In the film “Fade to Black,” BAFTA winner Dennis Christopher (Breaking Away) portrays Eric Binford. He is seemingly obsessed with film, and has an abiding love for three time Golden Globe winner Marilyn Monroe (The Prince and the Showgirl). Eric is able to recall facts from the movies he’s seen with no effort. His parents are deceased, so he lives with his Aunt Stella (Eve Brent). She berates him and is not a fan of his love of film. In order to escape her, he works at a company that deals with film editing and processing for the movies. (As an aside: Eve Brent won the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror films for her work in the movie).
Eric’s job is not much of an escape. His boss, Mr. Berger (Norman Burton), is not pleased with his work and some of his co-workers treat him as if he’s worthless. Richie, one of Eric’s co-workers, who treats him badly, is played, in his second feature film role, by BAFTA and Golden Globe winner Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler). For a small amount of time, it seems as if Eric is going to be granted some happiness in his life. He meets Marilyn (Linda Kerridge) a young, aspiring actress, who bears a striking resemblance to Marilyn Monroe. Even though Marilyn’s friend Stacy (Marcie Barkin) thinks Eric is creepy, Marilyn ignores her. After Eric and Marilyn talk for a while, he gives her a ride back to where she works. Marilyn agrees to go out on a date with him later that evening. When she doesn’t show up, Eric’s already low self esteem worsens.
Eric is tired. Tired of being treated badly, and tired of his lack of success in all aspects of his life, he takes it upon himself to change things. Eric starts to impersonate, for periods of time, the behavior and the appearances of the characters he knows so well from the films he loves. He does this in order to attempt to extract revenge, as well as get what he wants, from those who have wronged him. For example, among a number of other famous film characters, he impersonates Bela Lugosi’s Dracula and the look William Boyd used in the Hopalong Cassidy films.
Eric is not a criminal mastermind and his actions begin to attract the attention of the police. In charge of the investigation is Captain Gallagher played by Emmy winner James Luisi (First Ladies Diaries: Martha Washington). The Captain wants to remove a dangerous element from the street. He is at odds over this with Dr. Jerry Moriarty (Tim Thomerson), who plays a person who works with violent youth offenders. Moriarty doesn’t condone Eric’s behavior, but he feels he can be saved. The doctor teams up with Officer O’Shenbull (Gwynne Gifford), in an attempt to find Eric first and take him safely into custody, in order to get him the help he needs. Can Eric be saved?
“Fade to Black” premiered on May 13, 1980 at the Cannes Film Market. The market is the business counterpart to the Cannes Film Festival and has been held annually since 1959. The film was written and directed by Vernon Zimmerman (Chuck and Wally on the Road). He was nominated for the Saturn Award for best director for the movie by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films USA. The film which is parts comedy, crime, horror, and thriller has a runtime of 102 minutes.
Dennis Christopher gave his all in the film. Eve Brent and Linda Kerridge also played their parts very well. The film has an interesting premise. I enjoyed the use of the different characters from film history and the inclusion of movie trivia is something I always welcome. In fact, I learned of the existence of two films I had never heard of before, so that was a positive. Overall, this is an entertaining film, that should be appreciated by horror film aficionados for at least a one-time viewing.