- Movie Rating -

Fade to Black (1980)

| October 17, 1980

Up to a certain point, I completely understand Eric Binford.  His head is a vast labyrinth of knowledge of old movies.  He lives in his aunt’s basement with an old projector pouring over film after film from the Golden Age of Hollywood.  He knows every film, every star, every scene.  He can quote dialogue with a disturbing mimicry, and his relationships with people always begin with some connection point to some movie that he has seen.  When he looks at the blonde in the local diner, he begins to obsess over how much she looks like Marilyn Monroe.  He loves monster movies so much that he periodically wears costumes of Dracula, Hopalong Cassidy and The Mummy.  He challenges his coworkers to tough trivia contests and at home he pleasures himself to a poster of Marilyn herself.

Up to a certain point, I enjoyed Eric’s world.  Early on, there’s a great deal of poignancy to how he sees the world.  He’s socially awkward and seems to live only in his confined mental space.  But, as in Taxi Driver, the movie takes its insular nobody and crashes through a violent serial killer drama that tosses its character and his story right out the window.

Eric is played by Dennis Christopher who must have taken this role in an effort to stretch his acting muscles after playing the hero in Breaking Away and it is obvious that he is giving his all to this performance, but I wish the director were just as confident.  Writer-director Vernon Zimmerman creates a sort-of suburban Travis Bickle in Eric, but I am left to wonder what kind of movie he thought he was making.  At times, he wants to study this odd soul, a kid who can’t relate to world except through the lens of the camera and at others a violent and bloody horror thriller whose chief gimmick is having Eric dress up in bizarre costumes – Dracula, Cagney, The Mummy – and stalk those who have wronged him.

Fade to Black is one of those near-misses.  It’s a fun idea and it presents an intriguing character but I wish that Zimmerman’s script could have really had the chance to study this person rather than allow him to run through the requirements of a stalker thriller.  We can see what a good movie was in the works, it’s just too bad that it becomes the product of conventional thinking.

[Reviewed April 4, 2021]

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1980) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized