Black Widow (1987)

R   |    |  Crime, Drama, Thriller

Black Widow (1987) Poster

A federal investigator tracks down a gold-digging woman who moves from husband to husband to kill them and collect the inheritance.




  • Theresa Russell in Black Widow (1987)
  • Theresa Russell and Debra Winger in Black Widow (1987)
  • Theresa Russell in Black Widow (1987)
  • Theresa Russell and Debra Winger in Black Widow (1987)
  • Theresa Russell and Debra Winger in Black Widow (1987)
  • Diane Ladd in Black Widow (1987)

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Reviews & Commentary

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8 January 2016 | hitchcockthelegend
| The female of the species is more deadly than the male.
Black Widow is directed by Bob Rafelson and written by Ronald Bass. It stars Debra Winger and Theresa Russell. Music is by Michael Small and cinematography by Conrad L. Hall.

Two women. Catherine marries men for their money, then murders them. The other, Alexandra Barnes is on her tail, getting in close to hopefully expose her crimes...

Rafelson's neo-noir homages the film noir femme fatales of the 40s and 50s with a high degree of success. There's much potency in the screenplay that puts it firmly in the noir universe. Flip flopping the misogyny angles of yesteryear, picture pitches the ultimate femme fatale destroyer of men into a cat and mouse scenario with a sexually repressed opponent - or is she a jealous but secret admirer? The transformation of Winger's dowdy Justice Department Agent into a blossoming lady at Catherine Black Widow's (Russell super sexy and sensuous) side brings in the doppelgänger effect, a good old noir staple. The sexual tension is a constant, particularly when Paul Nuytten (Sami Frey) is brought into proceedings, something which shifts the piece still further into noirville.

There's also other characters straight out of film noir. Be it Alexandra's boss (the always reliable Terry O'Quinn), who's harbouring carnal desires for Alex, or sleazy Private Investigator H. Shin (James Hong) who has a needle habit, it's clear that Rafelson and Bass know their noir. Unfortunately most of the play is in daylight, meaning missed opportunities for some psychological shadow play is passed up. Though it should be noted that Hall's photography is slick and tonally in tune, especially when lighting scenes involving Russell as prime focus. It all builds to a splendid finale, the makers pulling us both ways as to where it will lead. Sure, some of the plot devices are weak, but in the main this is sexy, intriguing and tricky in narrative, whilst tech credits stay at the higher end of the scale. 7/10

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Box Office


$10,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$3,426,831 8 February 1987

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:


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