Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 14, 2018


Theresa Russell
BLACK WIDOW (1987). Director: Bob Rafelson.

Catharine (Theresa Russell) has made a career of marrying and murdering a number of wealthy men, and has gotten away with it. However, a Justice Department employee named Alexandra (Debra Winger) thinks she has uncovered Catharine's deadly game and bucks her superiors to go after the woman. People think that Alexandra has become obsessed. Catharine takes on various identities as she pursues her victims, and Alexandra eventually does the same, relocating to Hawaii under an assumed name so she can finally meet and even bond with her prey. Now it's a battle of wits and it's hard to tell who will win out in the end. Black Widow is a very entertaining picture with good performances -- Russell is especially effective -- even if Rafelson's direction is pedestrian and the score mediocre. The movie resembles a somewhat more expensive Lifetime crime thriller. Homoerotic undertones in the "relationship" between the two women go unexplored and seem unnecessary anyway. D. W. Moffett, Terry O'Quinn, Rutyana Alda, Dennis Hopper, Lois Smith, Nicole Williamson, Sami Frey, and Diane Ladd all have supporting parts, but the stand-out in the cast is James Hong as the lazy and amusing private eye, Shin. Cher was offered the role of Catharine but turned it down, which is good because Russell was more suited to the role. One wishes that we got to know a bit more about Alexandra, but perhaps the point was that she had no real life outside of her work. Nowadays the two leading ladies of this film, who are in their sixties, do mostly television work. Not to be confused with The Black Widow serial of 1947 (not that it would be!), or the 1954 Black Widow with Ginger Rogers, among others.

Verdict: This lacks real bite and intensity but it has a good plot and some very good acting. ***.


angelman66 said...

Hi Bill - I remember liking this one back in the day, maybe because of the performances of the two female stars, as you note. Such a shame neither Russell nor Winger work very much anymore, though I swear I saw Debra in something recently ( in something not so memorable I guess!)
- Chris

William said...

Yes, both had high-profile careers for awhile, especially Winger, who back in the day seemed to be in every other movie that came out. Yes, both ladies got old in Hollywood, a no-no in the Land of fruits and nuts, but so did Meryl Streep and others. It all depends on so many different factors, I guess.