• The Fan (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: November 19th, 2019.
    Director: Ed Bianchi
    Cast: Lauren Bacall, Michael Biehn, James Garner, Maureen Stapleton, Hector Elizondo
    Year: 1981
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    The Fan – Movie Review:

    Sally Ross (Laruen Bacall) was once a member of the Hollywood A-list. As glamorous as they come and well aware of her popularity, she’s about to start a new career on Broadway, age threatening to catch up with her at this point in her career. She’s got many fans and gets lots of letters from them, but a young man named Douglas Breen (Michael Biehn), a meager record store stockboy, is the most fanatical of the bunch. He writes passionate letters to his idol, which is all well and good, until he starts pushing for her to meet with him. When his attempts are rejected, Douglas’ mental state starts to unravel pretty quickly and it’s clear that he’s not willing to take ‘no’ for an answer.

    Sally is involved with a man named Jake Berman (James Garner). Their relationship is inconsistent, on again/off again. But at least she has someone. Douglas is alone, though he only has himself to blame for that. His sister tries to help him, to get him out of his shell, but no dice. He’d rather have dinner by himself – except in his mind, he isn’t by himself, he’s having dinner with Sally. Douglas isn’t well at all – he’s antisocial and reclusive – and as Ross rejects him, he opts to start killing those close to her.

    Set to a violin-centric score from Pino Donaggio, The Fan, which was based on the novel of the same name by Bob Randell, is an amusing enough film that never quite succeeds in what it wants to do but entertains regardless. The film has gone on to rightly become a bit of a camp classic, thanks primarily to Lauren Bacall’s performance which seems to show legitimate contempt for the material with which she’s been tasked with performing. She’s also the perfect choice for the part, as she’s essentially playing herself here. Given the quality of her work in the musical scenes, you have to wonder if the nervousness her character shows in the film is legit or not – she isn’t good in these moments at all. But still, Bacall is Bacall and she’s got that presence, that voice, that super sultry demeanor that made her work as interesting and compelling as it was, and she brings all of that to the picture while simultaneously turning her nose down at it. It’s a weird performance, and if not a particularly good one, definitely a fascinating one.

    Michael Biehn, in one of his first ‘big’ roles a few years before he’d go on to be immortalized in The Terminator in 1984, makes for a pretty solid psychopath. As he reads his letters, we get inside his head a bit and it isn’t a good place to be. Douglas is very clearly damaged goods and Biehn handles all of this quite well. Supporting work from Garner is fine – he plays himself here, never stretching as an actor, but the guy is charismatic so we don’t mind so much –and we get small parts for Hector Elizondo, Maureen Stapleton and even a cameo from a young Dana Delaney here too (look for her in one of the record store scenes).

    The movie is fairly well shot and the early eighties New York City backdrop off of which the film is staged lends a time capsule quality to the picture that ups its interest a fair bit. Ed Bianchi’s is uneven and the film never quite gets as grisly as a slasher movie should be, what with most of the kills being fairly bloodless and taking place off screen. Still, it’s an entertaining enough film with some decent moments of tension.

    The Fan – Blu-ray Review:

    The Fan arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen on a 50GB disc. The picture quality here is pretty decent, though grain is quite heavy. Detail is good, particularly in close-up shots, though never quite reference quality and as Shout! Factory didn’t advertise this as a new scan, you have to wonder how old the transfer is and if new technology could have helped. Still, colors are reproduced well, though much of the film takes place inside and in less than super colorful locations. Can’t blame the transfer for that, it’s just the way that the movie looks. When brighter colors are employed they look as good as you’d hope. Skin tones are fine and the disc is free of compression issues, noise reduction or edge enhancement problems. The transfer is also quite clean, showing no noticeable print damage at all. This is filmic and natural looking, no complaints.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track, which comes with optional subtitles in English only, is just fine. Dialogue is clean, clear and easy to follow. The score sounds quite nice, it has quite a bit of depth to it, there are no issues here, the movies sounds quite good.

    The extras start out with a new audio commentary featuring filmmaker David DeCoteau and film historian David Del Valle, moderated By Scream Factory marketing director Jeff Nelson – all of whom are ‘uber fans of The Fan.’ There’s talk here about seeing the film opening night where the audience was exclusively gay men, the film’s notoriety and how Paramount took the picture off of Film Way’s hands, how some of Bacall’s own memorabilia is featured in the picture, the film’s serial killer angle, how the film has developed a following within the gay community over the years, the connection to the Lennon assassination and the failed attempt on Reagan’s life around the same time, the nostalgia you get from the record store scenes, Biehn’s casting and how important it was to his career, what Bacall brings to the performance and how much of it was acting and her diva qualities, the history of transvestite and transgender films, the supporting cast’s qualities and lots, lots more. These guys are clearly having a blast with this track and it’s a lot of fun to listen to.

    From there, jump into the twenty-five-minute featurette, Number One Fan, which is an interview with Michael Biehn himself. In this piece he speaks about how he landed the part on this picture, who was originally intended to direct the film, how he did not get along with Bacall very well at all (he is not very complimentary to her in this piece!), Maureen Stapleton’s penchant for booze, what it was like on set, his thoughts on the film overall and more. This is definitely worth your time, Biehn has a sharp memory and isn’t afraid to call it like he sees it. After that, we get Fan Service, a new interview with director Edward Bianchi that runs thirty-eight-minutes in length. He talks about how he came to direct this picture, notes the direct inspiration of Alfred Hitchcock on the film, talks up the problems that were involved with directing Bacall, Paramount’s tasteless marketing tactics by trying to tie in the release of the movie to John Lennon’s assassination, his thoughts on the movie and more. The third and final new interview is Fanning The Flames, which features editor Alan Heim speaking for eighteen-minutes about how he wound up working on this, the tone of the film and how things changed over the course of the project, doing his best to save the work of the tempestuous Bacall, and more.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is a theatrical trailer for the film, a few TV spots, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    The Fan – The Final Word:

    The Fan is, at times, a bit tough to take seriously but that never dampens its entertainment value! This is worth seeing for Bacall’s delightfully bitchy performance alone, but Biehn is pretty good here too, so early in his career. Shout! Factory has done a very fine job bringing this to Blu-ray in a more than respectable presentation and with a nice selection of extra features that document the film’s history and lay bare the facts around its production.

    Click on the images below for full sized The Fan Blu-ray screen caps!