus (Peter Carsten). Carmus explains that the home is filled with spirits doomed to reenact their own murders. Alan is skeptical, but soon learns the doctor is not only telling the truth (mostly), but that Carmus is also one of the souls cursed to repeat his doomed existence within the house.
As the night proceeds, Alan sees more and more victims. He also realizes that each victim then seems to become a killer too. Even stranger is their need for blood. He’s starting to unravel the mystery of Lord Blackwood’s manor, but will Alan figure it out in time to avoid joining the others in their eternal quest for more and more blood?
Web of the Spider is a gothic horror/ghost story. The film is notable for its setting and the elaborate costuming. However, overall the film is otherwise unremarkable. Kinski, who usually brings a surge of manic energy to any role he takes, is only in the film at the start and finish. Even when he is on screen, his Poe seems almost asleep as he plods through his dialogue. Franciosa does a pretty good job as Alan, the man caught in the mansion’s web of ghostly mystery. However, he never quite makes the viewer feel much for him beyond a vague hope that he’ll hurry up the plot a bit.
Made on a shoe-string budget in 1970 and released in the UK in 1971, Web of the Spider is worth checking out, if for no other reason than the original idea that perhaps Edgar Allen Poe was not a fiction writer so much as a chronicler for the strange and the supernatural. So check out Web of the Spider but remember, don’t have sex with a ghost. It may be fun at the time, but that whole ‘eternally cursed’ thing makes most STDs look positively rosy by comparison!