Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Episode 23: The Fan (1981)

Dear Miss Ross,

I am your greatest fan because unlike the others, I want nothing from you. The only thing that matters to me is your happiness. I have posters, playbills, and a closet jam packed with photographs covering every stage of your magnificent career. Your presence alone makes every one of your films a true cinema classic. I don't care what time they show on television. I will gladly stay awake until any hour in the morning. I bought a gorgeous new Lucite frame for one of your most famous pictures...the one of you singing while President Truman plays the piano. I despise those desperate, pathetic people who intrude upon your privacy. Your happiness and piece of mind must be protected. I know of all the famous men in your life, but I adore you as no other ever has or ever will. Thank you for the inspiration you have given me. You are the greatest star of all.

Your friend,
Douglas Breen

Could you send me your most recent photograph as soon as possible?"

When asked, I always claim I’ve been a writer since age 8, for it was around that time I recall penning my earliest works of fiction (and by “works of fiction,” I mean hastily scrawled recreations of whatever my favorite horror movie or episode of HBO’s Tales from the Crypt happened to be at the time). I was, however, putting pen to paper purely for the joy it brought some time before that.

Prior to crafting stories, I’d write letters to pen pals, cousins out of state, and yes, celebrities I admired, one of whom happened to star on the sickeningly wholesome lip sync fest known as Kids Incorporated, a music-oriented television series made popular in the mid-‘80s. Please don’t ask which cast member, admitting I’d written was humiliating enough.

And no, it wasn’t Fergie. Or Martika.

In the years that followed, I continued this hobby, ever hopeful that one of these idols would take the time out of their busy schedules to draft a personalized response. On occasion, I’d receive an autographed headshot (pictures of these can be found in the memorabilia section) or an automatic subscription to newsletters and/or free fan clubs. Most of the time, though, I’d receive nothing at all.

I’d wait for the postman’s arrival day after day, hoping he’d come bearing a letter-sized envelope personally addressed to me. Much to my disappointment and dismay, he’d come bearing bills, circulars, and mail-order catalogues more than anything else.

Not every experience was a negative one, however. To the best of my recollection, I received the personalized response I so desired on two seperate occasions. The first was a typed letter from an author of mystery/suspense paperbacks no one’s heard of and, not long after that was a handwritten card from none other than Joe Bob Briggs. The rest couldn’t be bothered. Luckily, my coping skills were a little stronger than Douglas Breen’s.

The Fan, based on the novel by Bob Randall, was a very controversial film for 1981. These days, you can easily find a handful of movies or television shows centered around the same theme. Much like 1960’s Peeping Tom or 1965’s The Collector, The Fan explored subject matters audiences wouldn’t be desensitized by for many years, making it a unique premise for this particular era in cinema.

Though there are definite pacing issues and the musical numbers are downright painful (if Lauren Bacall was ever a decent singer, she sure as hell wasn’t at this point in her career), The Fan is a compelling thriller with moments of nail-biting suspense driven by a stabbing violin score by Pino Dinaggio, mostly known for lending his talents to the films of Brian DePalma. In many jnstances, it tweaks character and plot development originally printed on the pages of Bob Randall’s novel, something I found rather frustrating, but nevertheless, it remains a worthwhile contribution to the genre. 

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