Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Golden Spiders (TV movie)


In 2000, A&E adapted Rex Stout's The Golden Spiders into a TV movie. This was followed the next year by a series of one hour episodes starring the same actors.

Per Wikipedia:
A&E initially planned that The Golden Spiders would be the first in a series of two-hour mystery movies featuring Nero Wolfe. The high ratings (3.2 million households) garnered by the film, along with the critical praise accorded Maury Chaykin as Nero Wolfe and Timothy Hutton as Archie Goodwin, prompted A&E to order a weekly one-hour drama series — A Nero Wolfe Mystery — into production.
The Nero Wolfe mystery series, written by Rex Stout, features two detectives. Wolfe is the eccentric armchair detective who depends on Archie Goodwin to be his leg man. Wolfe is naturally lazy and has to be goaded into taking a case. Often this is necessary because the bank account is decreasing and Wolfe needs to support his household, which includes an orchid expert who helps him tend to his orchid collection, and a cook, Fritz. Faithful readers of the Nero Wolfe novels are familiar with every room in Wolfe's New York brownstone, and all of his quirks. He only leaves his home when necessary; he is overweight and sedentary. Archie is Wolfe's secretary when there is no case, and narrates all the stories.

The TV movie of The Golden Spiders includes all aspects of the story, as fans of the books would expect. The movie is set in the 1950's as is the book. The trouble with watching any adaptation of a book is that the impression of the characters that the reader has come up with may clash with the interpretation in the adaptation. No one could perfectly match my picture of Archie and Wolfe, but Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin come very close. Chaykin is more blustery and loud than I picture Wolfe; but he plays an intelligent eccentric detective very well. If I could have chosen someone to play Archie, Timothy Hutton would have been my pick.

There is a trio of operatives that often work with Wolfe and Goodwin on cases throughout the books. Those operatives show up in this film and I think the choices of actors to play the roles were very good. My favorite was Saul Rubinek as Saul Panzer, but that may be because I like Rubinek in every role I have seen him in (most recently in the Jesse Stone TV movies, a few episodes of Leverage, and a starring role in Warehouse 13).

This adaptation is stylized; the characterizations are exaggerated. The clothing and set design is gorgeous. The story is not identical to the novel, but very close. As a confirmed fan of the Nero Wolfe books who has read each multiple times, I cannot judge how someone unfamiliar with the stories would enjoy the adaptation. I was very happy with the results.

This movie review is submitted for Katie’s 2014 Book to Movie Challenge at Doing Dewey.

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The Golden Spiders (2000), A&E Network
Cast: Maury Chaykin, Timothy Hutton, Bill Smitrovich, Colin Fox, Saul Rubinek
Director: Bill Duke
Adapted by: Paul Monash


13 comments:

  1. Great review TracyK - like you, I loved this show (and its 1950s look) but had to agree that Chaykin did perhaps bark a bit too often and loudly compared with the books - must watch this one again!

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    1. Sergio, I am looking forward to re-watching the other episodes on the set. It has been awhile, so it will be fun.

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  2. Tracy - I'm glad you enjoyed this. I really like this serie very much. Perhaps Maury Chaykin is a little loud and 'barky' compared to the books, but I do like his portrayal of Wolfe otherwise. And those clothes and the set! They're great, in my opinion.

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    1. Margot, it is a great movie and series. I wish I could watch the series with Lee Horsley (???) again.

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  3. I don't think I have ever seen Hutton in anything, I don't recognise the face TBH. I was confusing him in my head with Timothy Dalton who was a short-lived James Bond a few years ago.
    Oh some news - Person of Interest is being shown on UK TV. Caught a sight of it when I was about to go to bed last night - so have recorded it. I don't know whether its the beginning, middle or end of a particular series.

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    1. Col, I like Timothy Dalton too. I liked him as Bond, although I only saw him in one of those movies. He was great in Hot Fuzz. And he is in some new show on television that I won't see for a long time (on Showtime or something).

      I hope you like Person of Interest. I don't know that it makes too much difference where you start it, although the background is nice. It took me a while to like it.

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  4. As you say, Chaykin and Hutton don't quite physically resemble the Wolfe and Goodwin that I see in my mind's eye, but their portrayals were excellent. I had hoped that they might reunite for a TV movie but sadly Chaykin passed away a couple of years ago.

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    1. Rob, I had read that they were considering a revival of the show... but that was a while ago. I guess I will just re-watch this series like I re-read the novels every few years.

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  5. Nicely reviewed, Tracy. I haven't read any of the Nero Wolfe mysteries and reading some of the novels would probably be a good idea before I watch the TV movie. Timothy Hutton is familiar but I can't place him off the top of my head.

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    1. Thanks, Prashant. Yes, reading two or three of the Wolfe mysteries would be good before watching the TV show. I was surprised when I looked Timothy Hutton up, I have not seen him in many movies, mostly in television roles. His father was Jim Hutton, who played Ellery Queen on TV.

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  6. This series passed me by completely, even though I must have been living in the USA when it was shown. I have enjoyed those books that I've read, so must read more, and should look out for these adaptations.

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    1. Moira, I think you would love this movie and the series that followed, if only for the clothes and the setting. I watched them once on TV, then later when we bought the set. And now I plan to re-watch them all again. But, of course, I am a Nero Wolfe fanatic (although Archie is the real attraction) and a big fan of Timothy Hutton.

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  7. Thanks for taking part in the Book to Movie Reading Challenge TracyK - I have posted a quarterly update today: http://bloodymurder.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/book-to-movie-challenge-quarterly-update/

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