DVD region 2. Network.
continue to unearth British TV rarities with this four disc set
of all thirteen episodes from long-forgotten spy series Spyder’s
Web, which ran during 1972.
Old school spy Clive Hawksworth (Anthony Ainsley) finds himself
seconded to the ultra-secret Spyder agency, which operates outside
the usual espionage world and is run by Lottie Dean (Patricia
Cutts), who uses a documentary film unit as a cover. Between them,
they investigate various unusual crimes that are too sensitive
to be handled by the usual authority – and also engage is
some surprising assassinations too.
The series is clearly influenced by The Avengers,
but the early 1970s were a very different time from the 1960s,
and the light-hearted humour and bizarre situations that made
that series so great are here clumsily handled and somewhat out
of time, clashing with the attempt to be gritty. The result is
a clumsy and ineffectual show that doesn’t seem to quite
know what it wants to be. With pretty poor production values and
dull stories that seem to stumble to a climax, these shows feel
a lot longer than they are - ploughing through this whole series
has been quite hard work.
Things are not helped by the fact that Hawksworth and Dean come
across as Steed and his assorted co-stars after they’ve
had a charisma bypass. This is a combination of bad characters
and bad acting – Hawkworth is a thoroughly unappealing ex-military
snob who positively relishes murder, and who can’t wait
to get stuck into lefties, commies, liberals and other threats
to society (in episode two, he – and, you suspect, the programme
makers – expresses his admiration for a group of establishment
figures who have been kidnapping and torturing people who have
the audacity to make sex films, criticise the Royal Family and
vote Labour), while Dean is an entirely unconvincing character,
a fact not helped by Cutts’ acting, which is in the great
tradition of British theatricality – projecting to the back
of the theatre eve when there is no theatre. Her entire
performance is delivered with a one-note shout, no matter what
emotion she’s supposed to be feeling.
Of course, having unpleasant leads is not the end of the world
if they are supposed to be anti-heroes and the series offers some
development of their storylines – but presumably because
this wasn’t planned as a single season show, no such development
occurs, and you rather suspect that the producers didn’t
intend these two to be so ghastly.
The main cast is rounded out by Hammer stalwart Veronica Carlson
as intellectual Northern Bird secretary Wallis Ackroyd (because
of course all Northerners have names like that), who
is quite the best thing here despite her on-again, off-again Scunthorpe
accent, and Roger Lloyd Pack who seems to be rehearsing for his
role in Confessions
of a Sex Maniac in an irregular role as a randy cameraman.
Guest slots include familiar faces like Andre Morrell, Rudolph
Walker, John Barron, Mike Pratt, Windsor Davies (struggling to
It’s a surprise to see Last of the Summer Wine
hack Roy Clarke writing several episodes (Summer Wine
alumni Peter Sallis and Joe Gladwin turn up in a couple of episodes),
though to be honest, he’s no better at writing thrillers
than he is sitcoms, and Roy Ward Baker directs one of the more
Although each episode opens with the announcement that it is an
ATV Production In Colour, all but two of the episodes in this
set are defiantly black and white, with one of the colour shows
having monochrome inserts to replace missing footage – a
sobering reminder than even as late as the 1970’s, shows
were still being dumped by the production companies after broadcast.
And while it’s good to see Network releasing this regardless,
it has to be said that there is no reason other than historical
curiosity to bother with this show. Some series are forgotten
for good reasons….
only from www.networkdvd.co.uk