Black Widow Film Details
Overview: A federal investigator tracks down a gold-digging woman who moves from husband to husband to kill them and collect the inheritance.
Tagline: She mates and she kills.
Review: Spoilers. On the surface this seems like a routine thriller in which a Justice Department employee ferrets out a serial murderer of her rich spouses, becomes obsessed with her, tracks her down, and traps her. Yawnnn. However, this movie, like Latrodectus sp., is a deceptively passive animal. Debra Winger is the Fed whom no one believes. She works in a kind of Kafkaesque warehouse in which the outside windows have been sloppily washed over with green. She’s bored until she begins to pick up from the media a pattern of mysterious deaths involving rich men recently married to younger women. They die from something called “Ondine’s Curse,” a variety of Sudden Elderly Death Syndrome, in which they stop breathing at night while the wife is out of town. Debra is approached at work for dates but turns down the offers in order to work longer hours. Even her boss makes a subtle move on her, which she shrugs off with a shudder and a change of subject. The shabbily dressed, floppy, and ungainly Debra is contrasted with the sleek black widow, Teresa Russell in her best role. In fact, though, despite the differences, the two have a good deal in common, and their differences complement one another. If Winger is afraid of men, Russell consumes them lovingly. She stretches out under the Hawaiian palms and says, “I loved all my husbands — deeply. I’m a professional.” So is Winger, of course, but only in the sense that matter is reflected in anti-matter. Russell knocks off one rich guy after another. Somebody in New York first, then a hilarious toy manufacturer in Texas (Hopper), then a genuinely nice, quiet, professorial type in Seattle (Williamson). The movies they watch of the Northwest Coast Indians were filmed by Franz Boas, the dean of American anthropologists at the time, by the way. Russell discovers she’s being trailed and, after disposing of Williamson, beats it to Hawaii. Before you know it, she’s fending off advances from Sami Frey, a charming continental type who “owns a half dozen hotels around the world, you know.” He’s quite a guy. He takes Russell to an isolated mountaintop on which a majestic volcano is spewing lava into the sky. He surveys the raw, immensely beautiful landscape which stretches from horizon to horizon and announces, “We are standing on the newest place on the planet.” Then he proposes to build a HOTEL on the very spot, with, we must presume, the inevitable asphalt parking lots, paved roads and billboards, and quaint thatch-rooofed pricey shops selling plastic tikis and T-shirts saying, “I STAYED AT SAMI’S VILLAGE.” A little poison wouldn’t hurt this guy. At any rate, Winger arranges to meet Russell “accidentally.” The latter becomes suspicious and it doesn’t take much to find out the real identity of her new friend. At Russel’s urging, Winger “goes for” Frey and the two of them are rolling around amidst clouds of volcanic ash, giving Russel a chance to rifle Winger’s hotel room and uncover her real identity. Russell then reclaims Sami Frey by yielding to him, a bit aggressively, and they are soon being married. But a strange thing happens at the reception. A bitter Winger — defeated both in her pursuit of Russell and of Frey — gives the bride a gift, a brooch depicting a black widow spider. Russel here gives her performance some real spirit. If she has been sleepwalking through the part before, she now wakes up. Her eyes narrow with some sort of emotion, hatred, victory, love, or some combination of all of them, and she tosses her head back and kisses Winger furiously on the lips. It’s a tense and shocking moment. Each realizes who the other is and each senses the strength if not the precise nature of the bond that ties them together. The ending is rather a let-down, mechanical and ordinary, considering what’s gone before. Yet the movie ends ambiguously. We still don’t know exactly why Russell has been poisoning her men, and we don’t really need to. (When Winger’s boss asks why a woman would commit these crimes, Winger comes up with a story about having been beaten with a tin spatula by her father, who keeled over dead while doing it. No doubt Russel has some deeply buried resentment against older men and — and then Winger bursts out laughing. The fake story was not just pop psychology but poppycock psychology. “Who knows why people do things?”) When Russell is marched off to the slams she shows no emotion except irritation at having been trapped. Winger’s character, however, has developed. She marches confidently out of the door of the police station, having learned how to groom and dress herself so that she looks conventionally beautiful (and she IS a knockout), and having given herself to Frey she has presumably learned how to respond to men. Frey isn’t waiting for her outside that door. And, after all, the most important thing is learning how to love, isn’t it? Not capturing some rich guy? Especially one who wants to build a hotel on the newest land on the planet? Writer, director, Russell, Winger, and John Williamson as the museum anthropologist, all turn in nuanced work and deserve plaudits. Sami Frey is rather ordinary. The lighting and the photography (Conrad Hall) are remarkable too. This is watchable as a routine thriller, but like “Strangers on a Train” the most interesting thing about it is what’s beneath the simple imagery, the thing hiding in the corners of the frame, in its ragged web.
Country: United States
Duration: 102 min
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Also known as: Almana Shohra,Black Widow,O Mistério da Viúva Negra,ブラック・ウィドー,A Viúva Negra,Černá vdova,Musta leski,Чeрная вдова,Viuda negra,Διαβολική χήρα,Die schwarze Witwe,Borgia,Crna udovica,La viuda asesina,Bullseye,Чeрната вдовица,La vedova nera,Чорна вдова,Den sorte enke,Czarna wdowa,Fekete özvegy,La veuve noire,Sort enke,Svarta änkan,Kara dul,El caso de la viuda negra,Črna vdova