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Spider, The (Danish Title – Edderkoppen)

Release Year:        2000
Studio:        MHz Networks
Format:        Anamorphic; NTSC; in Danish with English subtitles
Rated:        Not Rated
# of Discs/Episodes:        3 / 6
Running Time:        354 minutes
DVD Release Date:        March 25, 2014
Actors:        Jakob Cedergren, Stine Stengade, Lars Mikkelsen, Bent Mejding, Lars Bom
E:Top Picks Rating:        9 / 10

Studio Write-up:   
Suffering from the shortages and shady business transactions following the Nazi occupation of Denmark, the citizens of Copenhagen are till slogging through the grey zone of the post-war era; the orderly decade of the 1950s hasn’t arrived yet. City gangsters and black marketeers are having the time of their lives – they can lay their hands on anything from extra ration coupons, booze and cigarettes to American cars. Against this backdrop of scheming and fraud, Bjarne Madsen is an idealistic young journalist desperate to provide his readers with some hard evidence of the ongoing corruption. But the newspaper already has a regular crime reporter, the deeply honorable H.C. Vissing, who bases his work on mutual trust with the police. After receiving a tip-off about the scale of organized crime in Copenhagen, Bjarne sees an opportunity to unravel the threads of an extensive criminal spider’s web; his ambitions to report on a Really Big Story have finally become a reality. Vissing and the editor-in-chief, Taulov, think the story is too far-fetched to be legitimate, but Bjarne follows his leads among the crooks and politicians to seek out the truth. In the course of the investigation, he falls for the charms of the captivating diva, Lisbeth Gordan. And as luck would have it, so does his brother, Ole. This immensely popular Danish mini-series stars Lars Mikkelsen (Borgen, Sherlock) and Jakob Cedergren (The Eagle).

Jon Ted Wynne Review:   
THE SPIDER is an intriguing, almost entirely satisfying Danish mini-series that originally aired in 2000. Why it has taken so long to be released in North America is anyone’s guess, but better late than never.

Intensely atmospheric, with great attention paid to period detail, this lovingly-produced 6 part series (on 3 DVDs) gets better and better as it unfolds, embracing all the implied intricacies of a spider’s web. With each entanglement the story becomes more satisfying, leading to a pay off that is realistic though perhaps not as neatly tucked together as some North American viewers might like or be used to.

If there are any false notes to be found in this series they are few and far between, with one notable exception being the set of Joh’s, a jazz club, that looks like it was made of cardboard. This is the only exception to an otherwise beautiful, noir-ish atmosphere that almost has you expecting Robert Mitchum to appear out of the shadows.

The story takes awhile to really pick up steam, but what holds the series together (apart from the almost perfect art direction and production values) is the galaxy of outstanding performances. Often when watching shows from another country, the absence of familiar faces can both enhance and detract from the effectiveness of the whole. Enhancement comes from the lack of familiarity with the actors, thus providing a freshness and believability with the characters. This can detract if the characterizations are too many and/or under-developed. Fortunately, that is not the case here. Every character is beautifully drawn and executed and wholly believable within the period setting. Only one actor was familiar to this reviewer, who played a supporting role in the superior Danish series Borgen, but his performance here, as one of the few uncorrupted police investigators, is totally different from the role he played in that classic series.

MHz Networks has a commitment to providing first-rate mysteries and dramas from Europe that challenge the very best that TV has to offer. THE SPIDER is an excellent example of programming that can hold its own with anything to be found on HBO or AMC.

True, one has to be willing to embrace the reality of English subtitles, but this is easily accommodated with a little practice and is far superior to dubbing into English, which in this reviewer’s opinion, never quite looks right. If the series is set in Denmark, then the characters should be speaking Danish (which they do). Subtitling merely makes these excellent programs accessible to a wider audience.

Well done MHz. There is a definite need for quality programming like THE SPIDER. Gangsters, jazz, the aftermath of war-time loyalties and intrigues, obsession, love, familial angst and much, much more, THE SPIDER will draw you in and keep you guessing right to the end.