Alt Film Guide
Classic movies. Gay movies. International cinema. Socially conscious & political cinema.
Home Film ArticlesMovie Reviews The Cave of the Silken Web (Movie 1927): Chinese Cinema Landmark

The Cave of the Silken Web Yin MingzhuThe Cave of the Silken Web stars Yin Mingzhu, wife of filmmaker Dan Duyu. Thought lost until an incomplete print resurfaced in Norway in 2011, this Chinese cinema landmark is missing the first reel and some of its mid-section.
  • The Cave of the Silken Web (movie 1927) review: Long thought lost and reportedly a national blockbuster, filmmaker Dan Duyu’s silent Chinese fantasy adventure is currently available in incomplete form.
  • But however fragmented – and hard to follow – the film’s storyline remains intriguing: Long before Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the adventure and suspense come largely courtesy of several powerful women.

The Cave of the Silken Web (movie 1927) review: Missing segments make intriguingly female-focused, silent-era Chinese fantasy hard to follow

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Due to its missing reels, I was at a loss trying to make any sense of the plot of Dan Duyu’s 1927 Chinese fantasy adventure The Cave of the Silken Web, a.k.a. The Cave of the Spider Women, screened at this year’s San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

The storyline – notable as (what’s supposed to be) the first (partial) adaptation of the classic 16th-century novel Journey to the West, attributed to Ming Dynasty writer-poet Wu Cheng’en – was quite a bit confusing, something the narration did little to remedy.

Matinee serial

After a holy Buddhist monk (Jiang Meikang) goes searching for a sacred scroll, he gets trapped in a cave where the fierce and powerful female inhabitants force him to eat meat and take a bath with them.

Since I’m partial to silent film fantasies, I accepted the movie’s flights of fancy and went along with the ride. In fact, The Cave of the Silken Web reminded me of a matinee serial, what with all the unusual situations and quick action.

I especially liked the feminist twist, as all control and power belong to the women. Chief among these is the supreme villainess – the First Spider Spirit – played by Yin Mingzhu, the filmmaker’s wife and an important Chinese cinema name, as both actress and financier, from the mid-1920s to the mid-1930s.

Modern China

Accompanying The Cave of the Silken Web was the Beijing-set 1910 short Modern China, featuring scenes from the last years of the Qing dynasty.

Not only was the viewer taken away to a place on the other side of the globe, but also back more than 100 years in time.

And that’s what makes the art of cinema so special.

The Cave of the Silken Web / The Cave of the Spider Women / Pan si dong (movie 1927) cast & crew

Director: Dan Duyu.

Screenplay: Guan Ji’an.

Cast: Yin Mingzhu, Xia Peizhen, Wenchao Wu, Jiang Meikang, Hongquan Zhou, Dan Erchun, He Rongzhu.

Cinematography: Dan Ganting.

Production Company: Shanghai Photoplay Company.

Running Time: 59 min.

Country: China.

The Cave of the Silken Web (Movie 1927)” notes

The Cave of the Silken Web movie reviewed at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (website).

Released in 1930, The Cave of the Silken Web II is the now-lost sequel to the 1927 film. Once again, Dan Duyu directed Yin Mingzhu.

Dan Duyu and Yin Mingzhu were the parents of actress Judy Dan, seen in small roles in several Hollywood movies of the 1950s and 1960s (e.g., Destination Gobi, The Spiral Road).

The Cave of the Silken Web movie credits via the IMDb.

The Cave of the Silken Web movie image: Courtesy of the National Library of Norway.

The Cave of the Silken Web (Movie 1927): Chinese Cinema Landmark” last updated in April 2023.

Recommended for You

Leave a Comment

*IMPORTANT*: By using this form you agree with Alt Film Guide's storage and handling of your data (e.g., your IP address). Make sure your comment adds something relevant to the discussion: Feel free to disagree with us and write your own movie commentaries, but *thoughtfulness* and *at least a modicum of sanity* are imperative. Abusive, inflammatory, spammy/self-promotional, baseless (spreading mis- or disinformation), and just plain deranged comments will be zapped. Lastly, links found in submitted comments will generally be deleted.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. If you continue browsing, that means you've accepted our Terms of Use/use of cookies. You may also click on the Accept button on the right to make this notice disappear. Accept Read More