Black Widow (1987 film)

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Black Widow
Black widow film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Bob Rafelson
Produced by Laurence Mark
Harold Schneider
Written by Ronald Bass
Starring Debra Winger
Theresa Russell
Sami Frey
Dennis Hopper
Rutanya Alda
Terry O'Quinn
Music by Michael Small
Cinematography Conrad L. Hall, ASC
Edited by John Bloom
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates 6 February 1987
Running time 102 minutes
Country USA
Language English
Box office $25,205,460[1]

Black Widow is a 1987 thriller film starring Debra Winger, Theresa Russell, Sami Frey and Nicol Williamson. Dennis Hopper has a short role at the beginning of the film.

It is a crime drama about two women: one who murders wealthy men whom she has married for their money (and keeps moving west), and the other an agent with the Department of Justice who grows obsessed with bringing her to justice. It was directed by Bob Rafelson, from a screenplay by Ronald Bass. The story takes on the form of a travelogue, as the murderess moves from New York to Dallas to Seattle and finally to Hawaii.

Plot[edit]

The story centers on two women. Catherine (Theresa Russell) is a psychopathic[2] femme fatale whose true name is never known. She preys on wealthy middle-aged men, seducing them into marriage and then fatally poisoning them. Each death is misdiagnosed as Ondine's curse, a condition by which seemingly healthy middle-aged men die in their sleep. Justice Department agent Alexandra "Alex" Barnes (Debra Winger) stumbles onto the first murder while investigating another case. As Alex delves further into the case, she uncovers a pattern which she believes ties the same woman to several similar murders.

Using exhaustive research and preparation as well as identity and appearance changes, Catherine weaves her web anew with each murder, killing a publishing magnate, a toy maker (Dennis Hopper), and a museum curator (Nicol Williamson), and is quickly moving on to her next victim: Paul Nuytten (Sami Frey), an international hotel tycoon. Later, she reveals she has been married six times, and possibly as many murders.

After the death of a rich, lonely museum curator in Seattle, Alex's boss Bruce (Terry O'Quinn) gives her tacit permission to hunt down the killer, and Alex goes undercover as "Jessie Bates" to track down Catherine and identify her next potential victim. The trail leads to Hawaii, where Catherine is moving on Nuytten. With the aid of a private investigator, "Jessie" arranges to meet Catherine; the two women become friends and eventually engage in a sexually intense war of wits and wills orchestrated by Catherine.

Orchestrated by Catherine, they compete for the affection of wealthy Paul Nuytten; Catherine marries him and, during the reception, exposes to "Jessie" that the "black widow" knows about the federal agent. After discovering the private investigator dead of a suspicious overdose and on the accusation of Catherine, "Jessie" is arrested for Paul's murder when the police find poison in her room. Catherine visits "Jessie" in prison, and while they talk, Catherine is confronted with the sister of one of her victims (the publisher) and Paul, who is clearly not dead. Catherine, shocked, realizes her attempt to double-cross Jessie/Alex has failed. Alexandra emerges as the hero with her being cleared for the wrongdoing.

Cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

Film4 notes that Black Widow succeeds through Rafelson's "menacing direction" and Debra Winger's "convincing struggle with temptation", while Theresa Russell "steals the show as the sexily assured devil sitting on her tracker's shoulder".[3]

Vincent Canby, in the New York Times, writes that while the film promises more than it can deliver, its classy looks make it both soothing and "redeemingly funny, in part, at least, for not becoming mired in its own darker possibilities". He praises Winger for "the gift of seeming always to have hidden reserves of feeling that might erupt in chaos at any minute", while Russell "comes into her own" in the film, and has "a cleareyed sweetness that adds unexpected dimension to the homicidal Catharine."[4]

Roger Ebert gave Black Widow a mixed rating of 2.5 out of 4 stars, praising the solid performances by the main actors yet lamenting that "the movie makes no effort to keep us in suspense" by revealing too much too soon about Russell's character.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Black Widow - Box Office Mojo Retrieved 2010-05-27.
  2. ^ Leistedt, Samuel J.; Linkowski, Paul (January 2014). "Psychopathy and the Cinema: Fact or Fiction?". Journal of Forensic Sciences (American Academy of Forensic Sciences) 59 (1): 167–174. doi:10.1111/1556-4029.12359. Retrieved January 17, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Black Widow: Review". Film4. 2012. Retrieved September 25, 2012. 
  4. ^ Canby, Vincent (February 6, 1987). "Movie Review: Black Widow (1987)". New York Times. Retrieved September 25, 2012. 
  5. ^ http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/black-widow-1987

External links[edit]