Sunday, October 25, 2009
Fade to Black (1980, Vernon Zimmerman)
Not to be confused with the more well known Jay-Z film (which I keep coming across whenever I look for any info about this film). Fade to Black is a movie that I read about in an old issue of Fangoria about a year and half - two years ago. I had seen Breaking Away a few years before that and loved it, especially Dennis Christopher's performance as the "Ity-in training" Dave Stoller. Fade to Black's plot about a film fanatic losing touch with reality was not like any other film I had ever seen before and there was just something about it that peaked my curiosity.
Eric Binford (Dennis Christopher) likes movies. Okay, he LOVES movies, more than anything in the world. He works as a movie reel/poster delivery boy and lives with his Aunt Stella (Eve Brent Ashe), who thinks of him as a worthless loser. He is taunted by co-worker Richie (Mickey Rourke) and yelled at for his constant screw ups by his boss (Normann Burton). His life starts looking up when he meets Marilyn O'Connor, a Marilyn Monroe-lookalike (Linda Kerridge), who agrees to go out with him. When she doesn't show up, Eric goes over the deep end and starts becoming the characters in his favorite movies to get revenge on those who wronged him.
Fade to Black is not a perfect film. It has some flawed characters and the story jumps around a lot. Despite these shortcomings, this film is brilliant. I really connected with the story (myself being a film nut) and Dennis Christopher as Eric Binford is probably my single favorite character from any movie ever. When he starts his first transformation into James Cagney, the result is amazing. Christopher is so unbelievably talented that he single handedly carries the entire film. The people in Eric's life who give him grief (his Aunt Stella, Richie, his boss, Marilyn) are a fun lot of characters and all complement Binford perfectly. A special nod to the stunning Linda Kerridge as Marilyn whose disjointed character proves to be a perfect match for Eric. The main problem with the movie is the subplot about the police chasing Eric, including a burnout psychiatrist (Tim Thomerson) helping the cops and his new partner/love interest (Gwynne Gilford). Though these scenes hamper the film, the rest of the film is great. To me, this film is a joy and a must see despite its flaws.