Review by Ryan
Not to be confused with the identically titled 1996 Robert De Niro movie, 1981’s The Fan is an unjustly obscure shocker starring young Michael Biehn as Douglas Breen, a New York psycho obsessed with past-her-prime actress Sally Ross, portrayed by Lauren Bacall. Ross, still recovering from a divorce, hopes to make a triumphant splash in a new Broadway musical, but with Breen slicing up her friends and associates, the star’s primary concern is surviving long enough to make it through the rehearsals. The Fan’s original screenplay, which purports to have been more of a psychological thriller, was altered to capitalize on the recent demand for slasher films, resulting in an entertaining product that nonetheless failed to find a mass audience in its theatrical release. The excellent cast, which includes Maureen Stapleton, James Garner, and Hector Elizondo, was older than typically appealed to the target demographic for slashers, while the characterizations and execution are too mature and tasteful, perhaps, to be successfully exploitative from the perspective of a market that wanted another Michael Myers. Because of its campy musical theater setting, ambiguous treatment of Breen’s sexuality, and function as a “diva” vehicle for Bacall, The Fan developed a cult following among gay men, as the infectiously enthusiastic yet irreverent Blu-ray commentary by David Del Valle and David DeCoteau attests. Anybody who enjoys Taxi Driver (1976), The King of Comedy (1982), or similar stories of crazed infatuation and pathological celebrity-veneration would do well to seek this film out, however. Blu-ray extras include candid and generous interviews with director Edward Bianchi, editor Alan Heim, and Michael Biehn, who recalls Bacall as arrogant and rude. Biehn, after an up-and-coming director saw his performance in The Fan, would later land the role of another scarily intense young man pursuing the woman he adores – albeit with more virtuous intentions this time – when he was cast as Kyle Reese in James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984).