The Fan (1981) Poster

(1981)

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5/10
Good Premise, Bad Execution!
cchires30 August 2009
The Fan begins as if it is going to be a study of an obsessed fan in contrast to the human fallibility of a celebrity, but it ends up being a routine thriller. The film gives the fan in question some background information to display his isolation and the value he gives the Lauren Becall character. Lauren Becall is also shown as having difficulty with middle age and divorce. The two character's stories are given equal time as the movie develops, but once the fan starts acting out violently, the standard thriller clichés kick in.

I get frustrated in movies where the conflict can be resolved if the characters would just act sensibly, but to string the movie along they have to be stupid. The epitome of that in this movie is in the fact that Lauren Becall's secretary - who knows that the fan is disturbed by the content of his letters - never thinks to write down the man's name in the event his obsession becomes a criminal matter.

There are some good things in the movie. Maureen Stapleton, in particular, gives an interesting performance and there is some interesting camera work in the theater rehearsals. In addition, Lauren Becall displays the qualities that have made her a Hollywood icon (even though based upon what is seen, it is doubtful that anyone would want to see this musical she is in). But the movie is brought down by a script that abandoned the character study aspects in favor of focusing on the cheap thriller qualities.
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9/10
Wonderful Thriller
johnm_0012 February 2006
I'm surprised that so many people think this film is so bad. Everyone in it is first-rate in the acting department, and the overall story is both fun and fascinating. It completely grabs your attention, from the opening credits, while Michael Biehn (who is excellent in his stalker role) is typing a letter to Lauren Bacall, underscored by Pino Donaggio's effective music. Bacall and Stapleton have tremendous chemistry, and their characters are utterly believable. So too, are the musical numbers which Bacall performs, during the film. Singer or not, Bacall was quite successful in musicals on Broadway, and the songs in the film, are the type she would have performed. Dialog appears unscripted and completely natural, particularly between Bacall and Stapleton. James Garner and Hector Elizondo, are solid in their supporting roles. This film is a favorite of mine. Recommended.
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8/10
Fine Thriller, And Bacall Unfairly Criticized
ccthemovieman-115 September 2007
I thought this film was much better than the critics made it out to be at the time. I found it to be an interesting character study of an obsessed fan, played by Michael Biehn. He was a new actor at the time and a total unknown, which helped in this role. He went to star in "The Terminator" and has had a decent career. The other co-star....well, you might have heard of her: Lauren Bacall.

I read a lot of criticism of Bacall for this role, and think it is totally unjustified. She was just fine, thank you, playing a believable character: a veteran actress being talked by some deranged killer.

With Maureen Stapleton, James Garner, Hector Elizondo, some great cinematography with wonderful close-up shots and a good score, what's not to like? It was a good thriller and deserves better ratings.
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7/10
Overlooked Camp
Maciste_Brother27 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
THE FAN was made and released during the massive glut of slashers in the early 1980s. The critics trashed it because they thought it was repellent and a vehicle that was beneath its main star, Lauren Bacall. Of course, the film flopped because it didn't please anyone: fans of slashers (musical numbers in a slasher?) or fans of respectable Hitchcock-like thrillers, or fans of musicals.

Because of this, THE FAN is one of those movies that has fallen into the crack of cinematic oblivion. Personally speaking, the film itself is not great. There are several major problems with it but I, for one, like it for what it is: it's pure camp! The screenplay was based on a novel many say is better than the film. I haven't read the book yet but the film itself is filled with many memorable moments that stick with you long after you watched it. Most of those scenes are unintentionally hilarious ones, like all of the musical numbers, which are priceless. Seeing Lauren being wooed by a throng of dancing studs in bed is too much for words. But the (infamous) musical numbers are not the only campy thing about it. The acting from everyone is set on melodramatic. Well, except for James Garner, who's as dull as can be. Garner's presence is one of the film's many weaknesses. Every time he's on screen the film slows to a crawl. He literally sucks the life out of the film. The other weakness is Michael Biehn's voice-overs. Though a very good actor, I thought his voice-overs weren't menacing enough. A little too flat.

But the (crazy) idea that a closet-case like Michael Biehn is infatuated by Lauren Bacall is one of the movie's many beautifully illogical aspects which makes this forgotten film much more fun than its reputation. The script is totally illogical. Bacall pines for ex husband Garner but halfway into the movie, Bacall starts a relationship with a cop, played by Hector Elizondo, which oddly enough doesn't go anywhere and by the end of the film she still pines for Garner. The screenplay is very muddled over this plot point.

The Fan (Biehn) is very protective of Sally Ross. He even kills one of Bacall's "dates" (David, during the swimming pool scene) and yet he never ever goes after Garner's character or even the flirtatious cop. Had the film actually dealt with this in a logical fashion, the killer should have went after Garner, and quite frankly, should have killed him. This would have added much needed gravitas to the lightweight TV movie-like feel of the film. The subtext of the illogical story is clearly about repressed homosexuality (a crazed fan of a Broadway star) but the handling of it (intentional or not) is not too subtle and almost veers the film in the homophobic category.

