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03.12.08

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Phaedra

Black Widow

One disc; 20th Century Fox; $14.98

By Michael S. Gant


Fox includes this glossy Manhattan murder mystery directed by Nunnally Johnson in its film noir series, but even Alan K. Rode of the Film Noir Foundation, interviewed in one of the extras, has trouble justifying the tag. For one thing, Black Widow is in widescreen Technicolor, and the femme fatale is Peggy Ann Garner, child star of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and no one's idea of a siren. Van Heflin plays a clueless Broadway producer married to Gene Tierney and casually mentoring a neurotic young writer (Garner). The police are ably represented by George Raft rat-a-tat-tating his lines: "I rarely meet a murderer who wasn't at the movies when the murder was committed," he says about Van Heflin's alibi. The best part belongs to Ginger Rogers as an imperious stage star, notorious gossip and spectacular clothes horse. In a bit part as Gardner's roommate, Virginia Leith might look familiar: she played Jan in the Pan, the decapitated girlfriend of the mad scientist in The Brain That Wouldn't Die. Includes featurettes about Rogers and Tierney.


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