The Cobweb is a film that seems to provoke wildly varying reactions from many people. There are those who consider it a neglected near-masterwork, certainly not a true classic, but a film that has a bounty of riches. Others find it an insipid and often trying melodrama, with performances that tend to go too far over the top. Those who favor the former view agree that the story is too melodramatic, but they feel that the film is really an exercise in form over content -- that director Vincente Minnelli has filmed the entire thing as if it were a musical, lacking only actual songs, and that if viewed in this light, the extreme emotions, the sudden outbursts, and the quiet reflections take on a great fascination. Those who dislike the film dismiss this, contending that even if it is rue, it isn't enough to make up for the superficial characterizations and lack of character depth. About the only thing the two sides can agree on is that Lillian Gish's change-of-pace performance is a delight to watch, that Fay Wray is quite touching in her brief role, and that Minnelli has photographed the film with his usual style and visual flair. On the whole, The Cobweb is worth watching, if for no other reason than to see which camp you fall into.
by Craig Butler review