FADE TO BLACK
Dennis Christopher is not merely a movie-inspired psycho but one that prefers the cinematic illusion to real life. The people he kills are those who disrupt his viewing of films or the illusion that he exists in while watching them. Even his fixated love interest is a Marilyn Monroe lookalike. Zimmerman conducts some wonderful interpolations of imagery:- Dennis Christopher outfitted as Bela Lugosis Dracula sitting in a theatre eating popcorn as he watches Night of the Living Dead (1968); a scene where he approaches a streetwalker while dressed as Dracula and his conversation with her becomes a witty variant on Lugosis children of the night speech from Dracula (1931). Especially appealing is a scene where Linda Kerridges Marilyn Monroe lookalike takes a shower, which immediately becomes a parody of the Psycho (1960) shower scene, whereupon the figure that fulfils the role of Norman Bates sneaking up on her is Dennis Christopher in Dracula costume but his knife is only a pen I only wanted your autograph and its spilt ink becomes the blood flowing down the shower plughole. Footage from other films Mark of the Vampire (1935), The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), the Christopher Lee Dracula/The Horror of Dracula (1958) is used throughout. Sometimes this is done with clever irony such as the use of the down-the-stairs murder from Kiss of Death (1947) or the James Cagney grapefruit scene from The Public Enemy (1931) as ironic counterpart to Dennis Christophers feelings of frustration with his aunt (Eve Brent Ashe). The climactic scene is elaborately set up to recreate James Cagneys famous top of the world Ma scene from White Heat (1949).
Dennis Christopher was briefly touted as a new emerging name around the time in films like Breaking Away (1979) but his preference for withdrawn introverted characters never allowed him to flourish much as a leading man. A far more interesting name among the cast is a 28-year-old Mickey Rourke who plays a bullying jerk of a co-worker at the place where Dennis Christopher works. Tim Thomerson, a couple of years before he started to find fame in various Empire/Charles Band and other low-budget genre films, plays the investigating detective. Australian actress Linda Kerridge who plays the Marilyn Monroe lookalike was seen at the time as being a star about to be launched on the Hollywood stage but never went onto to do anything else beyond half-a-dozen B movies.
Fade to Black was produced by Irwin Yablans, the man who also produced Halloween and Tourist Trap (1979), posters of which are seen in the background of the advertising firm where Dennis Christopher works. Vernon Zimmerman had made a handful of other undistinguished films such as The Unholy Rollers (1972) and Deadhead Miles (1973). He was probably most famous for writing the drive-in classic Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw (1976). His other genre entries are the scripts for Hex (1973) and Teen Witch (1989).
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