The only people The Fan kills are blue-collar or working class folks, which makes it unique: is this the first working-class slasher? The Fan kills a stagehand known as Pops; not one but TWO maids; David, who's one of the dancers; a gay man he meets at a bar, etc. Working for Sally comes at a price (if you're a maid, just don't work for her!). When the end credits roll, all of the main characters are still alive, including Bacall's personal secretary, Belle, played by Maureen Stapleton. Belle handles Sally's fan mail and because of this, she directly experiences The Fan's wrath, who slices her face with his favorite weapon, a razor. Belle survives the attack (because she's an important character) but her face was cut up severely. Without knowing about it, The Fan basically gave her a spontaneous face-lift of sorts but when the bandages come off, Maureen looks exactly the same as before. She should have asked for a refund. This detail makes me giggle nonstop.

Because The Fan only kills secondary characters and few of the main ones are in any direct threat, there's very little tension or suspense going on, which is not good for a horror/slasher flick. The only real tension occurs at the very end and even then, it's never overwhelming. This moment happens right after a successful opening night of the musical, after we see every cast and character of the film personally congratulate Sally in her dressing room, hugging and kissing her for a job well done. Again, this scene is hilarious and reminds me of musicals of the past. One has to be continuously reminded that this is supposed to be a slasher, not a Fred & Ginger musical.

Even with all its weaknesses, THE FAN is excellent camp. The dialogue is often quotable, there's an ultra flowery & shrieking score by Pino Donaggio (which echoes those he made for Brian De Palma) and Bacall is fun to watch. Like I said before, it's not a great film but if you enjoy trashy melodramatic films, THE FAN won't disappoint.
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8/10
Fan mail of a deadly nature.
AngryChair1 October 2005
Pretty good, character-driven thriller based upon the novel by Bob Randall.

Aging star of film and stage becomes the unhealthy obsession of a young fan, whose love for her will soon turn sinister!

Solidly made tale of deadly obsession is a steady paced but ultimately intense thriller. It all builds to a great climax. The cast is the true highlight of this film though. Lauren Bacall is as great an actress as ever here in a role where she actually does play an actress. James Garner adds his talents has Bacall's ex-husband and Maureen Stapleton as Bacall's assistant. The most enjoyable performance however is that of a young Michael Biehen, who is not only a talented actor but probably the best-looking psycho to ever grace a movie screen. Pino Donaggio lends a bold musical score, while Bacall sings a few musical numbers.

The Fan has more class and depth than an ordinary slasher film, which this film really should not be labeled as. The Fan is actually a well-crafted thriller with a great cast to boot. Genre fans should enjoy it.

*** out of ****
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6/10
Slashing With Style
bkoganbing28 October 2008
Lauren Bacall, playing a star very much like Lauren Bacall, has one hugely obsessed fan out there in Michael Biehn. He'll do just about anything to gratify his obsession to be near here and that includes killing just about everyone else he views as a threat.

Even with the presence of a couple of really huge movie legends like Lauren Bacall and James Garner playing her ex-husband and better friend, the film is about The Fan. Michael Biehn is a truly terrifying human being and all the more so because at first glance he looks so incredibly normal and even hunky. Not someone you think would be obsessing over a middle-aged movie queen.

Bacall is really playing herself her. Her Sally Ross just like Lauren in that decade had transplanted herself from Hollywood to Broadway and was scoring great success. The scenes showing the rehearsal for her Broadway show is something I can easily imagine her doing when she was preparing for her role in Company. Bacall is a most famous tenant of that famous building the Dakota on Central Park West and with the angles of the shot we can't tell if it was in fact the Dakota, but it was on the park as there are shots of Biehn watching it from across the street.

The whole film was done on location in New York and one brief scene in the gay bar where Biehn picks up a victim to kill in order to make the police and Bacall believe he committed suicide was the legendary and notorious Haymarket. Back in the days before the AIDS plague hit, it was a legendary spot world wide for rent boys. It closed in the early Eighties as did many such establishments. I'd be curious to know how they got permission to shoot there. Still folks from the New York gay scene will recognize it.

Maureen Stapleton does a nice job as Bacall's secretary who answers her fan letters and who becomes Biehn's first victim as in his twisted mind she's keeping him from his obsession.

When all's said and done The Fan is a slasher flick, but it's a slasher flick with style.
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5/10
Good acting, great cast, terrible film
preppy-319 December 2001
Warning: Spoilers
A stalker (Michael Biehn) turns violent when a Broadway actress (Lauren Bacall) spurns him.

Based on a very good novel this is basically another slice'n'dice horror film. It's better acted then most--Biehn, Bacall and Maureen Stapleton give in very good performances (especially Biehn) and the film was originally supposed to just concentrate on Biehn's obsession and the killings were supposed to be bloodless. But (according to magazine articles at the time) "Friday the 13th" came out at the time "The Fan" started production and "Friday..." was a HUGE hit. So, they added blood and violence to the film figuring that was what made "Friday..." such a big hit. Bacall was shocked by the violence and refused to promote the film. Biehn (in an interview) said everybody hated each other and he was forced to promote the movie and perform in the gore scenes. Because of that, he didn't work for 2 years. Just another example of what might have been a very good psychological thriller turned into a gore movie.

