FADE TO BLACK (1980) Reviews and overview

 

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Fade to Black is a 1980 American satirical horror film written and directed by Vernon Zimmerman. Executive producer Irwin Yablans also produced John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978). The movie stars Dennis Christopher, Eve Brent Ashe, Linda Kerridge, Mickey Rourke (Girl; Nightmare Cinema; Angel Heart) and Peter Horton.

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Released in October 1980 by American Cinema distributors, Fade to Black failed to find an audience and was commercially unsuccessful. However, the movie later garnered a very minor cult following. It was released on DVD in 1999 by Anchor Bay Entertainment.

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Blu-ray release:

The worldwide Blu-ray debut of Fade to Black comes from Vinegar Syndrome in a new 4K restoration of recently uncovered 35mm negative elements.

Special features:

Region Free Blu-ray
Newly scanned and restored in 4k from 35mm negative elements
Commentary track with lead actor Dennis Christopher
Commentary track with The Hysteria Continues!
Historical commentary track with film historians Amanda Reyes and Bill Ackerman
“Living & Dying for the Movies” – an interview with lead actor Dennis Christopher
“Celluloid Heroes” – an interview with executive producer Irwin Yablans
“Taking the Hits” – an interview with special effects artist Wayne Beauchamp
“A Shiny Quality” – an interview with actress Marcie Barkin
“Experimenting with Sound” – an interview with composer Craig Safan
“Finishing the Story” – an interview with editor Barbara Pokras
“A Brush with Darkness” – an interview with stylist Patricia Bunch
Audio interview with lead actress Linda Kerridge
Still Gallery
Original theatrical trailer
Reversible cover artwork
English SDH subtitles

Plot:

Eric Binford (Dennis Christopher) is a hollow, chain-smoking young man who is also an obsessed film addict whose love of old films extends far beyond his job at a Los Angeles film distributor’s warehouse and endless late-night film screenings in his bedroom. For his vast knowledge, he’s been bullied by his friends and family.

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His singular obsession eventually rounds the bend into psychosis after he crosses paths with Marilyn O’Connor (Linda Kerridge), an Australian model and a Marilyn Monroe look-alike who becomes the physical embodiment of his cinematic desires.

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When (unintentionally) stood up by Marilyn on what would have been their first date, Eric becomes homicidally unbalanced, transforming himself into a gallery of classic film characters – including Dracula, The Mummy, and Hopalong Cassidy – and sets out to destroy his oppressors, starting with his crotchety wheelchair-using, ex-dancer Aunt Stella…

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Reviews [click links to read more]:

‘The promise shown in the early parts of the film is squandered by a bad script, lack of vision, and mediocre performances. The death scenes where Eric dresses as classic characters are fun, but would’ve packed much more of a punch if it felt like the same character we fell for in the first place.’ The MacGuffin

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“The fact that Fade to Black squanders it’s on wacko premise and turns out to be as boring as any other generic post-Halloween slasher cash-in only makes it weirder. So does Dennis Christopher. He is career-killingly terrible here…” Mike “McBeardo” McFadden, Heavy Metal Movies

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“I just wish the movie was tighter. Binford just does his thing over and over again; the sequences are fun in and of themselves, but they don’t add up to a hell of a lot. Plus there’s no real evolution to his character, he seems just as crazy after his first kill as he does after the last one.” Horror Movie a Day

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Fade to Black is an intelligent, ingenious, imaginative and pleasingly self-reflective horror movie … the film succeeds in portraying the world of movie buffery as a seemingly seductive but in fact deadening, de-sensitizing cul-de-sac, in particular in its shots of the weird Night of the Living Dead audience blithely munching popcorn whilst watching scenes of appalling on-screen horror.” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

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Cast and characters:

Dennis Christopher … Eric Binford
Tim Thomerson … Doctor Jerry Moriarty
Gwynne Gilford … Officer Anne Oshenbull
Norman Burton … Marty Berger (as Normann Burton)
Linda Kerridge … Marilyn O’Connor
Morgan Paull … Gary Bially
James Luisi … Captain M.L. Gallagher
Eve Brent … Aunt Stella Binford (as Eve Brent Ashe)
John Steadman … Sam
Marcie Barkin … Stacy
Mickey Rourke … Richie
Peter Horton … Joey
Hennen Chambers … Bart
Melinda O. Fee … Talk Show Hostess (as Melinda Fee)
Anita Converse … Dee Dee
Bob Drew … Reverend Shick
Teddi Siddall … Jill
Sharon Sharth … Mail Girl (as Sharon Schlaerth)
David Daniels … Waiter at Food Stand (as Joseph Daniels)
Marilyn Staley Marilyn Staley … Starlet
Al Tafoya … Newscaster
Clyde Primm … Bookstore Owner
Gilbert Lawrence Kaan … Counterman
Sharon McCreedy … Frightened Spectator
Bill Stack … SWAT Leader
Gregory Sage … Peter
J.K. Wiley … Gofer
Peggy Kaye … Midway Operator
James Cagney … Cody Jarett (archive footage) (uncredited)
Tim Gallin … Theater Patron (uncredited)
Kathy Griffin … Grauman’s Chinese Theater Extra (uncredited)
Mike Hawks … Book Store Customer (uncredited)
Christopher Lee … (archive footage) (uncredited)
Virginia Mayo … (archive footage) (uncredited)
Gary Howe Scott … SWAT Team Member (uncredited)
Mews Small … Doreen (uncredited)
Robert Stahoviak … SWAT Sniper (uncredited)
Frankie Verroca … Sci-Fi Movie Fan (uncredited)
Richard Widmark … Tommy Udo (archive footage) (uncredited)

Filming locations:

302 Market Street, Venice, California (Eric and Stella Binford’s House)
Grauman’s Chinese Theater – 6925 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, Los Angeles, California (final scenes)
Ocean Front Walk, Venice Beach, Venice, Los Angeles, California

Technical details:

102 minutes
Metrocolor
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1
Audio: Mono

Fun Facts:

In Nightmare (1981), killer George Tatum (Baird Stafford) walks past a New York movie house showing Fade to Black.

MOVIES and MANIA rating: