Amateur criminologist Richard Wentworth (Warren Hull) use to be the daredevil vigilante The Spider. When a new master criminal called the Gargoyle begins wreaking havoc Wentworth must bring the Spider out of retirement to fight this new evil menace. The Gargoyle is out to destroy the captains of industry. This way he can destroy America’s defense program and weaken its national security. His main henchman is Trigger (Anthony Warde). He also enlists the aid of a brilliant inventor named Stephen (Harry Harvey) who creates specialized weapons for the Gargoyle to use in his various attempts at sabotage.
Wentworth is working with police commissioner Kirk (Joseph W. Girard) as well as his trusty staff, his aide, Jackson (Dave O’Brien), his chauffer, Ram Singh (Kenne Duncan), his butler, Jenkins (Arthur Belasco), and his secretary and girlfriend, Nita Van Sloan (Mary Ainslee). Wentworth’s undercover escapades are performed by the Spider as well as a small-time hood, which Wentworth uses to ingratiate himself into the underworld, by the name of Blinky McQuade. Wentworth is a master at quick change when he must switch between himself, the Spider or Blinky depending on which alter ego is called for.
Wentworth’s main objective, besides stopping the Gargoyle, is to find the mastermind's true identity. He has narrowed the prospects down to six captains of industry, Mr. Westfall (Bryant Washburn), Mr. Cartwright, Mr. Gaylord, Mr. McLeod (Corbet Morris), Mr. Holden (Irving Miller), and Anita’s uncle Mr. Van Sloan (Charles Miller).
“The Spider Returns” was released in 1941 and was directed by James W. Horne. It is a fifteen chapter crime adventure serial. It was the 14th of 66 serials by Columbia and the second serial based on the “Spider” character. The first was “The Spider’s Web” 1938.
As far as serials are concerned this one is a little on the silly side. The Gargoyle’s main henchman, Trigger, spends most of his time playing mother hen to the various minions he is in charge of. There’s a lot of overacting as well as a lot of fist fights where the spider, or his aide, Jackson, is fighting with five or six minions at a time. In addition there are lots of fake Spiders and fake Gargoyles that pop up to introduce various red herrings. Henchmen also scatter about like roaches any time a gun goes off.
Blinky McQuade seems to be the main character instead of the one that the serial is named after. He appears to have more screen time than the Spider does. He’s also a little more annoying but then so is Nita. There are a few inventions cooked up by Stephen but the most ridiculous is the wobbly contraption that acts like a television when tuned in to the frequency of a belt that a henchman wears around his waist. As for the cliffhangers, most of them are standard but there are a few that are rather extreme. I specifically remember one that incorporated fire and spiked walls closing in.
It’s not a great serial nor is it all that interesting and definitely not as good as the first serial “The Spider’s Web”.
Chapter Titles: 1. The Stolen Plans 2. The Fatal Time-Bomb 3. The Secret Meeting 4. The Smoke Dream 5. The Gargoyle's Trail 6. The X-Ray Eye 7. The Radio Boomerang 8. The Mysterious Message 9. The Cup of Doom 10. The X-Ray Belt 11. Lips Sealed by Murder 12. A Money Bomb 13. Almost a Confession 14. Suspicious Telegram 15. The Payoff