Fade to Black (1980 film)

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Fade to Black
Fade to black 1980.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byVernon Zimmerman
Produced byGeorge G. Braunstein
Ron Hamady
Irwin Yablans
Joseph Wolf
Written byVernon Zimmerman
StarringDennis Christopher
Tim Thomerson
Gwynne Gilford
Norman Burton
Linda Kerridge
Morgan Paull
Eve Brent
Mickey Rourke
Music byCraig Safan
CinematographyÁlex Phillips Jr.
Edited byJames Mitchell
Barbara Pokras
Distributed byCompass International
American Cinema Releasing
Release date
  • October 14, 1980 (1980-10-14) (US)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States

Fade to Black is a 1980 American psychological horror film written and directed by Vernon Zimmerman, and starring Dennis Christopher, Eve Brent, and Linda Kerridge. It also features Mickey Rourke and Peter Horton in minor roles. The plot follows a shy and lonely cinephile who embarks on a killing spree against his oppressors while impersonating classic horror film characters, all the while stalking his idol: a Marilyn Monroe lookalike.

The film was nominated for multiple Saturn Awards, with Eve Brent winning for Best Supporting Actress. Released in October 1980, Fade to Black was commercially unsuccessful, but later garnered a cult following. It was released on VHS home video in the mid-1980s by Media Home Entertainment. It was first released on DVD on August 24, 1999 by Anchor Bay Entertainment.


Eric Binford is a hollow, chain smoking, socially awkward and unlikeable young man who is also an obsessed film addict whose love of old films extends far beyond his job at a Los Angeles film distributor's warehouse and endless late-night film screenings in his bedroom. For his vast knowledge, he's been bullied by his friends and family. His singular obsession eventually turns into psychosis after he crosses paths with Marilyn O'Connor (Linda Kerridge), an Australian model and a Marilyn Monroe lookalike who becomes the physical embodiment of his cinematic desires.

When unintentionally stood up by Marilyn on their first date, Eric becomes homicidally unbalanced, transforming himself into a gallery of classic film characters—including Dracula, The Mummy, and Hopalong Cassidy—and sets out to destroy his oppressors, starting with his crotchety, wheelchair-using, ex-dancer Aunt Stella (who is actually his mother), pushing her wheelchair down a staircase to her death (reenacting a scene from Kiss of Death) and making it look like an accident. Eric attends her funeral dressed as Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark's role from the aforementioned film).

Eric then dresses up as Count Dracula to attend a midnight screening of Night of the Living Dead at a local cinema, then afterwords targets a hooker who had earlier snubbed him. She trips, falling to her death, and Eric drinks her blood.

A few more nights later, Eric dresses up as the cowboy Hopalong Cassidy, when he shoots and kills a boorish co-worker (Mickey Rourke) who taunted him on a regular basis.

Another few nights later, Eric dresses up as The Mummy, where he drives his mean and vindictive boss, Mr. Berger (Norman Burton), into suffering a fatal heart attack while he is working late night at the distribution warehouse.

Finally, Eric dresses up as gangster Cody Jarrett (from White Heat) and kills a sleazy filmmaker named Gary Bially (Morgan Paull), who stole his idea as his own for an upcoming feature film inspired by Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (to be called "Alabama and the Forty Thieves") at a barber shop in broad daylight which finally gives away his identity. Eric then eventually works his way toward Marilyn, hoping to lure her to his side.

Investigating the murders is a criminal psychologist named Dr. Jerry Moriarty (Tim Thomerson), who tries to find a pattern to the murders and find Eric, to help or stop him, with the assistance of a friendly policewoman. But Moriarty's investigation is hampered by his own mean-spirited and nasty boss Captain Gallagher, who tries to stop Moriarty's investigation because Gallagher wants to take all the credit of finding the killer for himself.

It all leads to Eric luring Marilyn to a photography studio where he drugs her to reenact a scene from The Prince and the Showgirl which is interrupted when Dr. Moriarty arrives, and Eric is forced to run with Marilyn at his side. It leads to the Mann's Chinese Theatre where the insane Eric is shot by the police on the roof of the building while reenacting Cody Jarrett's death scene in White Heat. Eric then falls off the roof to his apparent death.

Main cast[edit]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 45% based on 11 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 4.9/10.[1] Roger Ebert from Chicago Sun Times awarded the film 3/4 stars, calling it "a weird, uneven, generally intriguing thriller".[2] Time Out wrote, "The film aspires to hommage, it's true, but its references are altogether too obvious."[3] Author and film critic Leonard Maltin awarded the film 1.5 out of 4 stars, writing that the film was "[an] interesting idea ruined excessive violence, [and] a poor performance by Christopher."[4]


  1. ^ "Fade to Black (1980) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.com. Flixer. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  2. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Fade to Black Movie Review & Film Summary (1980)". Roger Ebert.com. Roger Ebert. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  3. ^ "Fade to Black, directed by Vernon Zimmerman". Time Out.com. Time Out. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  4. ^ Leonard Maltin (3 September 2013). Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide. Penguin Publishing Group. p. 439. ISBN 978-1-101-60955-2.

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