Black Rainbow

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Black Rainbow
Directed by Mike Hodges
Produced by Geoffrey Helman
John Quested
Written byMike Hodges
Starring Rosanna Arquette
Jason Robards Jr.
Tom Hulce
Mark Joy
Ron Rosenthal
John Bennes
Music by John Scott
Cinematography Gerry Fisher
Edited byMalcolm Cooke
Distributed by Palace Pictures
Release date
  • 1989 (1989)
Running time
103 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Black Rainbow is a 1989 American psychological thriller film directed by Mike Hodges and starring Rosanna Arquette, Jason Robards Jr., Tom Hulce, Mark Joy, Ron Rosenthal, and John Bennes. It was filmed in Rock Hill, South Carolina and Charlotte, North Carolina.



Rosanna Arquette stars as Martha Travis, a medium who hosts a touring clairvoyant show with her alcoholic father Walter (Jason Robards) where she helps members of the audience make contact with deceased relatives. At one meeting, she foretells the violent death of a local factory employee (Olek Krupa), a whistleblower who was set to reveal corporate malpractice at the plant, and soon becomes the target of the killer herself. At a subsequent meeting in the town, she appears to identify several other individuals who are set to die or be killed. A sceptical local journalist investigating the death, Gary Wallace (Tom Hulce), begins following the couple and the story. The story is told in flashback, with the opening scenes showing Wallace searching for the reclusive Martha many years after the events depicted in the main body of the film.

Release and reception

Although the film received some critical support and is often described as Hodges's best film since Get Carter , [1] it did not get a full release in the UK and US. At the time, the production companies that distributed the film, Palace Films in the United Kingdom and Miramax in the United States, were suffering financially so the film only had a token release. It was shown at theatres overseas as well as at various film festivals. The film was finally released on videocassette on 9 January 1992 by Media Home Entertainment through Fox Video. In 2005, Trinity Home Entertainment released the film on DVD, but in full screen and without any bonus material. In the UK, Anchor Bay released the film in widescreen and also with a Mike Hodges commentary and snippets of the making of Black Rainbow with the cast and crew. In 2020 the film was restored and released on to Blu-ray by Arrow Video, with Hodges' earlier film The Terminal Man to follow as a Blu-ray release in 2021. [2]


Mike Hodges noted in an interview featured on the 2020 Arrow Video Blu-ray release of Black Rainbow his interest in what he terms "bilocation". [3] The writer-director says, "In other words, people are seen in two different places at the same time; that people can be transported lock, stock and barrel to another location." Hodges continues, saying "science is seemingly moving towards the fact that we’ve got parallel universes" and "the deeper we go into it, the more extraordinary it becomes. Life is like that. I think it’s full of all sorts of strange elements, which I love personally."

In his essay "Black Rainbow - A Modest Pot of Gold" on Top 10 Films, Mark Fraser states: "[Mike] Hodges makes sure things are never what they seem, interweaving a conventional plot with multiple suggestions of bilocation and supernatural intervention." When discussing Tom Hulce's performance as investigative journalist Gary Wallace he notes "he is the one person outside of Martha [Travis] most affected by the bilocation events infused throughout the story." The script also "touches upon a number of other themes affecting the human psyche, including religion, economic displacement, environmental degradation and messy family dynamics." [3]


Black Rainbow was shot between October and December 1988 in Charlotte, North Carolina. [4]

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  1. "Black Rainbow". Time Out Film Guide. Time Out. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  2. Rose, Steve (15 July 2020). "'I was angry' – Mike Hodges on his lost film Black Rainbow, rescued after 31 years". The Guardian via
  3. 1 2 Fraser, Mark. ""Black Rainbow" - A Modest Pot of Gold". Top 10 Films. Retrieved 15 June 2021.
  4. "Black Rainbow *** (1989, Rosanna Arquette, Jason Robards, Tom Hulce)". Derek Winnert. Retrieved 23 February 2020.