|Available at Amazon.com|
Peter Denver has more heart than common sense. A successful Broadway producer, and married to an even more famous actress, Peter seems to have everything going for him. Unfortunately, that means that he also has everything to lose.
Not helping matters is the fact that Peter allows Nancy the use of his apartment as a writing studio during the day while he’s at his office. Although Peter sees nothing wrong with their relationship, he almost constantly has to justify his actions with the people around him. At worst, Peter is being naïve in gigantic proportions—that is until his wife comes home to find Nancy’s dead body hanging from a noose in their bedroom.
Naturally a police investigation follows, and Peter is shocked to learn that Nancy had told all of her friends that the two were lovers. Soon the apparent suicide begins to look more and more like murder.
Black Widow is a rerelease under the new Fox Film Noir banner, and it’s a solid addition. Although perhaps not as celebrated as the classics of the genre (The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon), it certainly belongs on the same shelf if nothing more than for Ginger Rogers’ masterful role as Carlotta “Lottie” Marin, the self-involved, tempestuous, disingenuous actress who gives backhanded compliments like Santa gives presents. Rogers steals every scene, making you love and hate her all at once. She makes being a diva look good, which is no mean feat.
Not that the other actors, Van Heflin, Gene Tierney, and George Raft don’t hold their own, because they do great jobs, but they frankly can’t hold a candle to Rogers. The reason, though, isn’t because they aren’t as skilled as actors, but because their parts simply aren’t as dynamic; the character Carlotta was made to steal the show.
Every aspect of this movie is top notch. The writing is crisp and strong both in plot and dialogue, and the director does a great job of highlighting and creating tension through the interplay of light and shadow and camera angles. Basically, this is a solid piece of film noir that should please just about any fan of the genre.
The movie was presented in 2.55:1 Widescreen and has transferred very well from the original. The cinematography isn’t as sharp as a modern movie, which may throw off some viewers who haven’t watched many films produced before 1990, but the picture is clear and the colors vibrant. The audio track was in 4.0 Dolby Surround, and like the video, it shows its age: all of the dialogue is on the center track and there is no directionality to the music or background noises. That said, there is nothing wrong with the audio, it was just as clear as the video. Fox Film Noir did a great job with this movie.
Audio Commentary with Film Noir Historian Alan Rode
Ginger Rogers at Twentieth Century Fox Featurette (running time: 8:30)
This is a short, but interesting, look at Ginger Rogers and her relationship with Twentieth Century Fox during the latter half of her career. Considering I knew next to nothing about Rogers beforehand, there was a lot of interesting information which may not be as fascinating to somebody with more background knowledge. My only complaint is that I would have liked more information.
Gene Tierney: Final Curtain for a Noir Icon Featurette (running time: 6:17)
As I was with Rogers, I know next to nothing about Gene Tierney, so I also found this featurette to be rather interesting. Also, like with the Rogers featurette, I wish there had been a bit more information.
I think this works better in theory than in practice. The idea is interesting, but either I’m getting old and my eyes are deteriorating at a frightening pace, or the pressbook shots are too small, because I had a difficult time trying to read the text. Add to that the fact that it was nearly sixty pages long and this becomes something only a die-hard noir fan would want to sit through.
Isolated Score Track
Original Theatrical Trailer
Sometimes it’s fun to watch older trailers to see how they’ve changed between then and now. I have to say that if I had watched the trailer for Black Widow, I probably wouldn’t want to watch it.
Here are the original trailers to four other movies either released or being released by Fox Noir: Daisy Kenton, Dangerous Crossing, I Wake Up Screaming, and Vicki. The trailers don’t really make any of them look all that appealing, but that probably has more to do with modern sensibilities and expectations created from watching current trailers than the quality of the movies.
Black Widow is a solid noir thriller with some unforgettable characters and performances. This is well worth having if you’re a fan of the genre. Recommended.
Fox Film Noir presents Black Widow. Directed by Nunnally Johnson. Starring Ginger Rogers, Van Heflin, Gene Tierney, George Raft, and Peggy Ann Garner. Written by Nunnally Johnson. Running time: 95 minutes. Unrated. Released on DVD: March 11, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.