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NEO FILM NOIR AUTEUR BOB RAFELSON DIRECTS 'BLACK WIDOW'

Theresa Russell is the title character in BLACK WIDOW along with Debra Winger and Dennis Hopper Year: 1987
Bob Rafelson, best known for his collaborations with Jack Nicholson dating back to the 1960's before one was an extremely popular actor and the other was a worthy director, beginning before the A-list catapult with HEAD starring The Monkees, written by the struggling Jack and directed by Bob and followed by a motion picture that, after director Dennis Hopper replaced Rip Torn with Nicholson in EASY RIDER, made Jack a star followed by FIVE EASY PIECES that, as with another Bob collaboration, KING OF MARVIN GARDENS, wasn't without a touch of Film Noir...

Terry O'Quinn smokey atmosphere with Winger
A decade later, Bob and Jack went full-Noir with a steamy remake of THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE co-starring Jessica Lange. Loathed by fanatics of the original, in many ways it's more believable... How, in the 1946 melodrama, that strange, silly looking rich guy trusted the great looking John Garfield to hang around his trophy wife, an even greater looking Lana Turner, is all but impossible to fathom, but that particular aspect... old dudes trusting young couples to remain friends while pushing their friendship to no end always makes NOIR sense...

Tailing the Lead
So now we'll end with Jack by mentioning the last Film Noir, BLOOD AND WINE, with Michael Caine, an underrated, quiet little thriller that came and went, just like this venture a decade prior, BLACK WIDOW starring Debra Winger who, working in an FBI building and, "tired of green windows," ventures outside the box to patch together particular older rich men's deaths with their mysterious brides... Or, in her opinion not shared by anyone else, just ONE bride...

More Twilight Time
That being Theresa Russell, and the best scenes are in the first half as we catch mere glimpses of her WIDOW partaking in what the red-bellied spiders do best. And yet, unlike POSTMAN, there's very little sex involved... just the aftermath as we're initially introduced to each rich businessman/husband in quick jolts and, bordering on montage, Russell's enigmatic Catharine, using various methods to rid her marital partners on a permanent, moneymaking basis, provides dark entertainment that can be viewed again and again and not without ironic touches to revisit each time, like a special appearance by Lois Smith, who played Nicholson's sister in FIVE EASY PIECES, and EASY RIDER auteur Dennis Hopper as a toy manufacturer/doomed hubbie with a shallow paid-off sister in Diane Ladd, who led Jack on his maze in CHINATOWN and won't respond to subtle yet goading questions by a person who's become obsessed with her target...

Wanna Party?
Thus, in the buried lead, Debra Winger's Alexandra is one of those flawed, lonely women that, in completing her own existence, has to save one more life since she was almost able to save the most vulnerable and kind-hearted; the only fella we actually got to know past a few scenes of opening up a laced bottle. That being British actor Nicol Williamson, playing such a sweet, passive, gentle soul... whose money is invested in learning about the past through coins and antiques... he should have been the last man standing, instead of...

Russell & Hopper
Who practically ruins the film doesn't really. It's too good of a build-up for the guy who both beauties fall madly in love with in Hawaii to derail the ride, where Winger's Alexandra has finally all but pinned down the WIDOW by befriended her...

For this sudden wall is hit when that next might-be victim, Sami Frey as the richer than the rest, smooth yet genuine land-developer, Paul, a visual cross between Gandhi and The Great Gonzo, not fitting one bit and seeming a stretch for the lonely agent to have such feelings for, even though, at one point, she did sink to getting a massage by Terry O'Quinn: And yet, half-quips aside, it's not just the casting, but all the dark fun that's had is had no longer, far too soon, and the film both rushes and drags to a conclusion that doesn't live up to that first act when no one really knew anything but the BLACK WIDOW herself, holding a secret that makes her cry all alone, opening up a tinge of Noir ambiguity...

She could have had twenty husbands, finding ways to end each marriage, and the movie wouldn't have been hindered. And yet this last uninteresting, unattractive clown allows even the most rabid viewer to press STOP, if you've seen the flick more than twice, just after halfway through the Hawaii scenes. Perhaps right before junky gumshoe James Hong buys the farm or... it's your choice and too bad that that bad casting ruined what was almost a perfect thing.
Debra Winger Theresa Russell Black Widow Theresa Russell Debra Winger Black Widow Theresa Winger Femme Fatale
This isn't quite what it looks like, sorry fellas, and Russell is alive here. MOVIE RATING: ***1/2
"Go back to sweeping up for Mommie Dearest, dearest, and leave Merlin to me!" PS Look at Nicole's doomed eyes
Film Noir style sloppy smoking lowlife private eye James Hong sits at the helm of Han Solo's Millennium Falcon
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