Starring William Hurt, Raul Julia
Directed By Hector Babenco
Kiss of the Spider Woman is one of those classic films that many people have heard of but never seen. Now with this new release on a 2 – DVD special edition if you haven’t seen it you can.
William Hurt plays Luis Molina, a homosexual locked in a prison in South America having been convicted of immoral behavior. In an attempt to avoid the tragic nature of his situation Molina often day dreams of a fantasy world built from movies that he’s seen. Luis isn’t in his dank cell alone. He shares the space with a Marxist revolutionary named Valentin Arregui, played by Raul Julia. There couldn’t be a more perfect example of an odd couple with these two men but they find a way to co-exist and even connect due to their imprisonment. While the two of them are very different they are able to find common ground through stories they tell each other of their lives outside of prison and their loved ones.
Luis being placed in this particular cell isn’t an accident though. He has a job to do in order to gain his freedom and it may compromise this new relationship he has with Valentin. He has been forced into a deal with the warden to get information from Valentin in exchange for his freedom. The fantasy worlds that Luis creates in his mind begin changing as the dynamic between the two prisoners changes. These changing fantasy worlds offer Babenco the opportunity to paint extreme sort of Hollywood images that are a pleasure to take in and they offer the viewer a break from the depressing prison just as much as they do for Luis.
The performances of the tow lead actors are top notch here with Hurt winning an Academy Award for his portrayal of Luis. Alongside the solid acting and well executed script is a gorgeous visual style that offers deep contrast between the fantasy worlds in Luis’ head versus the dark and dirty prison cell that he lives in. The film was released in 1985 and overall the style and story still hold up nicely over 20 years later.
This anamorphic presentation features good color but it shows its age a bit. There’s a ton of grain and darker scenes get a bit overly murky at times. Brighter scenes look much stronger though showing stronger detail and overall image quality. The source material that was used for this DVD is obviously fairly worn but with that in mind this DVD looks pretty good. It’s no demo disc but it’s watchable and there are scenes that blow through the age of the source and look really good. I’d be curios to see what this film looks like on Blu-Ray.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation does a good job of widening the original mono track by spanning the score across all the speakers but everything else in the film is up front and in the center. Dialogue is clean and levels are balanced. This is a serviceable presentation that will enhance the viewing experience. The original mono track is available too and it sounds good as well.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The 2 – Disc edition cones in a standard amaray box with artwork that plays off the original poster art but actually looks even more ominous. The first disc just features the film a letterboxed version of the trailer and a pop up trivia track that plays during the film. Why is there a 2 – disc edition of this film and no audio commentary?
Disc 2 features the big bonus features. Tangled Web: The Making of Kiss of the Spider Woman is a feature length documentary digging into the creation of the film. Interviews with the still available cast and crew offer a really deep look into the production and all of the ins and outs of trying to get this film made. This documentary, running over and hour and a half long, is nearly as good as the movie it documents.
The Submissive Woman’s Role is a really brief documentary featurette about the author of the book and his work. This featurette is interesting but a little too short.
Spider Woman on Broadway is a featurette about how the novel went to film and then to a Broadway play. This featurette feels the most like a marketing presentation of everything on the disc.
There’s a half hour long slideshow of images with commentary from film critic Norman Lavers. The commentary is interesting but watching this feels like a PowerPoint presentation. There are also a couple of additional still galleries, a trailer, a teaser, and some reviews from back when the film was actually in theaters.
There’s a lot of material to take in on this disc and most of it is extremely interesting with the focus being on the feature length documentary.
While not being the best A/V experience you could hope for this film is still a must see and the feature documentary on disc 2 is also required viewing.
Overall (Not an Average) 8.5/10
The Movie 9/10
The Video 6/10
The Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 9/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8.5/10