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Spider Labyrinth (Severin Films) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Spider Labyrinth (Severin Films) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: April 30th, 2024.
    Director: Gianfranco Giagni
    Cast: Roland Wybenga, William Berger, Stéphane Audran
    Year: 1988
    Purchase From Amazon

    Spider Labyrinth – Movie Review:

    Professor Alan Whitmore (Roland Wybenga) is an American who works as a Professor of languages studies and has a fascination bordering on obsession with translating pre-Christian religious texts. He was also locked in a closet with a bunch of spiders as a child and since then suffers from arachnophobia. In his ongoing quest to do this, he finds himself travelling to Budapest where he meets a Professor Roth who, in addition to possibly being mentally disturbed, gives to Whitmore a black book that may or may not tie into a cult called The Weavers whose religion dictates that they worship elder gods, the kind that existed before humanity itself arrived on Earth.

    A short time later, Roth is found dead, strung up in a giant spider’s web. Whitmore, who is staying at a hotel run by a strange woman named Mrs. Kuhn (Stéphane Audran), should have probably gone home at this point but nope! Instead he starts hanging out with Roth’s foxy assistant, Genevieve (Paola Rinaldi), but the more he starts looking into not only Roth’s death but also his work, the more he gets pulled deeper into an increasingly bizarre series of events leading up to a genuinely wild finish, all while a strange older man (William Berger) shows up somewhat randomly to offer ominous warnings to our intrepid hero.

    A dark and atmospheric Italian horror picture, the only that director Gianfranco Giagni ever worked on, made quite a few years after the golden age of Italian genre cinema had come to a close, Spider Labyrinth is a wonderfully weird picture that drinks deep from the well of Lovecraftian horror but which manages to throw in some giallo-esque elements as well (some of the murder set pieces feel like they could have come out of an Argento or Bava thriller).

    Tight in its pacing and set to an interesting score from Franco Persanti and beautifully shot by cinematographer Sebastiano Celeste, the movie also features some excellent practical effects work from the legendary Sergio Stivaletti, the film always looks fantastic and makes great use of the Hungarian location work, showing off some interesting architecture along the way. The movie makes good use of some quirky imagery throughout and features a few memorable set pieces as well.

    The performances are generally very good. Although Roland Wybenga can come across as a little flat in spots, he looks right for the part. The iconic Stéphane Audran, one of the most recognizable French actresses of the sixties and seventies and probably best known for appearing in Luis Buñuel's The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, is very good in her supporting role and it’s fun to see William Berger show up here playing an old weirdo as well as he does. Paola Rinaldi looks great here and does a fine job with her role as the female lead, her character somewhat of an exhibitionist it would seem!

    Spider Labyrinth – UHD Review:

    Spider Labyrinth arrives on UHD in an HEVC encoded 2160p presentation framed at 1.85.1 widescreen, the film’s original aspect ratio, in an HDR10 enhanced transfer taken from a 4k scan of the original 35mm vault negative. Picture quality is excellent, with fantastic color reproduction and nice, inky black levels. There’s loads of detail to take in and some really nice textures on display as well. Skin tones always look perfectly natural and the image is free of any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression issues. There’s virtually no print damage here at all, the image is very clean throughout. No complaints, Severin has done a really good job here.

    English and Italian language audio tracks are provided in 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo with optional subtitles provided in English only. Both tracks sound fine – clean, clear and properly balanced without any noticeable hiss or distortion.

    The main extra on the UHD is an audio commentary with Dr. Will Dodson, Professor Of Rhetoric And Media Studies, and Ryan Verrill, Host Of The Disc Connected podcast. It’s an interesting talk that goes over the history of the cast and crew that worked on the movie, the state of Italian horror during this period, a lot of the odd symbolism that works its way into the movie and how you can interpret some of that, what works and what doesn’t in the movie, the film’s score and use of music, a lot of the imagery o display in the movie and lots more. It’s an interesting and well thought out discussion.

    A trailer for the feature is also provided.

    As far as what’s on the included Blu-ray disc, we get that same commentary and trailer as well as a nice selection of featurettes, starting with ‘Caught In A Web,’ which is an interview with Director Gianfranco Giagni running forty-five minutes. In this piece, we learn about his work directing music videos, how he connected with and came to work with Producer Tonino Cervi, what it was like making his first horror film, getting along with the cast and crew, some of the trouble that he encountered on the shoot and how he feels about the experience these many years since completing it.

    ‘Arachne’ is an interview with Screenwriter Gianfranco Manfredi running forty-one minutes and covering how he came to work on the project, getting along with Giagni and what their collaborative moments were like, where some of the ideas for the movie came from, how he feels about the finished product and trying to keep things as grounded as possible.

    Cinematographer Nino Celeste is up next in ‘All The Colors Of A Spider,’ a twenty minute piece where he talks about what it was like on the set, collaborating with Giagni, why the movie was shot in Hungary and some of the challenges that this posed, memories of shooting some specific scenes and more.

    Up next, in ‘Smile Of The Spider Woman,’ we spend thirty-four minutes with Actress Paola Rinaldi talks about how she got her start in the Italian film industry and some of the people that helped her out along the way in those early days, how she landed her first leading role with this movie, getting along with the cast and crew and some amusing memories of her co-stars.

    Special FX Artist Sergio Stivaletti gets in front of the camera for thirty-nine minutes in ‘Death In Stop Motion’ where we hear from him regarding how he got connected to the project, what he was able to bring to the movie based on previous experiences, some of the more challenging tasks that he was required to tackle on the set and getting along with Giagni.

    Last but not least, check out ‘Web Of The Weird – Placing Spider Labyrinth In The Weird Genre’ which features insight from Dr. Will Dodson, Ryan Verrill and Erica Shultz (the Author of ‘The Sweetest Taboo: An Unapologetic Guide To Child Kills In Film’). This seventeen minute video essay explore and dissect the movie, going over its Lovecraftian influences and gothic elements, discussing its effectiveness and how it fits in with greater concept of ‘weird’ cinema overall.

    Spider Labyrinth - The Final Word:

    Spider Labyrinth is a really underappreciated Italian horror film that’s definitely worth seeing, especially for those with an interest in Lovecraftian ideas and bizarre imagery. The UHD/Blu-ray edition from Severin Films looks and sounds excellent, presenting the movie in a gorgeous presentation and in a two-disc set stacked with extras that do an excellent job of exploring the movie’s history and themes. Highly recommended!




    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized screen caps from the included Spider Labyrinth Blu-ray (which are used only to illustrate the movie, not the transfer quality of this UHD release).

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    Ian Jane
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    Last edited by Ian Jane; 04-10-2024, 03:57 PM.
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