CURSE OF THE BLACK WIDOW is considered by some to be a lesser work of director DAN CURTIS, but if you ask me even a lesser work by this guy is worth a look. CURSE introduces us to a familiar CURTIS protagonist, a somewhat down on his luck investigator who must work against a system that believes he is a lunatic for entertaining the idea that the solution to the problem at hand may be supernatural in origin.
In this case, a string of murders in L.A. by a femme fatale slowly begins to appear to be the work of a woman who has the ability to transform herself into a giant spider thanks to an Indian curse. As far fetched as the concept is CURTIS is able to ground at least the first half of the film in a gritty and groovy seventies reality before taking his shoes off and delivering a B-movie showdown with a papier-mâché arachnid. What separates CURSE from most of CURTIS‘ productions is the fact that it eventually reaches a knee-slapping, ridiculously camp crescendo but that’s also what makes it so much fun.
At a time when most television movies featured women being endlessly accosted in parking lots, it’s actually refreshing to find a mostly male victim roster here. (Of course centering the tale on a woman who is half spider and lingers around singles bars to catch her prey is hardly the height of feminism either). As dated as some of this happily is, CURSE still manages to come off as pretty progressive for showcasing an apparently gay mortician and a very butch girl Friday played to the hilt by ROZ KELLY. I may have said some less then flattering things about ROZ “Pinky Tuscadero” KELLY in the past, specifically in reference to her less than stellar performance on THE PAUL LYNDE HALLOWEEN SPECIAL. In fact, if I remember correctly, MR. CANACORN himself issued a fatwa against me in order to defend her dubious honor. Well, all I can say is that I am now deeply ashamed of myself because, in this movie, she frakin’ owns!
In fact, as much as CURSE definitely has a great dark CURTIS vibe throughout, I gotta say the entire cast is what makes it so special to me. It may not send you to bed freaked out of your mind because a spider lady might get you, but who can say no to these actors? ANTHONY FRANCIOSA of ARGENTO‘s TENEBRE is the more than a likable lead and he is surrounded by such greats and not-so-greats as VIC MORROW, DONNA MILLS, JUNE LOCKHART, JUNE ALLYSON, SID CEASER, MAX GAIL of BARNEY MILLER, and last, but certainly not least, the living legend and poster girl for fractured personalities everywhere, someone who should never be shown a hot dog lest she “loose control,” PATTY (CALL ME ANNA) DUKE! C’mon you know you can’t resist this! It’s like someone mashed up that giant spider episode of GILLIGAN’S ISLAND with KOLCHAK and then forced some LOVE BOAT stragglers to perform in it! CURSE in no way CURTIS‘ finest hour but if you are a fan of seventies television and laughable giant monsters it may be yours.