Peter’s Retro Movie Review: Fade to Black (1980)

August 6, 2012

by Peter Nielsen

Eric Binford is a shy young man who mostly lives for and through his movies. He’s a loner and doesn’t really socialize well with other people. He talks in movie quotes and sometimes acts like the actors he immortalizes. He knows everything about them and their movies and is extremely knowledgeable, especially about the black & white era.

One of his idols is James Cagney, or rather one of his movie-characters, namely Cody Jarret from White Heat. Eric even goes as far as changing the name on the mail-box to Jarret and designing a street-sign of his own to fit into his fantasy of actually being Cody Jarret. One could definitely say that Eric has taken movie geekdom to a WHOLE new level of psychopathic obsession. He’s not well! At all!! And he just keeps spiraling downwards.

Would you like to see a nude drawing of your wife?

Would you like to see a nude drawing of your wife?

He lives with his aunt Stella in a run-down building and spends his days working as an errand boy at an advertising firm and his nights watching movies. As I said, he’s a shy loner, but I guess that’s what having no friends and getting bullied by both his aunt and coworkers does to you. He’s also not the nicest person to hang around. He’s played by a young Dennis Christopher whom you might recognize from Breaking Away, Chariots of Fire, Stephen King’s IT or one of my favorite TV-shows Profiler.

At one point he meets a young girl by the name of Marilyn who actually takes a liking to him and since she’s a lookalike for one of his other favorites, Marilyn Monroe, Eric of course also takes a liking to her. He actually asks her out on a date. She says yes, but unfortunately forgets and arrives much too late and Eric is already gone. This, combined with the bullying finally drives him over the edge and causes his mind to snap, and this is when the killings start!

Welcome to the hair-club...

Welcome to the hair-club…

The side-story involves a psychiatrist who’s aiding the police with juvenile delinquents. His name is Jerry Moriarty and is played by none other than Tim Thomerson from Near Dark, Trancers and Bring Me the Head of Lance Henriksen among many. And, well… Mr. Moriarty is actually more of a self-appointed aide to the police because they want nothing to do with him.

To drive their point home they place him in an old holding cell down in the cellar, which is now used as a storage space, complete with dust and cobwebs. THIS is to be his office! Not that you really see him doing much besides playing his harmonica and sing the blues. Oh yeah, and putting the charm on Anne, the officer assigned to him, but still…

Eric getting ready for a night on the town...

Eric getting ready for a night on the town…

One who could definitely use Jerry Moriarty’s help is Eric who has now, more or less, detached himself completely from reality and is on a killing-spree dressed as some of his favorite movie-characters. The Mummy, Dracula and Hopalong Cassidy for instance! His targets are those who’ve done him wrong or angered him in some way, so poor aunt Stella hasn’t got a prayer in the world of surviving.

Neither has Richie, one of the stock boys with the same firm as Eric, who’s been giving him a hard time. By the way? My telling you some of the victims isn’t exactly spoiling the movie because you see them coming a mile away. It’s not too hard figuring out who the victims in Fade to Black are, because… come on folks… this isn’t exactly Shakespeare we’re dealing with here. Ok, so if you want to get really psychological here, I suppose the real victim is actually Eric Binford, because of what he’s gone through in his life. But I think that’s reading too much into it.

Oh, and if you think you recognize the actor playing Richie the bully… yeah, you’re right! It IS Mickey Rourke! Diner, Angel Heart, Homeboy, The Wrestler and Year of the Dragon are just some of the credits to his name.

At the movies Eric realizes the cost of concessions will kill ya!

At the movies Eric realizes the cost of concessions will kill ya!

I had actually never seen Fade to Black prior to this viewing. This is another one of those, where I remember the VHS-cover vividly, but never rented the damn movie for some reason or other. It then disappeared from my mind for a long time before I suddenly caught the trailer on some site and thought: “Hmm… why haven’t I seen this before?” I have since then, of course, added it to my collection and finally watched it the other week, and you know what? It wasn’t half-bad! It wasn’t a fantastic movie-experience but I found myself liking Fade to Black more than I thought I would.

The synopsis on the cover calls it a cult horror classic, but I don’t think I’d go as far as that. It’s more of a psychological thriller than a straight-up horror flick, in my opinion! What I also found interesting and enjoyable were all the movie references made and my inner geek self was thrilled by that.

Dennis Christopher is a good choice of actor to play Eric Binford and he just nails it perfectly. I can’t quite explain it, but there’s something very unpleasant and creepy with the way he portrays him. You can almost sympathize with him for all the crap he takes, but… on the other hand he’s such a douche-bag that you can’t really find any redeeming qualities in him.

As I said earlier, I liked Fade to Black more than I thought I would and it’s definitely worth a watch. At least once! It’s actually fascinating to watch this creepy weirdo go about his business, so for no other reason than that… Go watch it!

And it’s always a treat to see Tim Thomerson in any movie, right?

So, my friends… until next time it’s now your turn to tell us what you thought of this movie…

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