Pan Si Dong (1927) 盘丝洞 (The Cave of the Silken Web)
alternate title: Xiyu Ji – Pan Si Dong (1927) 西游记-盘丝洞 (Journey to the West—the Spiders Cave)
alternate English title: Spiders
Shanghai Shadow Play. Silent. 10 reels. Premiered February 2, 1927 at the Palace. Direction: Dan Duyu. Screenplay: Guan Ji’an, based on a chapter in "Journey to the West," by Wu Cheng'en (ca.1505-1582). Cinematography: Dan Ganting. Cast: Yin Mingzhu (first spider spirit), He Rongzhu (man in white), Jiang Meikang (Xuanzang, or Tripitaka), Zhou Hongquan (Pigsy), Dan Erchun (Sandy), Xia Peizhen (second spider spirit), Chen Baoqi (Yellow Flower Daoist spirit), Wu Wenchao (Monkey), Zhan Jiali (Sha Heshang).
During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the pious Buddhist monk Xuanzang (aka Tripitaka) is tasked by Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy - on instructions from the Buddha - with the mission of traveling to the "Western regions" and bringing back sacred texts. He is accompanied on his quest by three disciples, Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy, plus a fourth character - the Dragon prince - who has taken the form of a white horse and carries Xuanzang. These four characters are all serving as Xuanzang's protectors to atone for past offenses. It is a dangerous journey through wild and rugged territory, and Xuanzang's party is under constant threat from various malicious spirits and demons who want to capture and eat the monk, in the belief this will bring them immortality.
In the "Spiders" segment, the group arrives at a cave inhabited by seven beautiful women, who are actually spider spirits in disguise. The women's attempt to seduce the travelers succeeds with the always-lascivious Pigsy, who lets down his guard enough for the women to capture Xuanzang, and then bar the others from the cave with their web. But when one of the spider women conspires with her demon lover to cheat the others and keep Xuanzang all to themselves, it sets off an internal battle which gives the monk his opportunity to escape.
[right, Yin Mingzhu as the leading spider woman]
Although adapted from one of China's most beloved works of fiction, Journey to the West (considered one of the country's four great classical novels), this screen treatment and its 1929 sequel are often mentioned by film historians as the sort of motion picture that led to the eventual enactment of China's "Film Censorship Act" a few years later. While there were many other films that led to the censorship law, most notably the many martial arts fantasies adapted from modern popular fiction (e.g.《Burning of Red Lotus Temple》and its numerous imitators), this film and other adaptations from Journey to the West are somewhat unique in that they were derived from a great and respected classical novel. After the 1929 sequel, there were subsequent big screen versions of the "Spider" episode in 1940, 1949, 1957 and 1967 (and several animated versions). In recent years, the introduction of the TV miniseries format has led to various small screen versions. Of the theatrical releases, the 1967 version (also titled《Cave of the Silken Web》) is widely available. Blending humor, music and (typical of 1960s Shaw productions) plenty of scantily clad beauties, it is entertaining viewing. There is a good review of the dvd here.
[left, poster advertising the 1967 《Cave of the Silken Web》]