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The Fan (Blu-ray Review)

In the cult horror or cult horror Blu-ray collector circles to be more specific, many have hope that the 1981 Lauren Bacall led slasher(?) The Fan would be called out by some distributor some day. Acquiring it overall was Scream Factory and the most exciting thing about that meant that the doors to the Paramount vault appear to be quite open. As a matter of fact, an even more demanded slasher film, April Fool’s Day will be finally making it to Blu-ray in time for April Fool’s Day next year. The Fan also starred James Garner and is notable as one of the big (Breakout?) films for a young Michael Biehn. Its also pretty damn crazy. Scream Factory has landed Biehn for an interview for this new release, as well as the director and editor of the film. Scream Factory’s own Jeff Nelson sits down for a commentary on it too, making this a pretty special release overall. It arrives on the format November 19th, in time for some Turkey and you can pre-order at any time.

Film

Sally Ross (Bacall) is a renowned Broadway star, glamorous celebrity, and the object of adoration for countless admirers. But among all the loving little people lurks a young man (Biehn) whose devotion teeters on the edge of madness. His impassioned letters to her are initially a source of pleasure, but as he attempts to realize his ultimate fantasy – and is met with rejection – the stakes are raised to terrifying heights … which might bring on the final curtain for Sally.

The Fan is an extreme push and pull between an actually compelling thriller with thoughtful subject matter and a piece of sleazy trash and bad choices that should have never made it to the big screen. Its pretty wild. The best thing of the whole ordeal is that everyone here is selling it to make both sides of the quality coin feel completely genuine. There are few like this, and few that feature top tier big name stars and Hollywood legends. I’d never seen The Fan before and can’t believe Lauren Bacall went along with any of this. Though from the bonus features, things change quite a bit from when she signed on. However, there are some of the “bad” aspects that were probably there the whole way.

Said aspect is this musical production her characters is involved in. We see her character rehearsing throughout the movie and getting ready, and its pretty lousy, but I was chalking that up to someone who holds back in rehearsal and doesn’t give it until the night of. Sort of like that old Allen Iverson adage about “Practice”.  Once you get to the big night of the performance, HOLY SHIT will your eyes open wide at just how bad, not just her non-existent dance moves are, but her beyond terrible singing. I couldn’t believe it and I couldn’t believe they didn’t just have someone who could sing dub her over. But alas, we have schlock movie history here with an all-timer in the wet fart department with one of the most iconic women of the golden years of Hollywood. I’m so sorry Lauren, but also thank you for this.

Michael Biehn is pretty effective in this movie. And while stuff might go a bit batshit with him, he’s 100% the best part of the movie as are the scenes around him. Those tend to be the ones with people who wanted to be in this movie and where its not afraid to be a horror film and embraces what it is. Biehn is an incredibly chilling psychopath and totally gives the film more than there is for the character on paper and his performance shores up some bizarre and weak lines.

The Fan is a movie that I can really tell why it has…fans. There’s the bad movie crowd that could easy go to town with it, but I can also see people genuinely enjoying this film for the most part too. Its a very competently made thriller with a good visual tone, precise editing and nice lighting and camera work. Every performer gives it a professional spin and the viewer no matter, has to be entertained for the most part. Its a pretty solid early 80s horror film with the guise of “prestige” tacked onto it, though its really no different than much of what else was being made at the time.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: The Fan mentions nothing about the transfer for the film, but we can safely assume this is probably a 2K one from at least an interpositive. And the results are really good here. The film is a bit grainy, but that allows for some more natural depth and the details to breath much more. It looks it best in the cover of dark though and handles its natural colors with ease.

Depth: Pretty solid spacing and pushback here in all environments. Movements ares smooth and filmlike in their nature with no distortions abound.

Black Levels: Blacks are pretty deep and closer to the natural end opposed to the lighter gray spectrum. The dark scenes, especially with a lonely Michael Biehn, benefit the best as they are the crispest looking, well defined and just are outright impressive to the eyes. No crushing witnessed during this viewing.

Color Reproduction: Colors are primarily natural until we hit the big show at the end. Though this has a very cool feel to it, it is a bit bolder and strong with good saturation in the colors.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish. Facial features and textures shine best from close up and medium camera distances.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: The Fan has a nice mono track with good balance and a nice vocal-fronted mix. This one relies on dialogue in all different kinds of environments and voice overs and it works pretty damn well. Musical numbers and some of the more intense attack bits do raise the intensity with some good low end bits.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: As mentioned, the dialogue is pretty clean and well restored with plenty of depth and shifts to it.

Extras

Audio Commentary

  • With cult film director David DeCoteau and film historian David Del Valle, moderated by Scream Factory marketing director Jeff Nelson

Number One Fan (HD, 25:52) – An interview with Michael Biehn. And this dude does not hold back with his stories and complete honesty on the film and those involved. Biehn opens by revealing that Waris Hussein (Who directed the first few episodes ever of Doctor Who) was the original director attached to do the film. He recalls how rude Lauren Bacall was to him when they were first introduced, and also drops that Maureen Stapleton had a drinking problem during their shoot.  There are plenty more stories as well in this fantastic interview.

Fan Service (HD, 38:15) – An interview with director Edward Bianchi. He talks leaving Staying Alive to take over this film after Hussein had left the project. He’s honest about things too, but has a kinda way of presenting the problematic behavior of Bacall working on the move. A big Hitchcock guy, he gives the master credit for inspiring his work on this film. And in quite a sickening reveal, he talks how Paramount was trying to cash in on the recent death of John Lennon with their release timing of the film.

Fanning The Flames (HD, 18:13) – An interview with editor Alan Heim. He’s very adamant that there was both a change of the direction of the film’s tone and type and that he wasn’t happy with it. Heim came on early, following up All That Jazz with this film. He, too, isn’t too fond of working with Lauren Bacall on this film, but also a professional, tried to salvage and help her where he was able to with the singing and dancing numbers in the film.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:04)

TV Spots (HD, 1:300)

Still Gallery (HD, 4:19) 

Summary

The Fan is one wild ride struggling a balance of being embarrassingly bad and surprisingly terrific. Scream Factory brings this long awaited (In cult circles) title to the format for the first time with a good looking and sounding presentation. The extras are really where its at as the three people involved (That includes star Michael Biehn) are all pretty brutally honest and don’t hold back their thoughts and feelings about anything. A nice pickup for the fans of The Fan and maybe some of the curious blind buyers.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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