Eric Binford like most of us here, loves the movies. What we don’t do, to my knowledge anyway, is dress as our favorite characters and murder those who have done us wrong. That’s the premise of the 1980 horror film, Fade to Black, starring Dennis Christopher. Fresh from his award winning role in Breaking Away, Christopher plays the headache ridden, movie obsessed Binford , who lives with his wheel chair ridden Aunt in Venice, CA. When he’s not working at as a Vespa riding errand boy, he’s holed up in his room watching old movies from prints he has.
A chance meeting with a Marilyn Monroe look alike at a diner set the wheels in motion for him to lose his shit. After giving her a ride to her job, they make plans to see a movie later that night. Of course Eric gets stood up, and even though Marilyn(also her name in the movie), does eventually make it to the theater, they miss each other. Dejected and miserable, Binford returns home to watch movies in his underwear.
The shrewish Aunt, played with over the top nastiness by Eve Brent rides him relentlessly, of course. And since she’s in a wheelchair when she meets her demise it’s interspersed from that chilling scene in Kiss of Death where Richard Widmark throws a woman in a wheelchair down the stairs.
One of the things I really like about this movie is how it cuts to whatever movie is appropriate to the scene. The editing is very effective in spite of some of it being done with a butcher knife apparently, though that could simply be the copy I streamed.
With the Aunt dispatched, Fade to Black descends into a predictable slasher movie, though without the gore. Each death is performed as a favorite character of his. Some work better than others. Binford’s outing as Dracula to chase down a hooker who trash talked him is one of the best scenes in the movie however, and it works perfectly (even if you let a little gig-er chuckle when he runs across the street, arms extended, cape flapping in the wind).
While Fade to Black has a lot of flaws, I absolutely love this movie. The subplot with a cop and a psychiatrist on Eric’s trail could have been cut out with no affect on the movie. Also, none of the characters are likable; I mean none, even Eric, as tragic a figure as he is, comes off as a bit of a douche. Marilyn is the closest thing to a hero, and she’s portrayed marvelously by Linda Kerridge but given very little to do. Once she misses the date, she basically disappears until the last 10 minutes of the movie, and then she’s overshadowed by the action. It’s a shame, she could have been a really good character, and more time could have been spent on her, and less on the cop and dimwit shrink (a role that Tim Thomerson seems to sleepwalk through).
Aside from Christopher’s top notch performance, the other reason to watch Fade to Black is the absolutely ridiculous amount of nods to the movies. From shots for shot bits (Psycho of course), to posters, and mementos scattered through Binford’s bedroom, you’ll pause and want to look for them all.
This is a movie lover’s movie. It doesn’t make fun of Eric, but tries to pity him. Not for his obsession, but for the lonely life he led. This is definitely worth hunting down and keeping in the collection.