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Patrick Schoenmaker

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TR.N Research Indy's Influences Classics Adventures The Spiders
The Spiders

Released in 1919.

Directed by: Fritz Lang
Written by: Fritz Lang
Produced by: Erich Pommer

Carl de Vogt .... Kay Hoog
Ressel Orla .... Lio Sha
Georg John .... Dr. Telphas
Lil Dagover .... Sonnenpriesterin
Edgar Pauly .... Vierfinger-John
Thea Zander .... Ellen
Friedrich Kühne .... All-Hab-Mah
Rudolf Lettinger .... John Terry/Terry Landon


If adventure has a name it must be…Kay Hoog?
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.

Heroes in action.

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 Sea.
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.

Incas defending their
sacred temple.

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 released, The 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.

Amir deciphering
strange markings.

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 city.

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, Metropolis.

The Spiders 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 into production.
Stephen Jared)


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