Not a Fan

The Fan wants what it can’t have – the allure and glamour of iconic Hollywood romance. That explains the casting of Lauren Bacall and James Garner as on again/off again partners, trading schmaltzy, schlocky dialog while steamy cinematography covers their embraces.

When presented on an abrasive ‘80s film stock though, The Fan’s idealization looks dirty rather than exotic. It’s a touch ironic – The Fan’s story also concerns something that cannot be had. Bacall becomes a target for a delusional obsessive (Michael Beihn) who worships her and cannot handle the rejection.

In monologues, Biehn reads the unsettling letters he sends Bacall. Each is manic, loaded with fantasy. Biehn imagines life together – and yet never so much as spoke to the woman. A year before The Fan, John Lennon was murdered, an apex of celebrity mania that made this film feel exploitative in its time.

Now, The Fan feels different. It’s of the past certainly, that filthy New York laced with graffiti while underground, subways rush past isolated, dimly lit stations. Nowhere appears safe. But Biehn isn’t so much a celebrity-focused sociopath as a loner beyond help.

Instead of examining that mental and emotional fragmentation, The Fan turns to slasher norms

His sister tries to reach him; he shuts the door on her face. He turns to an empty table in which he pretends to share with Bacall. Terrifying stuff at a time when sexually repressed loners take up weapons and blame women for the lack of affection. Those letters today sound like a enraged online manifesto.

Instead of examining that mental and emotional fragmentation, The Fan turns to slasher norms. Biehn grabs a straight razor and begins hacking up Bacall’s friends with a small splash of gore – nothing excessive considering the genre’s typical gruesomeness. Moderate tension before a kill at least cuts away from the soapy dialog elsewhere.

And for Bacall, she’s well above material of this stature. Before the finale, she takes the stage for a musical performance, singing a truly grotesque song titled, “Hearts, Not Diamonds.” Turns out, Bacall was a masterful actress, but out of place in a musical number. By that point, The Fan already dragged its way through tepid scene setting and TV-like edits, further lessening the attraction to this meandering thriller.

Through most of The Fan, Bacall’s age weighs on her character. An early scene takes place on her character’s birthday; she’s 50 (really 56 at the time). In fighting Biehn during the finale, it’s as if Bacall wrestles her own age more than a crazed stalker. Interesting, but that doesn’t make The Fan any more tolerable though. After The Fan, Bacall took a nine-year break from acting, so worries that age will take her career almost came to be. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.

Video

Heavy grain is integral to the image, challenging Scream/Shout Factory’s encode. Generally, compression makes due, holding up to preserve a film-esque aesthetic. Of greater concern is the scan, older and rough without appreciable resolution. A few fake-outs in close (with firm facial definition) play tricks as the rest struggles to find reasonable sharpness.

A few bits of dust aside, print condition is worthy of a new release. So too is color, rich in primary highlights. The stage show brings out elaborate costumes and even before, causal wear pulls vivid saturation.

Black levels typically lack firmness. That allows heavy grain to reach the shadows, further dirtying up the appearance (as ‘80s film stocks tend to do). Contrast proves perky however, enough to offset and find a satisfying sense of depth.

Audio

Longtime composer Pino Donaggio crafts a violin-driven score that’s perfect for The Fan. In DTS-HD mono, there’s enough room to give the music range, rich in highs and strong lows. For a mono track, it’s especially bold.

Reasonable age is detectable in the dialog. It’s a touch dry, and totally within reason.

Extras

Scream Factory tracks down some key players for this disc. Michael Bien’s interview runs 26-minutes, director Ed Bianchi speaks for 38-minutes, and editor Alan Heim goes for 18-minutes. Each chat offers insight, both personal and on the production. That’s continued via a commentary with longtime cult director David DeCoteau and historian David Del Valle. A stills gallery and trailers bring things to a traditional finish.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Fan
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Movie

Lauren Bacall takes a role beneath her status in The Fan, a movie sloppily invoking the slasher genre for thrills.

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