Black Widow (1987)Overview -
A federal investigator tracks down a gold digging woman who moves from husband to husband, kills them and collects the inheritance.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
We've all heard the tale before, or at least seen the same premise in a number of television shows and movies to last a lifetime with the legend of a Black Widow, which refers to a female serial killer, who lures and traps wealthy men into her web of sin, only to kill them, take their money, and move onto the next victim. That's the case here with Bob Rafelson's 1987 movie 'Black Widow' that stars Debra Winger, Theresa Russell, and a short cameo by the late, great Dennis Hopper.
Rafelson wanted to make this a noir tale, however there were a few missteps in that execution, mainly being that from the get-go, we know who exactly the killer is without any mystery. Instead of a mysterious noir film with clues, this plays out more like a cat and mouse game, but the noir themes are in play. It just never gains any real momentum or steam in trying to figure out who the killer is, but instead, they show us how the killer might get captured.
The black widow in question is Catherine (Theresa Russell), or that's the name we only know her by, but is clearly not her real name. She has moved from rich husband to rich husband, and is now planning on yet another victim in Hawaii. Meanwhile, there is a department of justice agent named Alex (Debra Winger), who while working on one case, discovers the case of the Black Widow.
After some research, she finds that several past crime scenes and deaths have similar traits, mainly being that rich men have died by being poisoned while newly married. Thus the cat and mouse games begin, but with an interesting twist. The new guy Catherine has her fangs set in, Alex also has feelings for as well and the film becomes a sexual thriller with both women trying to compete for this new man's affection and possibly each others.
With betrayals and more murders in Catherine's wake, things more or less go off the rails a bit, before the final act of the film. Both Winger and Russell deliver great performances that are to be remembered early in their careers. Their struggles and emotions through the film are realistic and never over-the-top. Rafelson is a bit heavy-handed with his "hit-you-on-the-head" symbolism with broken mirrors and volcanos erupting, but that adds a little comic relief this day in age with such a melodramatic thriller like 'Black Widow' is.
The journey we take here is a wild one for sure, but it's climactic ending never quite reaches the finish line with all that it has built up.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Black Widow' comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc and is Region A locked. It is also limited to 3,000 copies from Twilight Time. There is a six page fully illustrated booklet with cast and crew information as well as an essay from Julie Kirgo. The disc is housed in a hard plastic clear case with no previews or promos before start up.
'Black Widow' comes with a great 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This film is almost thirty years old, yet it still looks wonderful. All of the original elements look great still with this upgraded video presentation from Twilight Time. The detail is sharp and vivid throughout with excellent closeups that reveal good facial features and blemishes as well as excellent textures in the wardrobe.
Wider shots, specifically in the exteriors of Hawaii look very good, giving the film some depth. There are a few spots where the detail goes soft, but it isn't anything to write home about really. There is a layer of grain that keeps the movie in its filmic state, but can be heavy in certain moments. The colors are well balanced and saturated throughout the film with some certain color hues that hint that there is something foreshadowing to come.
There are a ton of earth colors here that look realistic and bold. Black levels are deep and inky and the flesh tones are always natural. There are some very minor situations with video noise and dirt that pops up, but other than that, this video presentation has stood the test of time and looks great.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track and handles the audio portion nicely. Don't expect a fully immersive soundscape in the many locations, as this is a front-heavy mix, but it does the job very well. Sound effects and ambient noises are full and lively, although there is no surround-design to them. That being said, each noise is realistic no matter if in Hawaii or in a bigger city stateside.
The haunting score is excellent and always adds to the suspense and drama of each scene. The dialogue is clear and easy to follow, and free of any pops, cracks, and hiss. The LFE is great and the dynamic range is wide here. Don't expect an "in-your-face" soundscape here, but this solid sound mix gets the job done just right.
Audio Commentary - Film historians Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman discuss the production of the film as well as the careers and lives of the filmmakers and actors. Their take on this thirty year old film is energetic and informative for fan fans of the movie.
Isolated Score Track - You can listen to the score of the film only with this option.
Trailers (SD, 4 Mins.) - Some TV spots and the theatrical trailer are here.
Booklet - Here is six page fully illustrated booklet with cast and crew information and an essay by Julie Kirgo.
'Black Widow' still has a lot going for it after almost thirty years. The performances by Winger and Russell are top notch and there is still quite a bit of suspense here. That being said, the ending is anti-climactic and things get off track here and there for a supposed noir film. The video and audio are both very good and the commentary track is worth listening too. Recommended!
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