THE SPIDER RETURNS (1941)
Article #1760 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-8-2006
Posting Date: 6-7-2006
Directed by James W. Horne
Featuring Warren Hull, Mary Ainslee, Dave O’Brien
Noted criminologist Richard Wentworth pits his abilities against an industrial saboteur known as The Gargoyle.
This is a sequel to the 1938 serial THE SPIDER’S WEB, which I’ve already covered for this series. I expressed a certain degree of disappointment with that serial, largely because the villain didn’t turn out to be as interesting as I hoped. The villain here is even less interesting; he’s mostly a rehash of The Octopus, but lacking even that villain’s gimmick. Yet, I found myself really enjoying this one more than the original, and it’s probably because I was really glad to see the return of my favorite character. No, it’s not Wentworth himself, though I do feel that Warren Hull made for a truly charming serial hero. Nor is it Wentworth’s alter ego, the Spider, who seems slightly tamer than he does in the earlier serial. No, it’s Blinky McQuade, Wentworth’s other alter ego, a seedy crook who tries to get in cahoots with the Gargoyle and his gang. McQuade is a hoot, and it seems to me that they figured out how well he went over in the original serial, and gave him a much greater role in the proceedings here.
In fact, this serial has a strong sense of humor throughout, and it makes it a lot more fun for me. The science fiction content is also much stronger, thanks to the Gargoyle’s inventor sidekick whose biggest creation is an X-Ray Eye Machine, which allows the Gargoyle to spy on anyone who is wearing one of his special belts. It looks like some bizarre tentacled robot, and when it’s warming up or malfunctioning, it vibrates and waves its tentacles around in a memorable but hilarious way. The cliffhangers are colorful as well, and it even includes a scene of Wentworth being tied to the railroad tracks! I haven’t had this much fun in a serial since I saw THE LOST CITY.