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.
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 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.
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