Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

05 May 2008

Fade to Black, dir. Vernon Zimmerman (1980)

NIKKI says:
I expected a lot from this and got just chump change, really. It's all about a guy obsessed with movies who begins to take on the personae of his favourite movie characters. He haunts cinemas as Dracula, a fairground as Hopalong Cassidy, and when he wants to get tough, he all but becomes James Cagney in White Heat.

He does all this not out of love for the movies, really, but because he is actually quite mental and he can't otherwise correctly control his emotions. Great premise, right? Well, it doesn't really work, because the writing is really quite poor. There's Eric, the mental guy in question, and he's running about pissing everyone off with his smarmy attitude, which has taken over his actual personality as well as his fake ones. Then there's a doctor on his trail, that reackons society has ruined him with it's film imagery of violence and whatnot. Then there are the cops that (rightfully) want him out of the way -- he is murdering people, after all. Then there's the Marilyn Monroe lookalike who gets caught in his weird web, not once, but twice (and once in the shower).

All of these elements jumble about to create a confused, convoluted film. What should have been a story about a kid gone mad after confusing movies with real life due an horrendous upbringing (his mother/aunt is a beast), becomes more like a guy obsessed with film trivia just being weird. Dennis Christopher's performance gets stranger and stranger as the film progresses. He lacked the heart I think his character needed in order for me to sympathise with him as much as the doctor was. I don't know, therefore, who the hero was. Eric was annoying, killing people, and generally not inviting of my compassion at all.

It was fun, though, to look back on a movie like this. It's from 1980 and really tries to say something about life imitating art. It just needed a more skilled writer to pull it all together.


STEVE says:
Wow, what a massive let-down this was. I'd seen it before, something like 17 years ago. Doug brought it over and I remember thinking it was pretty cool at the time. Whether I actually thought it was cool is something else, but my memory is that it was a tight, clever thriller.

Not so.

The script is just bad, there's no way around it. Eric Binford's introduction consists of a few minutes of impossibly expository dialog delivered by his crazy, Norma Desmond-like wheelchair-bound aunt as she rails on about how his "poor mother" died in childbirth and it's his fault that she's in a wheelchair now, and blah blah blah. Backstory database type stuff that could actually have been introduced later - through the art of storytelling - rather than thrust upon us in the first few minutes.

A bit later, we meet two women jogging on the beach. The leggy, Marilyn Monroe look-alike has come over from Australia to be an actress. Her friend, the shorter Linda Blair look-alike is only there to give Marilyn someone to talk to. So they decide to grab something to eat, which is when they meet Eric. He's sitting at the counter leering at Marilyn and, after insulting her friend, asks Marilyn on a date that night. Marilyn agrees, but stands him up for Peter Horton and is out of the movie for the next half-hour or so. Fair enough 'cos it's not her story - so why'd we need the introduction on the beach?

Tim Thomerson receives the same treatment: introduction, standard background via expository dialog, disappear until convenient. It was all rather embarrassing. Makes me cautious about watching anything I vaguely remember liking from more than 15 years ago.