To be totally truthful, the murders and attacks aren't THAT bad and the good acting helped keep interest, but I totally gave up on the film with a VERY homophobic scene where a gay man is brutally murdered while...um..."pleasuring" Biehn (although in defense of the movie it was much worse in the book).

It all ends up in a horrible sequence in which Bacall goes one-on-one with Biehn. Seeing such a wonderful actress as Bacall being attacked by Biehn is trully appalling. Also they changed the ending of the book (which had a MUCH better ending). And James Garner is shamefully wasted.

All in all, the good acting and a few good sequences ALMOST make this worth watching. ALMOST.
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7/10
A camp slasher with musical numbers
acidburn-1020 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The plot = A renowned Broadway actress Sally Ross (Lauren Bacall) becomes the object of an obsessed fan played brilliantly by Michael Biehn affections when his countless letters goes un-noticed he feels rejected by her, and starts to terrorise the people in her life until the big moment when he finally gets to confront her.

The Fan (1981), not to be confused with the 1996 thriller which starred Wesley Snipes and Robert De Niro, which also had a similar storyline and was absolutely rubbish. This version is much much better. This is a tense psychological thriller which has slight nods to early giallo thrillers. But at times this movie does get a little boring, but it was saved by stand out performances by both Lauren Bacall and Michael Biehn. THE FAN is one confused movie. Obviously aiming for a more adult audience, but in a year that the 'teenie-kill' epic had come to a crescendo the makers couldn't resist throwing in an exploitative angle- but unfortunately not exploitative enough.

Some of the scenes are effective though, like where Biehn slices open a man's stomach while he's in the swimming pool and also Michael Biehn's seemingly unhinged performance, as he furthers descends into madness, which was a real highlight, so glad he went to bigger and better things. And Lauren Bacall playing the spoilt Broadway actress was a real hoot, obviously following the likes of Joan Crawford and Bette Davis into the ageing actresses in horror's genres, but sadly Lauren Bacall got a lot of flack for starring in this, because of the sleazy elements that this film has. Although I did enjoy her musical numbers, even though they were cringe worthy and embarrassing, I found them a real hoot, and the romance angle with James Garner, which showed some real chemistry. And the final confrontation between the two leads was rewarding in my opinion and well executed.

All in all The Fan is a rewarding viewing experience, a little dull at times but saved by Michael Biehn's outstanding obsessive performance.
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9/10
Good book; Good movie- but different
patr354 May 2008
I saw this movie when it first came out, and again when it first hit video. Columnist Liz Smith was in the opening scene as Sally Ross leaves the theater (prodding the star with silly questions) just before Sally is victimized by strong-hand pen theft. I wonder why this part was edited out of the DVD release, and what else might have been cut from the first print. Bacall might have reconsidered her participation in this flick if she had had a crystal ball, considering the stalker aspect of the movie and the fact that she lived in the apartment building where John Lennon also lived and was murdered at the time of filming. However, it is one of her better films, and we also get a taste of her Broadway musical talents. Her songs are Camp, but not in a trashy way. They stick with you; Crapriffic lyrics not withstanding. The book was a favorite of mine when it first hit paperback, and although the story remained the same in many ways, the ending and style are quite different. Read the book and compare.
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6/10
At least its better than the 1996 film of the same name.
TOMASBBloodhound26 May 2010
The opening credit indicates that this is a Robert Stigwood production. So from then on, you have been warned. What is a guy known for The Bee Gees and the Grease movies doing getting involved in a slasher film? Well, it isn't all bad. The casting is very good on all fronts. Lauren Bacall stars as an aging actress trying her hand at Broadway late in her career. Michael Biehn, an upcoming talent who would make his mark mostly in James Cameron action movies, plays Douglas Breen who is an odd young man stalking her. James Garner offers fine support as Bacall's supportive ex husband. Maureen Stapleton is on hand as the put-upon secretary who first tries to warn her boss about this weirdo sending her letters. She is the first victim as Biehn begins to lash out violently after his advances are ignored. Several others also face his wrath before the finale.

The fine cast, good cinematography, and Pino Donaggio score do a decent job of window dressing this routine plot. They are just enough to make this watchable. The script cannot support the premise as the plot moves along, however. First of all, once the secretary is brutally slashed in a subway attack, Biehn stops using his last name and address on the letters he writes Bacall. And conveniently all his others with that in formation have been thrown out. Sure. There is a particularly brutal attack on Bacall's young new boyfriend in a YMCA swimming pool where he is basically gutted by Biehn in plain sight of several witnesses. No way he would have gotten out of there without being caught. No way. Several other scenes ring false as Biehn clearly stands out in the crowd while stalking Bacall. And just how exactly did he get into her secured building to kill the maid and trash the place??? Never explained. They didn't even try.

But still, it keeps you watching. The performances are better than the material deserves. Bacall plays her character honestly, and you can see the talent she still has in many phases. She was aging here, but gracefully and honestly. It didn't look like she'd had much surgery back then, and Botox may have not even been invented. If nothing else is on, you will probably find yourself watching this all the way through. 6 of 10 stars.

