directed by: Edward Bianchi (back of video blurb): choice dialogue:
starring:Lauren Bacall, Michael Biehn, James Garner, Maureen Stapleton
"Lauren Bacall returns to the screen in her most exciting, suspenseful role as glamorous celebrity and renowned Broadway actress Sally Ross. She is the object of adoration of countless fans- especially one young man. His impassioned letters are a source of pleasure and amusement, then annoyance- and finally terror, as he tries to realize his ultimate fantasy. When he feel Sally has rejected him, there is no one left to protect her from the fan's twisted adulation. An edge of the seat thriller."
(back of video blurb): choice dialogue:
Much (attempted) panache, but precious little slash. THE FAN is a ‘psycho-thriller’ which doesn’t know if it’s ‘Arthur’ or ‘Martha’.
It’s opening, which is probably it’s best bit, will be familiar to anyone who has seen Argento’s DEEP RED (1975)- prowling close up of small objects, impressively dramatic music and the evocative voice-over of ‘the fan’ (Michael Biehn)- composing a letter of adoration. Biehn (who is very good, within the restraints of the material, in his debut film role), is obsessed with Lauren Bacall’s character- an ageing Broadway actress. He spends his time, when not working in a New York record store, declaring his delusional love for her through fan letters, which (much to his increasingly psychotic annoyance) are intercepted by Bacall’s secretary. And in an attempt to get closer to his idol, Biehn goes to any length to remove what he sees as obstacles to consumating his unrequited love. THE FAN is one confused movie. Obviously aiming for a more adult audience, but in a year that the ‘teenie-kill’ epic had come to a crescendo the makers couldn’t resist throwing in an exploitative angle- but unfortunately not exploitative enough. It can’t make up it’s mind whether it wants to go down the ‘class’ route- the New York setting and the ponderous 131 minute running time recall TAXI DRIVER (1976)- but without that film’s sleazy effectiveness. And the nods to the, then in-vogue, slasher cinema are fleeting and half-hearted. It results in a mixture that could be best described as anaemic. It is occasionally sleazy and violent; see the 'choice dialogue', and the scenes where Biehn slashes a woman’s (covered) breasts and when he kills a gay man, setting his corpse alight to fake his own suicide. But this sits uncomfortably with other aspects of the movie; Bacall’s on/off romance with James Garner and her camaraderie with her fellow performers and her secretary- plays more like a tedious tv movie. And what makes matters worse (or better- depending on your tastes) is Bacall’s performance- she’s fine as a gutsy, sassy star, but she seems embarrassed by the more exploitative elements of the film. Obvious comparisons can be made with those other ‘ageing female stars’ (among them Joan Crawford and Bette Davis), who did horror film’s to buck up their flagging careers. But, whereas movies like WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE (1961) and STRAIT-JACKET (1964) were fun, campy treats, THE FAN is pretty dull. It does nod towards cheese occasionally, but unintentionally, during the cringe-making song and dance numbers as Bacall rehearses, the fictional, Broadway musical ‘Never say Never’. And the bit where she eventually bursts into song does make the viewer wonder, with anticipation (or dread), whether the movie is going to shift gear and go down the same road as MOMMIE DEAREST (1981) or SEXTETTE (1978). Unfortunately, it does not. But perhaps the worst thing about this movie is the fact that after sitting through the thing for over two hours that the final confrontation between fan and star is a real damp squib.
On the plus side, and there are a few things going for it, THE FAN does provide some, occasionally, excellent imagery and a few very good set pieces. One scene especially sticks out, where Biehn follows a colleague of Bacall’s to a indoor swimming pool and whilst he is in the water, Biehn swims underneath him splitting his belly open (but presumably not killing him), with a cut throat razor. And Biehn is always watchable, it’s just a shame that his character is so under-developed.
So all in all THE FAN is an unrewarding viewing experience. It could have been class or it could have been a camp thrill, but by being neither it ends up just being boring.
BODYCOUNT 5 female:2 / male:3
1) Female slashed to death with cut-throat razor
2) Male slashed with razor and body set alight
3) Female slashed to death
4) Male stabbed to death
6) Male stabbed in neck