I had enough of this time. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout ‘SAVE US!’…and I’ll look down and whisper ‘DY-NO-MITE!’

Ergo, I co-ordinated with Skynet and travelled back to September 16, 1977. All I have to entertain myself is orange drink, an orange bike and orange network television.

Tonight, ABC is showing a little ditty called Curse of the Black Widow. Let’s check it out and see how it compares to The Intruder Within and Midnight Offerings.


According to the credits, Robert Blees wrote this film. Blees is known for Frogs, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, and a hidden gem called Savage Harvest, which is Night of the Living Dead with lions and Tom Skerrit. It would make a great double feature with Venom (1981).

Dan Curtis produced and directed. Curtis is synonymous with TV horror and is perhaps best known for introducing Kolchak: The Night Stalker to the world. In fact, Curse of the Black Widow could just as well be a lost episode of Kolchak. Swap out the main character with Darren McGavin and his secretary with Simon Oakland and you wouldn’t know the difference.


Hey, mom! Watch me swallow my fist!

Curse Of The Black Widow Cast

Anthony Franciosa plays the main manly-man. As soon as his face popped up on screen, I instantly named his character “Chip Mancuso.” I don’t even care what the real name of the character is within the movie. Anthony simply looks like a “Chip Mancuso” through and through.

Franciosa did not have a huge career, but he did manage to show up in the nastiest Death Wish film (II) and a Dario Argento movie (Tenebrae).

Joining Franciosa are known quantities Vic Morrow, who tragically died on The Twilight Zone Movie just five years later, Donna Mills (Play Misty For Me), Patty Duke (bipolar disorder), Max Gail (D.C. Cab) and even Sid Caesar (It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World).

Kiss Of The Black Widow Woman

The movie starts with Chip Mancuso and his swarthy friends sitting in a pub that is so 1970s that it should probably have a carpeted bar top. A mysterious woman in black enters. She seems to model her look after Michael Caine in Dressed to Kill. Her name is Valerie Stefan.

Valerie has car trouble and wonders if someone can help her out. The men assume this is a seduction ploy and laugh it up. One man decides he is, in fact, up for an orgasm, so he takes the bait and leaves with Valerie, only to be promptly killed by a first-person-camera-point-of-view.

The police show up, and Vic Morrow has this excellent line:

“It looks like someone gave him a hug with a pair of pickaxes.”

As fortune would have it, Chip Mancuso is a private detective. The fiancé of the murdered man hires him to find the killer. This unlucky-in-love lady is played by Donna Mills. Seeing as Donna’s first husband was killed while on a cruise and now her current love has been embraced by mining tools, one might be tempted to call her a…black widow!


Hello, my name is Chip Mancuso, and I only apologize for three things: spilling a glass of scotch, riding a horse too hard and blowing weak men over with testosterone-laden flatulence.

Chip Mancuso Is On The Case!

Patty Duke visits a house in the country that looks like it is maybe sublet by Norman Bates. Her pants work extremely hard to contain her lower belly. No wonder 70s attire went out of style. They are not flattering at all.

The movie gets a bit frayed as it introduces a bunch of ladies. Patty Duke is the sister of Donna. Another old woman is in the house who might be an aunt or a grandma — maybe both, because a teenage niece is also present. Plus, a mysterious figure hangs out in the attic.

I can’t keep them all straight. All I know is that once their cycles get in synch, watch out!

Meanwhile, Chip Mancuso visits the coroner. The coroner lets Chip see the autopsy report of Donna’s fiancé. The coroner also reveals he has had numerous corpses come through the morgue with the same wounds. And, get this, their bodies were completely drained of blood!

“Is there a coven of celebrities nearby?” Chip asks.

Just kidding. He doesn’t do that. But he should. It’s a legitimate concern.

Don’t worry. I will blow you out of there with a testosterone-laden flatulence.

Along Came A Curse Of The Black Widow

Valerie Stefan returns in her over-the-top black outfit, which isn’t suspiciously like a disguise at all! She lures a man into a park, takes off her clothes, chases her victim into a zoo and kills him with first-person-camera-point-of-view.

All of this leads to Max Gail telling Chip he should track down a witness to one of the other murders. The witness saw something so crazy no one would believe him.

Chip finds the witness in a girl’s gymnastics academy, which is kind of random. He asks one of the girls where he can find the guy, and the movie stops dead in its tracks to let the girl perform a vault for the camera. What is going on here? None of this makes sense. To Google!

Ah, now it makes sense. The part of the gymnast is played by Tracey Curtis. You don’t need a slide ruler to figure out this was Dan putting his daughter in his movie.

Do we care that Curtis didn’t take Fitzgerald’s advice and “murder his darling” in this instance to keep viewers from getting yanked out of the story?

Probably not. We are in made-for-TV territory here. Let the Curtis folk have their fun.

Finally, the witness lays out what he saw for Chip.

“I saw a spider. A giant spider.”

Chip laughs. What do you expect from a guy named Chip Mancuso?

Kill It With Fire!

As the movie goes on, we eventually learn about Chinese and Native American legends of women turning into spiders. How are were-spiders born, you might wonder? Well, a woman gets bitten by a spider and…that’s about it really.

Nevertheless, that’s enough to convince Vic Morrow. He firmly believes the police have a were-spider on their hands. Yet, he remains practical about the whole thing.

“What am I supposed to do about it? Tell people? Sure, why not? I’ll give a press conference and pass out giant cans of Raid. They will put me away. A lid stays on it.”

You mean a lid stays on the giant can of Raid? Vic, bubby, in that case, how will the police use it against the were-spider? Think, man!

Oh yeah, and we also learn that nothing can kill a were-spider.

Well, nothing but fire, that is…

So, something can kill them then? Not nothing, after all?

Who taught these people how to speak? King George VI?

Well, I hope you’re happy. Your racist name got us an angry letter from something that looks like Gwildor.

Curse Of The Black Widow Finale

At the climax of the film, Chip Mancuso infiltrates the Fall House of Estrogen to reveal the identity of the were-spider. Somehow, he manages to wander around the place long enough to make the movie hit the magic 90-minute runtime, but it ain’t easy.

Are we at least treated to a human-sized black widow?

You bet we are! It looks quite bad and is hidden by almost total darkness. Yet, you laugh with it rather than at it. It is 1977, on ABC. They tried.

For comparison’s sake, you know the giant spider scene in King Solomon’s Mines (1985)? That giant spider looked terrible (still, completely terrified me as a child, but it looked terrible). The giant spider in Curse of the Black Widow looks a little worse than that.

Finally, the movie ends, but not without a stinger to let the audience go out with a fun little uh-oh! moment.

Curse Of The Black Widow Wind Down

Curse of the Black Widow is another made-for-TV horror movie that isn’t very good, yet it is more fun than it should be when all is said and done. The fact that it could be a lost Kolchak episode plays in its favor. One feels like McGavin is lurking at its edges in his blue suit, straw hat and with his Rollei camera. If this had been a Kolchak episode, it would have been one of the best ones, certainly.

The cast is another thing in the movie’s favor. 1970s actors were great. They didn’t preen and pose for the camera in every shot. They just hit their marks and delivered their lines, and let themselves sink or swim with the screenplay and director.

In this case, Curtis does nothing special from the driver’s seat, but he knew what the kids wanted. They got something to squeal at in between commercials for Dr. Pepper and Fruit of the Loom.

Curse of the Black Widow is not a curse on mankind. It isn’t really a blessing either. Call it more of a mild favor, like holding a door open for someone only two steps behind you.

Still way better than Madame Web, though!3 stars

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