The Hound.
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5/10
One for the fans.
mylimbo27 April 2010
Hollywood legends in their twilight-years are what lifts this rather sub-standard, but callous thriller out the ho-hum mould. Refined performances by Lauren Bacall (which could be seen as a star vehicle for her), James Garner and Maureen Stapleton go along way and the chemistry they share is a pleasure to behold. That's not taking away from the rest of the cast, because everyone does an outstanding job… more so than the actual gaudy material deserves. A perfectly pitched Michael Biehn convincingly portrays a young lad who's a persistent admirer of an illustrious movie actress Sally Ross (Bacall). He constantly writes to her with each letter getting even more personal and disturbing, in which her long-serving secretary (Stapleton) at first hides from her. Soon enough it's gotten to the point that this fan would do anything to make his fantasy come true. Also showing up is commendable support by Hector Elizondo and Anna Maria Horsford. Watch out for the recognizable faces of Griffin Dunne and Dana Delany in minor parts. The problem mainly lies in its attempts for suspense and drama building, as it's too predictable and dry to be exhaustively effective. The shocks are nasty, but again lacking creditability and the lasting punch due to what characters are attacked or put under threat. The plot progression isn't as riveting. However Biehn's transformation from simple idol obsession to a possessively troubled mind is unnervingly intimate, especially when the narration has him reading out his letters before posting it. Ed Bianchi's black and white direction is technically sound, if mundanely slow-grinding which is bumped up by Pino Donaggio's vividly spiralling instrumental music score and grounded location work. Accessible, but unmemorable thriller.
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3/10
They ruined the book
jjnxn-115 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
When the book this was based on was published in 1977 it was a compulsively readable page turner told in the form of letters and notes drawing you in to a slowly escalating situation. At that time before the John Lennon and Rebecca Schaeffer stalking tragedies made the scenario all too real it was a good suspenseful read. Of course now it would be tinged with the memories of those and other similar events that at the time seemed unimaginable but it's still a solid book. So it's a real pity what they did to it while translating it from page to screen. They hired a top flight cast and then squandered their gifts on a flatfooted, directionless and needlessly violent pseudo slasher flick. Betty Bacall, Michael Biehn and Maureen Stapleton all try to make something out of this but their efforts are in vain. A wasted opportunity.
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3/10
Bacall is dreadful, but the Halston clothes are gorgeous
style-231 January 2005
When I first saw *The Fan* in 1981, I thought it was a stylish, gripping thriller. Upon viewing it almost 25 years later, I remain correct – in 1981 it *was* a stylish, gripping thriller, but not any more. It contains several of those "Who would pay money to see that?" performances-within-performances that we have written about before. This time, the perpetrator is Lauren Bacall, playing a Broadway actress (naturally) who talks/sings her way through a few self-important numbers about what it's like to be a famous star. The numbers are simply awful and for people who already have a bad attitude about Broadway, this is the kind of routine that gives them plenty of ammunition for hating it. The best things about Bacall's performance are her Halston clothes. Riding high from his days as the conquering hero of the Seventies, Halston was going through major personal and business problems at this time, but the clothes produced at that time are nothing short of magnificent American classics. In addition to the traditional Halston looks of cashmere twinsets paired with straight-legged slacks with gorgeous trenchcoats draped over the shoulders, Bacall wears a few of Halston's most spectacular creations. Though much of the most interesting details are lost on the screen, Bacall wears Halston's "spiral-cut" caftans created from a single piece of fabric with a single seam that winds around the body. The way they drape and mold to the body is a testament to Halston's incredible creative abilities. The clothes, as beautiful relics of that era, are the best thing about this movie.
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4/10
More of a camp classic now but back in the day, oh what fury it caused...
mark.waltz13 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Lauren Bacall was rocking Broadway in 1981 as "Woman of the Year" when this last ditched effort of the "hags in horror" series, referring to the abundance of aging actresses who kept their career going in fright fests, usually in fright wigs or carrying some sort of cutting device. Bacall still looked gloriously gorgeous at this point (as she would through the remainder of her long life), so it is unfortunate that while still popular, she would be tied in with something that at the time was as reviled in the gay community as "Cruising" and "Windows".

You can't tick off a show queen and expect to get away with it. That is the point of this whole movie. Bacall is a legendary star who is unfortunately the idol of the obsessed Michael Biehn, a handsome young man who has built a shrine to the diva he worships. He writes letters to her and she always politely responds. But something for her isn't right after the letters keep coming, and she politely ends the continuing correspondence. Biehn blames this on her secretary (the always wonderful Maureen Stapleton) and takes it out on her in a bloody sequence that is very graphic. This makes him the target of an investigation, and that means Biehn must go into hiding which results in one of the most horrific murder sequences where unfortunately an innocent gay man is the victim. Bacall's lover (James Garner) is determined to protect her, but obsessively crazy knows no reality, and as we know from history over the years, innocent stars can't stop them no matter how much security they have.

