My unofficial subtitle for this one is 'Spyder's Web does Agatha Christie'. Actually this is among my favourite episodes. It is the other one of the two that survive in colour, but oh what a difference from Red Admiral!
The episode actually starts very much in an eccentric '60s Lord Kitchener's Valet sort of way. Despite his dangerous legacy the opening scenes make light of Woffington's destructive inventions, & I love that he wears both a leather apron & a bowler hat.
To be absolutely frank, the film of this one is showing its age, although you don't notice scratches & the odd jump so much because of the quality of the story. I personally also don't object to the cut to stock footage of a state funeral for Woffington, even though the colour values are so completely different it makes you jump. This, kids, was what TV was like before CGI, & at the time I remember noticing those sort of changes without really noticing, because that was just how it was. My perception is that the colours don't seem so 1970s bland in this one, perhaps because the colour palette of sets & wardrobe started off brighter to start off with.
Other production values are good: pacing is fast enough to maintain interest, & the music is marvellously chosen & placed for the action of the episode.
After the funeral, the feel of this episode changes completely. The reason I call it Agatha Christie is that I think the rest of the episode feels like The Mousetrap, that is a group of people are essentially forced together with their conflicting ideas & emotions, & have to stay there until the matter is resolved, although the resolution is frankly rather stark for the Woffington family in this one. Even the set for the inside of the farmhouse feels like an Agatha Christie play. The cosy murder mystery is turned on its head here, since *everybody* is frankly murderous in this one, & the house is a death trap of murderous gadgets.
My undoubted stars of this episode have to be the Woffington family, with their unabashed greed & speed to resort to lethal force. I love the variety of weapons they take to bed with them in the barn. Now that's what I call a family reunion! The dialogue sparkles in this episode, the family spark off against each other & against Lottie & Hawksworth.
I feel a weakness of this episode is the supposed making of a documentary, in which it turns out Hawksworth has put a bayonet through Harry, the missing member of the Swoffington family. The scene is unconvincing as a professional documentary in the making, & Antony Ainley is unconvincing as a soldier in a home guard uniform. He does different sorts of gentlemen very well, even surpassing himself as a rake in this episode, but military didn't suit him.
It is interesting how this episode develops the workings of Spyder: J. Smith has had a phone put in in the farmhouse before they get there, & it is clear that the doctor who certifies Harry Woffington's death is well-acquainted with Spyder. I love the way the opposition in this one is China, & the Chinese thing keeps recurring. Makes a change from Eastern Europe, although still Communist, of course.
My favourite lines from this episode - Wallis: 'I found that Dick underneath my bed last night, & when - chased him out there was Tom looking through my keyhole'