Thursday, November 20, 2003

The Ahts: Okay, everyone is sick of me and my constant pandering to the Right, so I thought I'd change gears a bit. One movie review; one disc review; one book review (well, more of the effects this book has had on me as I have been reading it).

The Film: "Auto Focus" starring Greg Kinnear and Willem Dafoe. Based on the book by Robert Graysmith, it tells of the rather sordid story that the actor Bob Crane's life turned into after his repressive Catholic upbringing was shed for one involving lots of sex, lies and videotape. Kinnear is Crane (who if you don't know somehow, was Captain Hogan of "Hogan's Heroes" fame), and he is played quite sympathetically. Crane, in this account, is almost nothing like his famous dashing, confident character. Rather, Crane was in radio for quite a long time and "Heroes" was his first moving picture starring role. Crane was good-looking and smart, but he really didn't exploit even the modest fame radio gave him. However, "Heroes" was the tipping point for him. To say that it changed him, is quite the understatement.

Dafoe plays another creepy, smiley, underworld-type who may or may not have had a thing for Crane and his ahhh, thing. Dafoe is "Carpy" (John Carpenter) who used to be the L.A. rep for this company called Sony that was trying to introduce this thing called a "VTR" or Video Tape Recorder. It was so prohibitively expensive that only corporations and Hollywood actors (and Elvis, apparently) could afford the things. Grainy, black-and-white, but without the need for reel-to-reel eq, it's considered the coolest thing since the hi-fi.

We see Crane awaken to the "orgy" world, mostly at Carpenter's insistence (who's oily demeanor helps set the stage, plus his hep batchelor pad), and really excel at it during his six-year ride on "Heroes". Let's just say meeting women became a whole lot easier then (with Carpy happily in for the "ride"). Oh, did I mention he drums at a local strip club for kicks? Crane moves from wife no. 1, to no.2 but his addiction to sex grows ever stronger. When "Heroes" ends, Crane is reduced to a traveling dinner theatre troupe which he headlines and does a yeoman's job of it. He finally gets his break with a Disney pic, "Superdad". Well, the fact that most of you never heard of it tells you all you need to know. Then we have the quick spiral downward which ultimately ends with Crane down--on-his-luck, and trapped in a world that has enveloped him, finally leaving him murdered.

The book, but not really the movie so much, tries to pin it on Carpenter, who may have gotten just too jealous over sharing Crane. The movie doesn't investigate that deeply into the "whos" and "whys", but really keeps the "focus" on Crane and how he lived out his dual life.

I really liked the movie for the performances, which were all honest, and not done with any "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" angles. The story is largely based on the author's conjecture, since there weren't that many who came out and talked about Crane. A jury found Carpenter innocent (he wasn't indicted until 1992 or so), and there were certain hundreds of humiliated women and scorned husbands that had motives to take Crane out.

The movie is really quite sad in the end as you see a likeable guy drowned by his perversions. Someone who had obvious talent, couldn't quite connect in the real world once the fans went away. I suppose that's the old Hollywood chestnut.

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