Still offensive today, it doesn't resonate the deep hatred that gay audiences had for this back in the 1980's. It is actually extremely camp, with its Marvin Hamlish musical numbers so rapidly written and so hastily staged that they resemble something from a notorious 80's flop more than something that became a major hit. Of course, tastes have changed since Bacall was "one of the girls whose one of the boys", and that is why so very few of these late 70's/early 80's musicals (the major hits not included) are never revived. Had the film been done a bit more sensitively and not bitten at the gay community, it might have had less animosity towards it. But in reflection, if you simply look at it as a product of its time and dismiss the "psychotic show queen" as simply an error of its time, you may have a good time, either fighting off the chills of the slasher sequences or the giggles over the campy musical numbers.
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3/10
Not Great--MILD SPOILERS
bean-d11 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I remember seeing the advertisement for "The Fan" (1981) as a child and feeling shocked by the idea that someone could like a star so much that he'd kill her. I also remember the critics panning the film, wondering why Lauren Bacall would involve herself in such a tawdry mess.

While the film is awful, it does make me wonder what the producers were thinking. I mean, we know from the first frame of the film who the fan is and that his fixation on Bacall will soon turn deadly. Without the element of mystery, the film is rather like waiting for a bus. Imagine if "Psycho" began by showing us that Norman often dressed and talked like his mother, and that he killed any woman who aroused him. Without the element of mystery, "Psycho" would have fallen into the abyss of forgettable films. Still, all things considered, "The Fan" is well acted and the production values are good.
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2/10
"I Want It Allllllll......."
mercuryix-123 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers (not that it matters): This is the most ludicrously melodramatic line in the movie sung (actually spoken) by Lauren Bacall, an aging actress staging a comeback in a musical in this "suspense thriller". There is nothing suspenseful or thrilling in this movie, and the alleged musical the actress is starring again, seems to have been improvised on the spot instead of being fleshed out even minimally; which only serves to undermine an already unbelievable plot.

The villain of the piece is a disturbed young man who has developed an obsession of this actresses old films. He is never explained, and we learn nothing about him, other than he has chosen complete isolation as he pursues his obsession. His sister comes to his apartment to try to talk to him before he shuts her out too. He remains at this level of anonymity for the rest of the film. If this was intended to add to the mystery or interest of the character, it doesn't succeed. We care nothing about this character, other than he appears to be a sad, lonely young man with little social skills. It's hard to believe however that a guy this good-looking with this good a voice, would be this lonely and isolated. If he were truly mentally ill, he would have been evaluated by now.

The movie is mean-spirited and sadistic, only Maureen Stapleton seems to actually be alive and fleshed out in the movie, and James Garner seems to be there only as a prop as the boyfriend.

I actually came across a copy of the book this movie was based on, in the value bin of a bookstore many years ago. I leafed through it, to see how a movie this bad could be based on a successful novel. The book is written as a series of "letters", which used to be a popular style in the late 1800s. In the book, the heroine is aloof, her secretary is abrasive (she actually responds to the fan's first letters by saying "Are you for real? Why don't you go bother another actress?" Something a real assistant to a celebrity would never do: antagonize an unknown loony.) The boyfriend is presented as an aloof lug. The villain is presented as an emotionally-numbed narcissistic verbose bore. The author is deliberately laconic about the heroine's demise at the end. In short, the book is deliberately written as emotionally distanced. Why the author thought this would be effective in a thriller, I have no idea. Why the book was a success is a true mystery.

Unfortunately, the emotionally flat part of the book got translated into the screenplay. The older actress is never developed, the lonely and pathetic villain is never explored, and nothing actually "develops" in this movie. There is no arc of any kind. The actor playing villain pumps as much life as he can into a dead script and dead lines that do nothing to help him; to the point where you actually start feeling sorry for the actor, not scared of the character! This movie deserves to be forgotten about and obscured in film history. This may sound harsh, but it contributes nothing to the viewer, will waste two hours of your time, and will leave you wondering why it was ever made based on its screenplay.

Lauren Bacall deserved much better than this, and why she didn't demand better is the biggest mystery about this movie. I'm sure it's not one of the films she enjoys talking about.

I'm glad the "villain" of the piece, went on to bigger and better things.

Bacall sings "I want it all!" at a point in this film; that's especially ironic, considering there's nothing here.

Two stars.
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5/10
Good cast wasted on tepid thriller...
Neil Doyle25 December 2006
THE FAN is based on a book of the same name and had the producers left the story intact without changing so many things (including the ending), they might have had a more profitable thriller on their hands.

Horror fans in 1981 were expecting much more gore from their slasher flicks than THE FAN was willing to exploit, being that the story is about an obsessed fan with only one thing on his mind when he is rejected. His vengeance is a blood-thirsty one, but the script is too slow and talky for its own good, pretending to have psychological overtones when it really just wants to get the nasty business over with.

LAUREN BACALL plays a variation of herself as an aging drama queen, a Broadway actress with modest musical talent, who is burdened with a stream of fan letters from an unbalanced admirer. MAUREEN STAPLETON is the secretary who has to bear the brunt of Bacall's rudeness and JAMES GARNER is her amiable ex-husband who has little to do when most of the film's focus is on the fan, played by MICHAEL BIEHN.

