Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985) (NTSC)

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Released 12-May-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Trivia-Text based "Trivia Track" over entire film
Theatrical Trailer-Kiss of the Spider Woman
Featurette-Making Of-Tangled Web: Secrets of the Spider Woman
Featurette-Manuel Puig: The Submissive Woman's Role
Featurette-Making Of-Making a Musical: Spider Woman on Broadway
Featurette-Kiss of the Spider Woman: From Novel to Film
Gallery-Photo-& Press Kit
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1985
Running Time 120:18
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Hector Babenco

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring William Hurt
Raul Julia
Sonia Braga
José Lewgoy
Milton Gonçalves
Míriam Pires
Nuno Leal Maia
Fernando Torres
Patricio Bisso
Herson Capri
Case Amaray-Transparent-Dual
RPI $29.95 Music Nando Cordeiro
John Neschling

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles French
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     In 1981 Brazilian director Hector Babenco created waves with his confronting film depicting homeless children surviving on the streets of Sao Paulo. Pixote: A Lei do Mais Fraco (still without a DVD release) was Babenco's third film, but the first to bring him into prominence as a courageous and gifted filmmaker. The themes of adversity and injustice in Pixote would carry through to many of his subsequent films, including his 1985 film Kiss of the Spider Woman.

     Like many film productions, Kiss of the Spider Woman was burdened with a myriad of trials and tribulations - especially during pre and post-production. These problems panned out over many years and threatened the viability of the film on numerous occasions. The project went through several changes in this time, including the fact that Burt Lancaster was once heavily involved in the venture and was actually cast to play the lead role of Molina.

     Although the themes in Kiss of the Spider Woman aren't particularly controversial by today's standards, in the early 1980s they contributed significantly to the financing dilemmas associated with the production. The film was declined by all major Hollywood studios. Financing was eventually achieved through private investment, with a final budget of around 1.2 million US dollars - at that time, a large budget for a Brazilian film. Naturally, with all these tribulations this figure quickly blew out.

     On completion, Kiss of the Spider Woman was over three hours in length and lacked any cohesion. Subsequently, the film went through a painstaking fourteen months of edits and re-edits before a final cut was reached to screen at Cannes in 1985. The film was a sensation at Cannes and won the best actor award for William Hurt. Over the next year, his performance claimed many awards including an Academy Award in 1986. Suddenly, this little independent film from Brazil had earned a reputation, with a growing list of international awards and nominations.

     This two-disc edition of Kiss of the Spider Woman features a selection of outstanding documentaries which examine these and other aspects of the film in greater detail.

     The screenplay of Kiss of the Spider Woman was written by Leonard Schrader, based on the 1978 novel by the late Argentine writer, Manuel Puig. The location of the story is not disclosed, but it seems likely to be somewhere in South America.

     The film opens with a celebrated 360 degree pan shot of a small and dingy prison cell. The audience is immediately immersed in the world of the two protagonists. Luis Molina (William Hurt) is a flamboyant homosexual who has been imprisoned for the corruption of a minor. His cell mate, Valentin Arregui (Raul Julia), is a hardened revolutionary who endures regular episodes of torture perpetrated by the authorities. Molina escapes this existence by narrating a fantasy film noir melodrama. His "movie" is full of dangerous romance, intrigue and betrayal. Molina tells this movie in an episodic nature, with his scenes of fantasy interwoven with the reality of their prison cell life. The female protagonist in Molina's movies, including the story of the spider woman, is played by Sonia Braga. She also plays Valentin's girlfriend in a flashback scene late in the film.

     Eventually the physical and ideological differences between these men are dissolved and a genuine emotional bond is established. But the pairing of these men in a small cell is intentional and calculated. In time, a line of truth and betrayal is revealed.

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Transfer Quality


    This is a NTSC transfer.

    Kiss of The Spider Woman is presented in the correct aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     This film has an intentional degree of softness, especially during the "movie" scenes. This grittiness works and enhances the ambience of the film really well. Having said that, the transfer still exhibits decent sharpness and clarity. Blacks were clean and shadows held excellent detail.

