Fan, The (1981): Ed Bianchi’s Trashy Thriller, Starring Lauren Bacall, Michael Biehn, James Garner, Maureen Stapleton

Edward Bianchi directed The Fan, a trashy utterly predictable thriller, starring Lauren Bacall, and wasting the talents of its secondary players, Michael Biehn, James Garner and Maureen Stapleton.

The Fan

Promotional poster

It was written by Priscilla Chapman and John Hartwell, based on a novel of the same name by Bob Randall.

Our Grade: D+ (* out of *****)

Premise:  The famous stage and film actress Sally Ross is stalked by a violent, deranged fan, who begins killing those around her.

Douglas Breen, a deranged young New York City record salesman, writes a rambling letter to star Sally Ross. Sally’s assistant, Belle Goldman, has been intercepting Douglas’s numerous disturbed letters, responding herself and asking him to stop. Ignored, Douglas becomes determined to meet with Sally and consummate their “love.”

Sally has recently taken a job in a musical stage production, and has reconnected with her ex-husband, Jake Berman, who has arrived from California to shoot a movie. After Belle receives another explicit letter from Douglas, she brings it to Sally’s attention; Sally scolds her for being rude to the fan, and brushes it off, claiming she has dealt with many fans who had “fantasies” about her.

Douglas begins stalking Sally, waiting outside of her apartment building, and following her to her stage rehearsals. He decides to hand-deliver a letter to her while she is rehearsing for the musical, but watches the man at the studio give the letter to Belle, whom he realizes is the assistant who’s been nasty to him.

Though made on a small budget (9 million), The Fan was a huge box-office flop, greeted with risible reviews for the leading lady, already in decline, and the rest of her mates.


Directed by Edward Bianchi
Produced by Robert Stigwood
Screenplay by Priscilla Chapman, John Hartwell, based on The Fan by Bob Randall
Music by Pino Donaggio
Cinematography Dick Bush
Edited by Alan Heim
Distributed by Paramount

Release date: May 15, 1981

Running time: 95 minutes