Summing up: Best described by Leonard Maltin as "an exploitation cheapie in dress clothes", it's not as good as the cast would suggest.
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"Whatever Happened to 'Baby' Bacall?"
Poseidon-326 November 2001
Bacall got into the "Formerly A-List Movie Queen Fright Fest" genre a bit after its peak in this odd blend of glitzy suspensor and violent slasher flick (and even spawned a mini-trend of it's own, the "High-powered female being brought down by a maniac" flick.) The film could hardly be described as "good", but it's still entertaining in a tacky, campy way and does include some unsettling moments. Bacall is Broadway fixture Sally Ross, attempting her very first musical (just as Bacall had done with "Woman of the Year" and "Applause!") Biehn is an overly fixated fan who types her a stream of increasingly obsessive fan letters. When Bacall's secretary (Stapleton) doesn't handle his letters in the manner that he wishes, all hell starts to break loose. Biehn begins to eliminate the people surrounding Bacall until they have to face each other one on one. Meanwhile, detective Elizondo tries to get to the bottom of the killings while attempting to safeguard Bacall. Bacall's performance varies greatly. She perfectly captures the sardonic wit and sarcastic, self-effacing qualities of the character in the original novel. At the same time, she often looks bored when her character should be upset. Biehn has some decent moments (notably when he tells off his sister and when he prepares to confront his boss) but the directorial choice to so often feature his long, blank stares diffuses his intensity and threatening qualities. His blase line delivery and calm performance aren't necessarily inaccurate, though they can be less effective than broader approaches from a cinematic stance. In fact, it's possible that most killers are more like this than the flamboyant movie murderers audiences have come to expect. Stapleton completely steals the film as the snarky, non-nonsense secretary. Her performance is so on the money and so true to the book's characterization that it almost seems written for her. She and Bacall have great chemistry together and display a believable relationship (more believable than Bacall and Garner, who plays her ex-husband.) Garner is easy to watch, but is left to flounder with a role that has limited importance to the story, which is basically a face off between Bacall and Biehn. Adapting this novel had to have been quite difficult as the book is simply a collection of letters from one character to another. There is no narrative. In adapting it, the writers have diluted the relationships somewhat and pumped up the violence (In the book one person is injured and two die....in the movie two people are injured and at least four people die.) This unnecessarily exploitive approach (especially at the end) is what puts it into the slasher/horror genre rather than the suspense genre (though the film was even softened a bit in light of the then recent killing of John Lennon by a crazed fan.) The worst (and most hilarious) aspect of the film is the depiction of(and assault on the audience from) the musical numbers. If someone wants to believe that Bacall can sing that's their business, but no one can say that the numbers in this movie are any good. Viewers will be screaming for her to stop after one more round of, "No energy crisis...My professional advice is...." as she saunters across the floor with the grace of a yak during mating season. Then there's the infamous "Hearts, Not Diamonds" showstopper in which her voice cracks like the San Andreas Fault. Could a show this heinous really have been produced on Broadway?? If so, no wonder audiences stick to "Phantom" and "Les Mis" for years at a stretch! However, she is rightly punished on opening night when Biehn takes a riding crop to her! Check out this gem which paved the way for Morgan Fairchild's "The Seduction" and Lee Grant's "Visiting Hours."
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3/10
Lauren Bacall steps into the genre two decades too late.
Aussie Stud7 August 2001
Lauren Bacall stars as an aging Broadway star, the prime target for an obsessed fan who stalks and terrorizes her while maiming and killing her friends in the process.

This would have made for a good film, had it been made 20 years EARLIER during the 60's thriller/horror movement starring Oscar-winning actresses like Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Olivia De Havilland. Unfortunately, this film appears very outdated and even the killer himself isn't terrifying enough.

Lauren Bacall puts in a semi-decent performance as an actress-turned-Broadway star who becomes the fatal obsession of a young record salesman. At first, he starts sending her love letters disguised as 'fan mail'. Maureen Stapleton plays Lauren Bacall's personal assistant. When she starts receiving these 'obsessive' letters, she decides not to reply and instead keeps them from Bacall's knowledge. When the 'fan' discovers Bacall isn't receiving his letters, he takes swift action which involves chasing Maureen down into a subway station and slicing her cheek with a knife!

The most bizarre thing is, instead of killing her, he leaves her hospitalized with only a few minor cuts. Bacall discovers that this man is more than just a 'fan'. Her part-time boyfriend (played by James Garner) decides to hang around to offer protection. Meanwhile, the fan goes bonkers and starts killing civilians, including picking up a male at a gay club and before performing oral sex on him, splashing gasoline on him and setting him ablaze. When Bacall reads this in the news, she assumes it means the death of her crazed fan.

Unfortunately, the film gets worse from hereon in. Bacall is rehearsing for her new Broadway show - and her main song is called "Diamonds". It is quite apparent that Bacall was never one to cut a record, but her performance in this part of the film whilst singing this song is quite hilarious. Her famous gravelly, husky voice coughs out a tune, worse than Lucille Ball in her 1974 production of "MAME". And if you didn't think the song itself was bad enough, check out the jazz-ballet dancer wannabes in leotards and spandex! It's like a cliché 1980's New York dance studio with mirrors, bars and a boom box. All that's missing are the "CATS" auditions!

When the situation reaches its climax, we find Bacall fending off her 'fan' in a deserted theater auditorium. Unfortunately, there is barely enough terror that has been built up to satisfy the viewer at this point. Surely, most viewers will still be chuckling from her musical "comeback", hardly anyone will be sitting there biting their nails as to whether or not Bacall escapes her tormentor. We see Bacall scrambling over chairs while getting whacked with a riding crop, but surprisingly, I really didn't care.

