Air Date: Sept. 16, 1977
Production Companies: ABC Circle Films, American Broadcasting Company (ABC), Dan Curtis Productions
Running Time: 100 min.
Available on: YouTube
Written by: Robert Blees and Earl W. Wallace
Directed by: Dan Curtis
Cast: Anthony Franciosa, Donna Mills, Patty Duke, Jule Allyson, Max Gail, Roz Kelly, Vic Morrow
Rating: 7 vintage televisions (out of 10)
Another week, another… wait a minute… Curse of the Black Widow (1977) was not a failed television pilot. However, it was another 1970s TV movie about a skeptical character investigating the supernatural. Here, Mark Higbie (Anthony Franciosa) is not a reporter, an author, or a parapsychologist. He’s just a simple private investigator.
He’s hired by Leigh Lockwood (Donna Mills) when she becomes the suspect in a series of crimes in which the victims are drained of blood and sometimes cocooned in webbing. It’s no spoiler to say that the real murderer is a sort of “were-spider,” a woman that transforms into a big arachnid when the moon is full. We witness the monster in action during the very first scene.
The transformation effects are primitive, but effective. The camera focuses on the woman’s eyes, which begin glowing, then zoom in. When it zooms back out, we are witnessing the proceedings from the monster’s point of view. That means we see what’s happening through a honeycomb lens of tiny pentagons or octagons (I didn’t have time to count the sides.)
During the climax, we see the big arachnid in full view and it’s not bad. It’s better at a distance, scuttling across the boat house between two rows of shelves. Even up close, though, the face and pedipalps (I learned a new word) convey the appropriate mix of “Ewwww” and “Yikes.” Directed by Dan Curtis, the thrills and suspense are present.
As for the humans, Franciosa is natural and entertaining. His relationships with his assistant, Flaps (Roz Kelly) and another tenant in his office building, Lazlo Cozart (Sid Caesar), are humorous, but sincere. Some of his actions and reactions as he becomes a true believer are also humorous. He doesn’t take things too seriously, nor should he.
There's a nice mystery about the identity of the spider woman. The suspects are eventually narrowed down to fraternal twins, Leigh and Laura Lockwood (Patty Duke,) but no one can remember which baby was bitten all over her body by spiders after a plane crash in the jungle. In a clever twist, the real killer also has another affliction: a split personality.
There are also other suspicious family members such as Olga (June Allyson) and her granddaughter, Jennifer (Rosanna Locke), as well as good cop/bad cops Lt. Gully Conti (Vic Morrow) and Ragsdale (Max Gail.) With its familiar formula, and a repetitive one at that, Curse of the Black Widow is fun but just shy of forgettable.
Visit the TV Terror Guide: 70's TV Movies playlist at ClassicHorrors.Club TV on YouTube to watch Curse of the Black Widow as well as all the great movies from this series.