     The colour palette used in Kiss of The Spider Woman reflects the sombre mood of the narrative. Colours inside the prison are bland, grimy and subdued. We only see occasional glimpses of strong vibrant colour. The above mentioned "movie" scenes display soft sepia tones, with selected highlights of colour. All colours are nicely balanced on the disc.

     There were no MPEG artefacts on the disc. Film-to-video artefacts were not a significant issue. Film artefacts were infrequent and very minor in nature.

     The only available subtitles are Spanish and French. They are in bold white and are easily legible.

     Both DVD's in this set are DVD 9, dual layer discs. The layer change on disc one (the film disc) occurs at 63:28 and is well placed. The layer change on the second disc (extras) occurs during Tangled Web: Secrets of the Spider Woman at 85:06.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are four audio tracks on the DVD. English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s), English Original Mono Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), Latin American Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s) and French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s).

     I had no real problems with the dialogue and audio sync appeared good throughout. A couple of minor lapses were no doubt related to the ADR process rather than the transfer.

     The original music is credited to John Neschling in association with Nando Cordeiro. The music was generally excellent and complimented the film well. I thought the main theme had similarities to Nino Rota's style of music.

     As you might expect from a dialogue based film, the surround presence of the 5.1 remix is rightly very subtle. The occasional effect was evident from the rear channels, but generally music and ambient sound held prominence. Likewise, the subwoofer is used rarely, but sensibly.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



     The menu is animated with sound and is 16x9 enhanced.

Disc One Extras:

Trivia Track in English and Spanish.

     This is probably best described as an audio commentary - without the audio. The trivia track plays as subtitles (English or Spanish) over the film. It features interesting and relevant information about Kiss of the Spider Woman, but it has a major and annoying fault. On many occasions the subtitles change within a fraction of a second. This obviously makes them impossible to read - unless you pause or watch the offending section in slow motion.

Original Theatrical Trailer - Kiss of the Spider Woman (1:57)

Disc Two Extras:

Featurette - Tangled Web: Secrets of the Spider Woman (108:27)

     This fascinating 2008 documentary tells of the many problems associated with the production. All aspects are covered, from Hector Babenco's persistent efforts to secure the book rights, through to the incredible ovation at Cannes. Naturally, the documentary also features interviews with many cast and crew members. Recommended viewing.

Featurette - Manuel Puig: The Submissive Woman's Role (9:09)

     This is a retrospective interview with author Manuel Puig which is overlaid with a series of still images. As the title suggests, Manuel discusses the role of the submissive woman in his writing.

Featurette - Making the Musical: Spider Woman on Broadway (11:51)

     This interesting piece examines the award winning musical which was adapted from the book and film of Kiss of the Spider Woman. Many renowned theatrical names were involved in this musical version including the late, Fred Ebb, John Kander, Harold Prince and Terrence McNally. Like the film, the Broadway adaptation won many awards including seven Tony Awards in 1993 - one of which was Best Musical.

Featurette - Kiss of the Spider Woman: From Novel to Film (36:05)

     Narrated by Professor Norman Lavers, this piece virtually tells the story of Kiss of the Spider Woman from start to finish. The story is told with overlaid still images from the film. Occasional references are made regarding the relationship of the novel to the film.

Photo Galleries

Press Kit

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Judging by the DVD credits and contents of these discs, it appears this Umbrella release has been taken directly from the City Lights Media DVD and Blu-ray editions. The entire disc contents of these US editions are identical to this Umbrella set. The absence of any Umbrella trailers is another giveaway.

     With that in mind, there is absolutely no reason to track down an imported edition unless you're chasing a Blu-ray copy. At the time of writing this review, there is no local Blu-ray edition of Kiss of the Spider Woman available.


     Hector Babenco's, Kiss of the Spider Woman is a triumph of persistence and determination. It is also undoubtedly one of the great films of independent cinema. Manuel Puig may have been indifferent towards the film but there can be no denying the audience reaction to this film in 1985 was amazing. The controversial theme of Puig's novel may have softened over the years, but the strength of performances ensures that Kiss of the Spider Woman will remain a timeless film.

     The video and audio transfers are good.

     This two-disc set delivers an abundance of interesting and relevant extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DMP-BD35 Blu Ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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