Overlooked & Underseen: Fade to Black (1980)
Hello, my name is Sarah Jane and I watch a lot movies. Most of it is crap, sure, but I do watch quite a few gems and that is what this column is for; to showcase the underseen and the underappreciated. I think we here at TFS are avoiding the term “underrated” because it’s a word that gets thrown around so much, it has lost its meaning at this point.
The first film I’m featuring is one I rarely see talked about anywhere; Fade to Black (1980), written and directed by Vernon Zimmerman. The film stars Dennis Christopher, Tim Thomerson, Linda Kerridge, and in one of their first film roles, Mickey Rourke and Peter Horton.
Let me just start out by saying Dennis Christopher (Breaking Away, Chariots of Fire, Django Unchained) is an odd duck. I happen to enjoy him, but I get that he isn’t to everyone’s liking. In Fade to Black, Christopher stars as Eric Binford, a young man obsessed with movies. He watches them constantly, his room is littered with all things film, and he even “works” for a film distribution company, although he really just spends his time going to the movies while on the clock. He eats, sleeps, and thinks in films. He quotes them all the time. He’s one of those annoying people who likes to lord their knowledge over you. He does it to co-workers like Mickey Rourke, who want nothing more than to punch him in the face several times over.
Eric, naturally, is harassed by just about everyone, his boss, his co-workers, and especially his aunt. He lives with her because his mother died when he was a child. His aunt never lets him forget what an awful burden he’s been on her life. To say their relationship is contentious would be to put it mildly.
One day, Eric runs into Marilyn Monroe look-a-like, aptly named Marilyn. He is immediately drawn to her and asks her out on a date. Much to his (and our) surprise, she says yes. When she doesn’t show up, the already-teetering-on-the-edge-of-insanity Eric ends up goes batshit crazy. He dresses up as several of his film heroes (including Dracula and Cody Jarrett) and goes on a killing spree. Naturally, the film’s final scene takes place at Mann’s Chinese Theatre.
Fade to Black is film worth watching at least once. Dennis Christopher gives a performance unlike many others you’ll see (unless, that is, you watch another Dennis Christopher movie because, let’s face it, he is one strange cat). This movie is crying out for a Blu-ray release. It has been available on DVD previously but a current search of the Internet shows it going for $170. The movie is available to watch on YouTube for those of you not willing to spend $170.