Sunday, February 3, 2019

ziggy gorefest.

Just found out from a Twitter friend that this is getting a rare airing on Italian channel Iris tonight so thought I'd give it a quick rewatch.


The Spider Labyrinth (AKA Il nido del ragno, The Spider's Nest. 1988).
Dir: Gianfranco Giagni.
Cast: Roland Wybenga, Paola Rinaldi, Margareta von Krauss, Claudia Muzi, William Berger and Stéphane Audran.

The studly and incredibly tidy bearded Professor Alan Whitmore (Wybenga, the poor man's Jason Patric) is rudely awakened - but not by the dustmen - from a terrifying dream where his younger (tho' no less attractive) self is trapped in a cupboard with a huge rubber spider by the tweet tweet of his fairly groove-some trim-phone.

Don't you just hate it when that happens?

Bizarre dreams are the least of Alan's worries tho' seeing as his superiors - and a priest - from the local community college where he works teaching illiterate no-hopes painting and decorating have summoned him to an important meeting.

Hopefully he's not been touching up the sixth formers (again) or this could be a completely different kinda movie.

Luckily for Whitmore the meeting is less about his touchy-feely way with the students and more to do with his college, the mysterious Doctor Ray Kuhn.

It appears that Doctor Kuhn, who is currently working of something very clever yet strangely mysterious in Budapest, has failed to respond to anyone's phone calls and more importantly when anyone writes to him asking for an update on his work he sharply replies that the dog has eaten his notes.


Geoff Priest and his pals want Whitmore to investigate.

Specs appeal.

Stopping only to grab a change of underwear and his pyjamas, Whitmore books himself onto the first available flight to the fun filled city of Budapest (Often described as the 'Little Paris of Middle Europe' fact fans) where, on arrival  he's met at the airport (yes it does have one, I checked) by the Doctor's sexy librarian styled, pixie-like assistant (and resident square jawed saucy strumpet) Genevieve Weiss (the star of pop wank U2's "All I want is you" video, Rinaldi).

Unfortunately for Whitmore (and us) there's no time for any of that sexy stuff because he has an urgent date with the dotty Doctor Kuhn at his spooky tenement flat as soon as touches down.

But luckily not cloth.

Grabbing his luggage our hero jumps into Genevieve's car and the pair zoom off toward the unknown.

Well I say unknown but it's actually a house mere minutes away.

I just wanted to make it sound more exciting.


Well, the lights are on.

Arriving at the Doctor's house (and left in the lurch by Genevieve who's gone home to style her eyebrows or something) Whitmore is greeted by Kuhn's manly wife Helga (Audran, best remembered as Pauline de la Rochelle in Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story) who takes him to the Doctors study.

Tho' not in her full lipped German mouth.

Well not yet.

Anyway, back at the plot where it seems that Kuhn has gone a wee bit mental, seeing as he's taken to standing half dressed (and half cut) in his study spouting on about alternative gods and webs of deceit to anyone who's unlucky enough to be in earshot.

Which in this case is a very confused Alan, who really just wants the Docs notes so he can fuck off back to the States and his own bed.

"Ahm sorry hen, ah pished masel'!"

Anyway, after what seems like hours of meaningless chat the Doc reaches into his pants and whips out of small diary which he excitedly thrusts into Alan's hands whilst whispering "don't tell the missis!" but before Alan can question this bizarre turn of events a black tennis ball smashes thru the window causing Kuhn to wet himself before scuttling off to cry in the corner.

Slightly perturbed and maybe a little aroused, Alan decides to clear his head by returning to his hotel for a slap up meal and a quick game of footsie under the table with Genevieve before retiring for the night.

Unfortunately his plans are foiled by the appearance - from behind a desk - of the harsh faced old ginger woman (whose chat is as inappropriate as her skirt length) that runs the hotel.

Oh yes, that and the fact that halfway thru' dinner news reaches Alan that Kuhn has hung himself.

Worse of all tho' is the fact that he doesn't even get dessert.

"I can see your house from here Peter!"

Upon hearing the terrible news (about the hanging, not that the cheesecake is off) Alan rushes back to the Docs house only to be accosted by a fish breathed tramp (Berger from War and Remembrance) who drunkenly warns him to leave Budapest before it's too late and he too becomes embroiled in the local web of badness.

Hmmmm....I wonder if all these mentions of webs mean anything?

From this point in things go from bad to very bad via a whole myriad of badness for poor Alan, who is first questioned (rudely) by a fat policeman, his stories of spooky tennis balls mocked before his passport is confiscated 'for safe keeping'.

Or so the local coppers can have a laugh at his photo, one or the other.

Humiliated - and still dreaming of pudding - Alan sulkily returns to his hotel to sit in the dark and smoke fags in a brooding in a manner usually reserved for angsty teens.

All this sulkiness is soon forgotten tho' when he notices Genevieve in all her square shouldered glory dancing naked in her apartment, which just happens to be directly opposite his room.

Alan quickly rings room service for some tissues and a Pot Noodle.

How do you solve a problem like Maria?
Stab her in the face obviously.

Wiping the single tear from his milky eye Alan crawls sheepishly into bed only to have his rest disturbed by a soft knocking at the door.

No it's not the dessert trolley but the hotel maid Maria (Muzi, whose IMDB entry features the keywords adultery, dancing, aerial-bombing and teenage boy for all you fact fans out there) who has come - but not literally - to warn Alan to go home now before he becomes trapped like a fly on a spiders web.

The chat (and anything else that may or may not happen when hotel maids turn up at your room at three in the morning) is cut short by Madam Ginger, who shoos Maria away before bidding Alan good night.
Surprisingly tho' she doesn't warn him about the screams he'll hear later as poor Maria is stabbed to death by what looks like Bonnie Langford - with pegs for teeth - on PCP.

If she had it would have saved him the uncomfortable chat he ends up having with her later about dead babies as he's searching the hotel for the source of the aforementioned screams.

Don't worry, it all makes sense (kinda) when you watch it.

Well On The Buses took a turn for the sinister...

Hounded by the police, hassled by a tramp and with only the nude dance fixated Genevieve to help, Alan begins to investigate the mystery surrounding the strange town and the locals obsession with all things arachnid.

Oh and to discover why there seems to be a bizarre amount of sticky tennis balls flying about the place.

But as is always the way in these movies, time is running out for our hero.


"Laugh now!"

It's difficult to review Gianfranco Giagni's one and only foray into horror cinema without giving too much away because quite frankly Spider's Labyrinth is one of the most bonkers films to come out of Italy in the last thirty years, partly due to the fact that it appears to be written in a kinda free form style usually reserved for ear-splitting modern jazz but mainly because everything in the movie is played absolutely and earnestly straight.

Which was probably really difficult for the camp as pants Roland Wybenga so fair play to him.

Childish innuendo aside, who exactly is this wunderkind Gianfranco Giagni and where did him come from?

Born in 1952, this former music critic began his cinematic journey as an assistant to Mauro Bolognini's on set of his 1976 hit L'Héritage (AKA L'eredità Ferramonti),the film even won some awards and stuff but seeing as it doesn't feature Paola Rinaldi dancing naked I haven't seen it.

Jumping forward to 1981 (if you want a full resume you should really try a site that gives a fuck) Giagni created the frankly fantastically monikered music showcase Mr. Fantasy - hosted by magnificent Carlo Massarini - for RAI television, breaking into directing good and proper producing music vid's for the likes of saucy singing strumpet Loredana Berté and overseeing episodes of the erotically charged series based on the Guido Crepax comic masterpiece Valentina before moving onto music videos and finally giving us the magnificent Spider's Labyrinth.

I own this and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Which makes it all the more upsetting when you realise he dropped from view just as quickly as he appeared, resurfacing in 1993 with a documentary about Orson Welles love affair (not in a biblical sense) with Italy entitled Rosabella: Orson Welles in Italy.
That must have taken weeks to come up with.

Paola Rinaldi today:
You still would.

Back to the film at hand tho' where Giagni, not afraid to pilfer from the best, takes a plot that is pure Lovecraft and filters it thru the classic Giallo template created by Mario Bava before adding a dash of Argento styling to create a movie that in many ways surpasses the sum of it's parts to become a classic in it's own right.

Plus it's got a big stop motion monster in it.

What's not to love?

It does beg the question tho', why has hardly anyone been able to see it?

If I was Giagni I'd be traveling around the world banging on folks doors demanding that watch it.

Or at least asking someone very nicely to give it a proper DVD release, the only way of currently viewing the movie is as a DVD rip of the ancient Japanese VHS edition complete with hard-coded subtitles.

Which I guess makes it educational as well as entertaining.

Your hair's not the only thing you let down...

And just think, if enough of us demand to see it Giagni might make a sequel which at the very least means that we can finally rid ourselves of the crushing disappointment we felt on viewing his dull as dishwater adaptation of Nino Filasto's novel Three days in the life of Councillor Scalzi.

Filmed as the much snappier Nella terra di nessuno (Nobody's Heart/In No-Man's Land take your pick), its only real claim to fame is a scene where Italy's very own Kate Winslet, the horse-like Maya Sansa breast feeds a doll.

It did occur to me after emailing him a copy of this review and a letter begging for a Bluray release of The Spider Labyrinth and receiving no reply that maybe he's trying to distance himself from his horror past.

Which would be a shame if true.

All I can say is get emailing Giagni as soon as you've finished here, his rehabilitation into the hallowed hall of horror highs begins NOW!

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