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Black Widow

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Blonde... The word conjures up so many associations. Beauty... sex... blonde moments... the unattainable... danger... death...

"WHOA! Hold the phone! Did you say death?"

Do I stutter? There's always been an element of danger among the concept of the blonde woman. Is there an excitement specifically associated with her? Most definitely. Within that, there's also the sense that you're walking into something you may not get out of.

Catherine Peterson (Russell) is that dangerous blonde. Her eyes shoot like jagged ice into the soul of many a rich man. Her curves are dangerous in more ways than one. She has millions of dollars under her, but there's a violent need for more. She poisons her rich men by spiking their brandy and their toothpaste. An operator par-excellence, she runs all over America, gaining cash while her lovers drop like flies.

Alex Barnes (Winger), by comparison, is stuffy and business-minded. Her business is being a Fed and she's developed a major interest in Catherine. Tracking down articles and finding pictures of her, she's managed to discover Catherine in her many guises. The uptight socialite... The down-home Texas girl... The bookworm benefactor... A different girl for every guy. Tracking Catherine to a tropical isle, the two meet under different guises and fall for the same man. Who will come out on top?

This movie is one of the most sensual thrillers of the 80s and it has a very interesting theme. We've all had to deal with at least one girlfriend/boyfriend who kept one or two people on the side, but have we ever stopped to think about their dark sides? Oh, sure, she has a great figure or he has a dazzling smile, but they said that true beauty is on the inside. It's confusing, though; how could somebody be so attractive yet so brutal at the same time?

I think that the looks of the main characters play a part in this theme. As Catherine, Russell is the epitome of brutal sexiness. Her delicate features and near-ivory skin catch you like a glove grabs a baseball. The disguises she puts on mask her soul even further. Her sunglasses hide the danger and eroticism in her emerald eyes... The wigs and hats on her head keep you from imagining what thoughts lay dormant within her brain. The way she kills her prey is quiet but disturbing nevertheless. The needle and liquid are kept secret and that's very frightening. Everything about Catherine is an enigma.

As Alex, Winger has a totally different style of mind and face. In many of her 80s roles, she was portrayed as somewhat of a very forward sexpot. In here, though, we see her as a rather inhibited and frumpy woman. You can see that her only excitement comes from reading of Catherine's path of death. I wonder if there might be an underlying layer to Alex's pursuit of Catherine. As a Fed, Alex seems to have taken on a sense of vigilantism in her trek to nail down Catherine. At the same time, there's also a Sapphic sense to her quest. Catherine seems to represent the dark side of life that fascinates some of the people in Alex's line of work. The Sapphic sense I speak of is probably best represented by a scene near the end of the movie. In her quest to take down Catherine, Alex has assumed an alias herself while Catherine has chosen yet another one. When Catherine is going to get married, she catches on to what Alex is doing and then gives her a very forceful kiss. There's an eroticism and a menace to that scene that seems to sum up the whole movie.

There's a dark side within everybody, but somehow we can hide it. The question is, how good can we do that?

Verdict?

This is a scalding thriller. With a sexy blonde villain, it seems to pre-date "Basic Instinct" by half-a-decade. I would have to say that Theresa Russell is far sexier than Sharon Stone, though. Russell is another underrated 80s beauty with far better acting skills. I'm surprised that she hasn't gone on to bigger things. If you want to see a sexy talent at her finest, I recommend this movie to you.

Debra Winger is able to keep it under wraps, but at the same time has a quiet sensuality about her. You can see a fascination on her face with the dark side of humanity. When Alex starts hanging around with Catherine, you can sense Winger's feelings of excitement. She's within range of her prey but she wants to wait until the time is right. The twist ending will nail you.

Rafelson's direction is quite good. He's a definite people person, and being as this movie isn't a hack-and-slash fest, he gets what he wants from his performers. He gets their passion and their mystery, as evinced from Ronald Bass' script. How he could go from a stunning thriller like this into a movie like "Rain Man" is rather shocking.

This is another underrated 80s thriller. I'm surprised that people don't really speak of this movie. It deserves all the attention it can get.

Notice any mistakes? Review

Strengths: The performances and the script are great.

Weaknesses? Some guys may think the srcipt concentrates too much on the women.

Our rating: 9 out of 10


Review Written by John Edward Kilduff:  Contact  |  More Reviews by John Edward Kilduff
Black Widow