I was quite disappointed by this film. Bacall is an extraordinary actress who was out-staged here by Maureen Stapleton who only had a small role. Case in point, check out the camp classic scene where Lauren Bacall barks at Maureen after she discovers she threw her fan mail in the trash! (LOL) It is apparent that Bacall is clearly not suited for this kind of genre, whether you want to label it under thriller, horror (or comedy). It comes off as neither plausible or camp classic as a whole and you will find yourself forgetting most of the film an hour later.

Watch it only for Bacall's performance of the musical number "Hearts, Not Diamonds" - it's one of the most unintentionally hilarious scenes in film history I have ever witnessed!

3/10
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Sincerely Yours, Stan
utgard1418 July 2014
Psychotic loser (Michael Biehn) is obsessed with aging stage actress (Lauren Bacall). His obsession turns deadly when he feels rejected by her. Admittedly this isn't a great movie and most of its value comes from unintended comedy. But that's something at least. This was Lauren Bacall's last starring role in a major film. She looks good for her age. She is often cited as one of the movie's flaws, with her critics saying her acting style is outdated and not in sync with her co-stars. While I can see where they're getting that, I think it's an overstated criticism. She's not Norma Desmond, for crying out loud.

The movie is essentially just a minor slasher flick with pretensions of being a more respectable thriller. Michael Biehn's stalker character is less scary than comedic. One can't help but laugh at some of the cringeworthy lines Biehn is given in this film ("We will be lovers very soon, my darling. And believe me, I have all the necessary equipment to make you very very happy."). And those musical numbers! Oh brother what were they thinking? It's pretty ridiculous trash but enjoyable on some level. Notable for perhaps being the only movie in which Lauren Bacall makes a booty call (to James Garner, no less).
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* *1/2 out of 4
Bleeding-Skull13 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Douglas is a lonesome record salesman and a true fan of the actress Sally Ross. Every day he writes her gleaming letters of love. But the only response he gets are formal letters. However when his letters are rejected, the fan strikes out at the actresses friends, then at her.

This is an underrated film, that does need respect sometimes from the audience. Gains suspense, but never seems to scare the audience.The dance numbers this time around are better pulled off and they are not as excessive. While not the greatest entry in the Slasher genre, this movie is Good underrated suspenseful Thriller. You have to see the ending to believe in this movie.

Rated R for Graphic Violence and Profanity.
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5/10
Slasher:The Musical
brefane2 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Released by Paramount, this late entry in Grand Dame Guingol was Lauren Bacall's last lead role in a feature film. Her character's name is Sally Ross, but she's basically playing herself;she smokes, she drinks, she croaks. Bacall does a good job of playing herself and Michael Beihn is effectively cast as the fan. The Fan is an efficiently directed slasher film sprinkled with nastiness and musical numbers featuring music and lyrics by Marvin Hamlisch and Tim Rice. Based on Bob Randal's novel, which was written in the form of letters, the film uses extensive voice over to good effect. Something of an oddity, The Fan mixes camp, songs, and horror. The slasher scenes seem inspired by DePalma and Dario Argentio. The worst aspect of the film is a dull James Garner as Bacall's ex; his character has no bearing on the plot, and no business being in this film. The film makes for an so-so thriller in which an individual in peril makes not all the wrong decisions and the concluding scenes are noticeably contrived. The film is distinguished by it's celebrity stalker theme, and gets a boost from Maureen Stapleton as Bacall's quick-witted assistant, NYC locations, a genre-appropriate score, and good photography.

Several comments made regarding the film's perceived homophobia seem to miss the point of the scene in the gay bar; Douglas clearly planned to fake his suicide, and needed his victim's corpse for that purpose. Douglas is portrayed as delusional, so his sexuality, whatever it may be, would seem to be repressed. Whether Douglas is gay or not isn't the issue here. The Paramount DVD release omits the line heard in the theatrical release, "How'd you like to get f#*ked by a meat cleaver b*tch!?" It was heard in Douglas' voice-over when the maid's body is discovered. See The Fan for what it is:competent, glossy trash, and you'll wind up enjoying it.
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8/10
a great thriller
reeves200223 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I remember watching this movie when i was a kid every time it came on late night TV.I wanted to finally own a copy since finding it on DVD.It was just as good now as it was then.This movie was so well acted by everyone.I really liked the scene where Douglas was pretending to be having dinner with a famous actress while his sister was at his door grilling him saying the family was worried about him for not keeping in touch with them other then when he wants to borrow money.The conversation between them was so fun to watch. Not that this classic needs to be remade,but I would love to see a modern re-telling of this movie.It would make a great suspenseful thriller since it has such a good plot.The obsessive fan is a timeless story which could so easily be told today. I gave this movie an 8 out of 10.The only thing i didn't like was the ending because Lauren Bacall's character didn't seem surprised or scared of Douglas when he attacked her in the final scene.Up until then she did a good job being terrorized by this stalker who killed a lot of people to get to her.
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9/10
A Good Thriller
richard_espinor13 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I think to see the actress Lauren Bacall in a sense playing herself as a well known actress in this 1981 thriller was exciting to watch. Ms. Bacall was 57 years old then. I was not comfortable watching actor Michael Biehn portray a psychotic killer. I rented the video in the year 2006 and I was unaware actor Michael Biehn had made this movie "The Fan." I had seen "The Terminator" on video in 1987 and I was use to thinking of actor Michael Biehn as a hero and not a villain. I saw the movie "Aliens" on video in 1992 and, again, I was use to thinking of actor Michael Biehn portraying a hero character. I think actor Michael Biehn did a good job portraying a psychotic killer. Maybe it helped actor Michael Biehn "acting range." It must be a difficult experience for a popular man or woman in the "public eye" to have an ordinary life. The public knows who you are because of the attention he or she receives in the media; therefore, an obsessed fan may "cross the line." I think the music score and the performances by the character actors and actresses were good.
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4/10
He's a killer queeEEEN!
iago-617 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I remember this movie being out when it was originally released, I remember thinking it looked pretty cool, and I remember what terrible reviews it got. Then I read the hilarious review which said that the dangerous killer is akin to Waylon Flowers, and what can I say, obviously after that I had to see it, and see it NOW. Then add the boozy, washed-up, chain-smoking actress aspects and the backstage Broadway milieu, and you've got a WINNER. Or at least you'd think you would, if the movie didn't just get so darned boring.

