If adventure has a name it must
The world’s farthest reaches have always
known evil-smashing adventurers, even decades
before favorite archeologist, Indiana Jones. Kay
Hoog was one such two-fisted hero, kicking and
punching his way through a pair of films collectively
titled The Spiders.
An extraordinary treasure is discovered
in Peru. Unfortunately, the Incas are back and
they’re up to their same old tricks of human-sacrifice.
Millionaire sportsman Kay Hoog mounts a dangerous
expedition to the Holy Sea while hot on his heels
is arch nemesis Lio Sha, a resourceful woman and
high-level kingpin in the international crime
syndicate referred to as The Spiders. Hoog fails
to return with the treasure but succeeds in rescuing
a woman from a giant snake and the Incan Temple
of Death. He falls in love with his damsel in
distress but can he keep her safe from the dreaded
Spiders once back in San Francisco? Thus ends
chapter one, The Golden
It’s sequel, The
Diamond Ship, casts the same heroes and
villains as they pursue a legendary diamond called
the Buddha Stone. Fast-paced action flies from
Chinese opium dens to India and then deep within
the ragged caves of the Falkland Islands.
Writer/director Fritz Lang originally
planned a four-film serial but only delivered
these two. The second film does not quite rise
to the level of the first. Sequels aiming for
more intricate plots, more characters and more
locations proves a drawback here and interestingly
predicts this recurring challenge which would
continue over the next eighty-some years. Still,
it’s great fun. Both these films are fantastic
in the true sense of the word. When originally
Spiders had a subtitle, which translated
to "The Adventures of Kay Hoog in Worlds
Known and Unknown." The two films in the
serial written by Lang but never produced were
titled, The Secret of
the Sphinx and For
the Sake of Asia’s Imperial Crown.
Fritz Lang enthusiasts will find
these shoot-em-up adventure films don’t
fit so neatly in line with much of the German
Expressionist’s oeuvre but it is possible
they were extremely influential nevertheless.
A staggering ninety percent of all silent films
no longer exist. Therefore, tracking influences
can be a bit tricky. But there can’t be
too much in the way of exotic adventure serials
in cinema prior to this and many of the motifs
here turned up in some very famous films later.
For example, Kay Hoog’s elusive treasures
escape his grasp at the end of each chapter. Silhouetted
figures stand on a ridge against a glowing sky.
Amir, the old man whom deciphered a sun medallion’s
strange markings, which led to an underground
map room in Raiders of
the Lost Ark is here as well in the form
of an old bookworm. Hoog asks the old man for
a translation of strange markings on a small artifact
and the secret inscription leads him to a subterranean
Carl de Vogt’s portrayal
of Kay Hoog is not as a superhuman swashbuckler
(Douglas Fairbanks would invent that type of screen
hero a couple years later) and he is wardrobed
a bit more like Sherlock Holmes than Indiana Jones.
Still, he’s quite effective and believable,
as is the entire cast.
Lio Sha bathing.
It’s a terrible shame only
the first half of this serial exists but Fritz
Lang’s next few years were certainly not
wasted. Besides moving on to write the silent
film version of The
Indian Tomb, a work he would return to much
later in life, he also went on to create one of
science fiction’s greatest masterpieces,
was thought to be lost for years but fortunately
today’s adventure fans are indebted to David
and Kimberly Shepard for their artful job of restoration.
It’s a mystery whether this serial had any
direct inspiration on Indiana Jones. We have one
tantalizing clue however. Restoration of The
Spiders was a three
year process completed in 1979. A year later Raiders
of the Lost Ark went