Briefly Out of the Hopper
Dodge City, Kansas, native Dennis Hopper (1936-2010) would have turned 80 today had the ravages of illness not gotten the drop on him. So often did he play in 65 years worth of movie and TV roles the wild card, alpha male, loose cannon, rebellious loner, menacing bureaucrat and free spirit that it’s key to remember that the outspoken artist, photographer and filmmaker could also excel in quiet, stalwart roles as well, such as his work in Giant, his Academy Award®-nominated turn in Hoosiers and his brief but memorable appearance as one of the targeted moneymen in director and Easy Rider confederate Bob Rafelson’s thriller Black Widow (1987). He plays toy manufacturing mogul Ben Dumers, a rambunctious but sweet-natured tycoon who falls for the alluring Marielle (calculating Theresa Russell in one of her multiple identities), never suspecting that the warm-hearted lady he’s smitten with will spike his champagne with a poison that will trigger his totally unexpected death. It is his disposal that triggers FBI investigator Debra Winger’s interest in his surviving and newly-rich widow and begins the duel of wits and wiles between the movie’s top-billed feminine leads. Considering the banner year of 1986 Hopper enjoyed with his four deliciously dynamic roles in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, River’s Edge, Hoosiers and the über-insidious Blue Velvet, it was a gentlemanly gesture to old pal Rafelson that Hopper would take on the small role of a decent man on whom a murderous femme would get the drop, but whose death would lead to the unraveling of her spider’s web. Thanks to Twilight Time’s hi-def Blu-ray of Black Widow, we remember – and celebrate the Hopper legacy in roles both huge and brief, yet all of a rich cinematic mosaic.