Beware The Black Widow

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Beware The Black Widow (1968) is director Larry Crane’s grim and grimy tale of revenge. The plot follows a pair of newspaper men investigating the murders of the members of a small time gang. Through a dozen flashbacks they piece together that the motive behind the killings is; a sexual assault committed years before in Sicily.

Crane spins his yarn with static shots lit sparsely, lending the film a cold, hard edge. Burlesque routines and murders are executed with the same matter-of-fact style as if every shot were a still tableau that had suddenly erupted with the kineticism of sex and violence. The mystery may not amount to much, but the way that death and sex are treated as common place says a lot about how Crane views the conventions of the genre that he’s working in.

Beware The Black Widow takes a laissez-faire attitude towards the genre tropes of the crime picture. Beat after beat follows all the gangster movie conventions yet Crane’s stylistic approach seems unconcerned with the violence; it simply exists as a byproduct of human sexuality. In the narrative economy of Beware The Black Widow sex begets murder, violence begets vengeance. There’s an unspoken status quo in Beware The Black Widow that all the characters and the filmmakers are beholden too.

This tawdry little film was very much the passion project of its director. In addition to directing, Larry Crane wrote and produced Beware The Black Widow as well as co-writing some of the songs in the film. Beware The Black Widow is the sleazier cousin of Allen Baron’s Blast Of Silence (1961) insofar as both films are small DIY crime pictures set in New York City. Beware The Black Widow may not boast the same exquisite location photography as Blast Of Silence, but it does have much more gratuitous nudity.