Blu-ray Review: BLACK WIDOW (1954)

BLACK WIDOW was written and directed by Nunnally Johnson and stars Ginger Rogers, Van Heflin, Gene Tierney, George Raft, Peggy Ann Garner, Reginald Gardiner and Otto Kruger. The score is by Leigh Harline.

Nunnally Johnson (The Grapes of Wrath, The Dirty Dozen) wrote and directed Black Widow (1954), a CinemaScope™ film noir about a group of sophisticated theater-world New Yorkers caught up in the scheming plans of an ambitious young woman (Peggy Ann Garner). Among her victims are the good (Van Heflin, Gene Tierney) and the bad (Ginger Rogers, Reginald Gardner), all being investigated by a tough NYPD officer (George Raft) after the malicious, mischievous cat among the pigeons turns up dead. Highlighted by a lush Leigh Harline score, available on this Twilight Time release as an isolated track.

This 1954 dramatic thriller follows Peter Denver (Van Heflin), a successful Broadway producer who meets Nancy Ordway (Peggy Ann Garner) at a party. Nancy is a struggling writer who’s shown some kindness out of pity by Peter and she misinterprets it that a new relationship between the two has begun. Nancy is young, desperate and naive and actually thinks Peter likes her because he’s been extraordinarily nice to her.

The thing is, Peter is a loyal husband to Iris (Gene Tierney) and when she returns home from a trip, the two find Nancy dead in their high-rise apartment. The question is, was it a suicide or was she murdered? Peter becomes the prime suspect and with each witness that’s introduced, it doesn’t look good for the producer who becomes desperate to prove his innocence. The evidence is against Peter who continues to proclaim that he didn’t do it but he keeps fighting until he eventually draws out the real killer and it’s a shocker to everyone involved.

The front of the packaging features the artwork you see at the top of the page and the back includes movie details, an image, a few quotes, and list of special features. The reverse sleeve features an image from the movie. The Blu-ray disc also features some artwork that matches the front cover. Inside is a booklet from Twilight Time that includes more images from the movie, some nice words about Black Widow by Julie Kirgo and more original artwork on the front and back. You can see the front cover of the booklet down below. Inserting the disc, the menu screen was simple and easy to navigate. The picture and sound quality for this high-definition release were crisp and clear. I didn’t have any serious issues with the video and audio.

Bottom line is, Black Widow ended up being another first time watch for me and it’s another classic gem from the golden age of Hollywood. I’d previously seen the 1987 thriller of the same name but these two movies aren’t anything alike. This one is tame and starts off as a simple drama that turns into a whodunit when the young woman is found dead. The story about this nice man who has to prove his innocence was an interesting one and it keeps the viewer in suspense as each question is eventually answered until the big reveal. The cast did a great job with their characters and Nunnally Johnson did a good job telling the story and bringing it to life on screen. We can’t forget that this movie starred two standout Hollywood starlets, Ginger Rogers and Gene Tierney. It gets off to a slow start but Black Widow does find its legs once the murder takes place and then the movie plays along nicely. All in all, I really enjoyed this character driven classic noir from the 50’s. Black Widow is available on Blu-ray and has a limited edition run of 3,000 units.

Distributor: Twilight Time

Run Time: 95 Minutes

Rated: Not Rated

Blu-ray Video: 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (2.55:1) / Color / Region Free

Blu-ray Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 / English DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0 / English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

Subtitles: English SDH

Special Features: The extras include an isolated score track, some audio commentary, two vintage actor spotlights and the original theatrical trailer.

  • Isolated Music Track
  • Audio Commentary with Film Historian Alan K. Rode
  • Ginger Rogers at Twentieth Century Fox (08:32)
  • Gene Tierney: Final Curtain for a Noir Icon (06:19)
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (02:32)
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