The movie begins with an excellent opening credits sequence which tracks in extreme close-up around the fan's desk as we hear another wonderful Bernard Herrmann-esquire score from Pino Donaggio, underlaying a typical letter from the fan in question, Douglas Breen. Douglas is a show queen who works in a record store and idolizes Sally Ross, a former screen actress, now on Broadway. He's blond and pent-up, but not as pent-up as it he would have been if the script were well-written, or if this was a decent performance.

Lauren Bacall plays Lauren Bacall, only she's called Sally Ross, which leads to snickers every time she's called "Miss Ross," because, well, we all know who MISS ROSS is. Poor Lauren has fallen prey to the ravages of time, and her face seems to hang about three inches below her skull. Nevertheless, it was nice to see an older woman who hadn't been facelifted to death. Anyway, she drinks like a fish, smokes like a fiend, and is every bit the haughty, imperious, not-qualified-to-be-anything-but-haughty-and-imperious actress you'd hope she would be. Her secretary, played by Maureen Stapleton, is the one who actually receives and answers the mail, and so Mr. Breen's letters all end up with her at first. The letters start in a fairly off-the-wall way, so there's not far for them to go, and it's not long before Douglas is imagining a tepid affair between Sally and he, insinuating that Maureen is a lesbian, and Maureen is telling him to cut it out, which leads to a massive bitch-off between Lauren and Maureen that may be the highlight of the entire film… if you like massive bitch-offs. Afterward, Maureen retreats into her familiar attitude of passive-aggression, and Lauren goes on with the haughty and imperious routine.

As a special treat, there are several musical sequences, as Lauren is practicing to star in the most boringly-named musical ever ("Never Say Never"). This brings us into the backstage world of Broadway, which is always fun, though the movie never lets us get through one or two lines of the songs before they cut away (probably because they're saving the full version for the performance at the end, though even then we don't get to see it all). Please don't miss the guy slapping the other guy on the ass.

...spoilers, including reveal of ending, from here on out Blah, blah, blah. I forget who gets killed first. I think Maureen gets attacked, then some nameless assistant gets disemboweled, then Douglas comes and trashes Lauren's apartment—-though you'll note that it's all perfectly back to normal by the next scene. The rich have different housekeepers than you or me. You'll notice how long and dull the stalkings are. The word on the street is that since Friday the 13th came out while this was filming, that the producers went back and added a bunch of "gore," if the equivalent of one 6-ounce tube of fake blood is what you call "gore." Apparently Lauren saw it and was appalled and refused to promote the movie. Anyway, for my money, not much blood, which by this time could have livened things up.

Also better-sounding than it actually is would be the much-vaunted trip to the GAY BAR (the "Haymarket") in which almost no one seems to be speaking to each other--I mean, even less than in real bars. Douglas picks up a young man without a word, and they go up to the roof, where the man takes care of Doug until Doug slits his throat and sets him on fire. Sounds exciting? It isn't.

So Lauren's big musical opens and we get to see a few almost-full numbers which are always a delight, especially these tacky 80s ones. I was curious that Douglas only shows up for the last song, which, if he's such a big fan… and no one knows what he looks like… but whatever. So the theater backstage EMPTIES out in a flash (as IF they're going to leave the big star of a Broadway musical alone in a theater but for two people), and Douglas breaks in and kills the other two (in one of those one-knife-jab-to-the-gut-and-they're-DEAD movie killings), then comes after Lauren. She chooses to arm herself with a RIDING CROP (akin to the scene in Scary Movie where Carmen Electra eyes a table of butcher knives and chooses the banana), and eventually the killer falls.

Now, please note that Lauren stabbed the guy at the very front of the seats, but when we see him later, he is propped up for "chilling" effect in seats a little further back, as though he's watching a show (so eerie). Which would mean that Lauren would have had to drag his dead body back to that seat and arrange him just so. But you know drama queens.

--- Check out other reviews on my website of bad and cheesy movies, Cinema de Merde, cinemademerde.com
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