Eric Binford is a shy, chain-smoking movie nut who is often ridiculed by his peers. Working at a film distribution warehouse and living with his eccentric (and often times abusive) Aunt Stella, he delves deeply into film as a means of solace and, perhaps, power. Eric becomes a film aficionado, but spends quite a bit of time straddling the lines of reality; often quoting his favorite character Arthur “Cody” Jarrett (Played by James Cagney in White Heat), and almost constantly spouting movie references and trivia. This obsession with film is just another source of the jeering and ridicule he endures. His Aunt thinks he’s nuts, his boss can’t stand him, and the guys at work think he’s a joke. To top things off, Eric is stood up (un-intentionally) by Marilyn O’Connor – a stunning Marilyn Monroe look-alike – who agreed to a date. That was the proverbial last straw and Eric finally loses it (homicidally so). He begins a campaign of payback, progressing through his tormentors, using the characters from the films he has come to love.
Written and directed by Vernon Zimmerman, the film kept this viewer’s interest for the most part. Zimmerman falls quite short of his mark though. A movie buff that snaps is certainly interesting enough material, but the heights for which he is reaching are just not attained in the writing. A shame too as this film had great potential. He does set the hook well though, opening the film with Eric jotting down notes in front of yet another movie, but it was his room that got my attention. Absolutely packed with movie posters and memorabilia it reminded me of my room as a teen, though my posters were mostly of Black Sabbath. The dysfunction between him and his Aunt is introduced at once, as is his obsession with the aforementioned Cagney character. So Zimmerman gets you interested, and then is off shooting pool somewhere, leaving you to figure it out for yourself.
Dennis Christopher (Eric) does an excellent job with Eric’s story. He elicited my sympathy at once, and later my applause. I was definitely in his corner the entire film. Eve Brent Ashe (Aunt Stella) is wheel-chair bound, mentally and verbally abusive (amongst other things), and her lot in life is to make Eric miserable. Eve pulls it off quite well, as I found myself hoping she’d get it first! A VERY young Mickey Rourke gives a decent performance as a dumb punk (Richie). He reminded me of the bully from grade school. While I’d rather not, I pretty much HAVE to talk about the other cast members, as they were my main sources of disdain. I’m not terribly certain that it was the acting (though there IS some pretty bad acting), rather than the shallow writing. It seemed that Zimmerman worked out the first two characters you see and added the rest in when he realized he needed more. I’d liken it to what one feels when desiring a handful of M&M’s and being hand-fed one at a time.
Linda Kerridge makes her film debut as the lovely Marilyn O’Connor. While the role was forgettable, she is of significance as she is the first (and only) person that is nice to Eric, and ironically the one that sets him off. Tim Thomerson plays Jerry Moriarty, a coke- snorting cop psychologist whose purpose isn’t immediately revealed thereby giving the portions of the film he is in a disjointed feel. Gwynne Gilford plays Officer Anne Oshenbull, who ends up in the sack with Jerry and that is about the extent of her contribution. There are a few others, but at this point it’s a bit redundant to continue. Left with a stark white light shining on society’s propensity to step on the little people the conclusion of Fade to Black is exactly how Eric would have wanted it.
So here we are: you’ve read all of the negative things I had to say, and are probably saying “boy this movie musta sucked!” Despite all of the obvious problems, I rather enjoyed more than a few parts of the film, and suggest you give it a shot, especially if you are a fan of the oldies. The movies referenced (White Heat, Mark of The Vampire, The Public Enemy, and Hop Along Cassidy just to name a few) are well shot and the costumes are great. There are some that are slightly short of authentic, and others that are just plain funny! Even though Fade to Black still gets the occasional spin in my DVD player, my overall rating will have to be
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