Rafelson’s ‘Black Widow’ – An ’80s Thriller for Grown-Ups

Bob Rafelsons Black Widow (1987) is fashionable movie noir and an undervalued gem about being a vacationer in ones personal life.

Fittingly, it principally takes place in Hawaii, the place tourism is the largest trade and a means for guests to be pleasantly displaced right into a world that isn’t their very own.

The central characters of Black Widow are Catherine (Theresa Russell), who murders the wealthy males whose wealth she inherits, and Alexandra (Debra Winger), the antsy agent who pursues her.

By following a string of seemingly related information tales, Alexandra believes the path of wealthy, useless males results in a single lady who has been marrying and killing them. Alexandra goes undercover and befriends Catherine, getting sucked into her intoxicating world.

A minor hit in 1987 and revered, if principally forgotten, by critics, Rafelsons movie could also be a mainstream web page turner equal however his emblems (an existential longing, unstable principal characters and human conduct pushed-plot) are throughout this.

The last scene for the character of Shin, performed by the fantastic character actor James Hong, is so painful and terrible to observe. Ive additionally by no means forgotten the scene the place a diving journey takes a scary flip.

The finest scenes right here every time Winger and Russell get to play off each other. Their characters meet at a diving lesson, the place theyre paired collectively and should observe mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on one another; its an intimate and sure, erotic means of getting these characters lastly meet, as if one had been attempting to soak up the opposite.

In phrases of Rafelsons output, that is pretty light-weight in comparison with the highs of Five Easy Pieces (1970) and The King of Marvin Gardens (1972).

Still, after the memorable however iffy The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981), that is the far sturdier of Rafelsons neo noirs.

It’s additionally superior to the next Blood and Wine (1998) and No Good Deed (although the previous showcases an excellent pairing in Jack Nicholson and Michael Caine, each enjoying really despicable figures).

Black Widow got here out the identical 12 months as Arthur Penns Dead of Winter, Ridley Scotts Someone to Watch Over Me and Adrian Lynes Fatal Attraction, all expertly crafted, grownup-minded thrillers with meaty, showcase roles for the feminine leads.

FAST FACT: “Black Widow” screenwriter Ronald Bass beforehand labored as an legal professional. He adopted up the ’80s thriller with “Rain Man,” which earned Bass a Best Original Screenplay Oscar.

Black Widow is lots of construct-up, exposition and slicing backwards and forwards between the protagonist and her prey for the primary half and eventually grabs a agency maintain of its viewers as soon as the setting turns to the Big Island of Hawaii.

While the surroundings is generally of the interiors of resorts, Rafelson scores large factors for casting the late, terrific Oahu-based Danny Kamekona in the important thing position of a detective and for setting a morality story in such a beautiful surroundings.

The last scene is each intelligent and too pat. There are way more sensational examples of this type of thriller, however Rafelson, as targeted on character and contradictory human conduct as ever, makes this smarter and extra trendy than anticipated.

The lighting usually evokes movie noir imagery, although the exploration of how a righteous character is immersed within the way of life of somebody and not using a ethical compass solidifies the movies place within the style.

While Terry OQuinn, Nicol Williamson and Dennis Hopper present shade with their supporting turns, the movie belongs to Winger and Russell. Winger appears to relish such a wealthy half, particularly after her famously sad expertise on Legal Eagles (though shes terrific in each).

Russell is an eternally underrated performer, whose performances in her late husband Nicolas Roegs movies exhibit how fearless and versatile her appearing talents are.

The harmful recreation of discover and seize which these characters play has wealthy layers, as their pairing is initially sister-like, appears to adapt unstated attraction and eventually turns into a merciless race to destroy the opposite.


Black Widow (which sadly shares its title with a much more fashionable Marvel comedian ebook film) may seem to be a trifle, however Rafelsons work is at all times price searching for out (sure, even the failed 1992 Jack Nicholson/Ellen Barkin farce, Man Trouble).

Winger and Russells most outstanding work came about in Seventies-Nineties they usually arent talked about among the many most significant, danger taking and hanging actresses of the twentieth century, however they had been.

Thrillers have at all times been a style for grownups, which is why the complexities and human messiness of Black Widow is so welcome, even todayor particularly at this time.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

4 × 1 =

Back to top button