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Bob Crane (Greg Kinnear) is catapulted to fame when he lands the title role in the tv comedy series, Hogan’s Heroes in 1965. For the next six years, while his fame rises, so does his libido, although he hardly touches his wife. When he meets video technician John Carpenter (Willem Dafoe), Crane’s sexual appetite is encouraged and expanded by the possibilities of the new technology, propelling himself through a turbulent and unusual relationship with Carpenter, towards a tragic death in a cheap motel room, his career never pulling out of its nosedive.

Review by Louise Keller:
The story of an obsessive man, Auto Focus explores the rise and fall of actor Bob Crane, whose bent for sexual exploits contradicted his image as a devoted family man. Remembered for his starring role in the groundbreaking television sitcom Hogan’s Heroes in the 60s ad 70s, Paul Schrader’s film offers no judgement, but concentrates on Crane’s friendship with the perverse video sexpert John Carpenter who offers Crane the opportunity to make use of his libido via his celebrity. Crane’s addiction to fame offers the indulgence of a ‘secret’ life.

From conservative and respectable family man to sexual predator and voyeur, Crane’s duality and subsequent fall from grace is a tragic, yet fascinating tale. We first meet the man at work on radio: he is quick-witted, charming and confident. The irony of his unmasking his radio guest Clayton Moore (The Lone Ranger), is not lost on us. This is a film that strips away the mask and every façade, leaving us with a vulnerable, flawed human being, struggling to come to terms with himself and his life. With the advent of his successful television show, Crane goes from a ‘one-girl guy’ to an obsessed womaniser, having been introduced by Carpenter to a night-life beyond his wildest dreams. His obsession with photography is further gratified by Carpenter’s groundbreaking video-making equipment, allowing Crane repeated proof and reinforcement of his sexual prowess.

Crane and Carpenter make a fascinating team – on the surface, they are totally different, yet their friendship is based on a mutual need. Greg Kinnear is striking as the darkly complex Crane. What a different role this is for Kinnear, whose good looks and genial nature have made him a natural in comedies as a leading man (romantic or otherwise). In fact, to those who are familiar with Bob Crane or indeed Hogan’s Heroes, it may come as somewhat of a surprise of the physical resemblances between Kinnear and Crane. And Willem Dafoe is splendid as the seedy Carpenter: he is not a likeable character, yet we connect with him, and even sympathise with him. Although there are many images of naked women and fornicating bodies, they are hardly erotic, but seem illustrative and perfunctory, rather than emotional. I especially like the intensity that Schrader creates with haphazard camera work and great use of dischorded sounds, as life around Crane unravels. Because of his violent death, Crane’s narration is somewhat eerie – reminiscent of Sunny’s narration in Reversal of Fortune.

Auto Focus is a tense and gripping film, filled with surprises and overt contradictions of the human condition. It’s also a terrifying look at a man who loses his sense of himself and is caught in his own net of deceit as he self destructs.

Listen to enticing jazzy music as you select from the numerous special features which includes three separate audio commentaries, two featurettes and a handful of deleted scenes.

Set aside an hour to watch The Murder in Scottsdale feature, which is presented in two parts and features interviews and footage taken from various law enforcement agencies and court records. With comments from Robert Graysmith, author of The Murder of Bob Crane, detective from attorney's office and defence attorney for John Carpenter, great attention is paid to factual details, such as when the body was discovered, how Victoria Barry (Crane’s co-star in Beginner’s Luck) had arrived early for her appointment, knocked and then opened the unlocked door. We get a very real sense of the apartment as we are told how thick drapes hid the pornography, making the apartment very dark. The second part of the feature jumps 10 years and includes extraordinary courtroom footage of the John Carpenter trial.

‘I love to tell stories about complex and contradictory people,’ says Paul Schrader in the seven minute Making Of feature in which we meet all the cast as well as Bob Crane's son, who believes that Greg Kinnear 'captured the essence of my father.' The role was tailor-made for Bob Crane, says Schrader and canvasses the themes of sexual addiction and corrosiveness of celebrity. Greg Kinnear talks about the contradictory nature of who Crane appeared to be and Dafoe describes how the film allows us to talk in someone else's shoes.

Among the deleted scenes you may be interested to see the one which shows Victoria Barry’s discovery of the body, and which Schrader tells was originally going to bookend the film. (This was taken out after some test screenings, believing it would take too long for the audience to get over the bloody sight of Crane in the opening sequences.)

Take your pick of commentaries – from the director, producers/writer and the actors Greg Kinnear and Willem Dafoe, whose commentary is compelling indeed. Despite the serious nature of the topic, there are some lighthearted moments such as a very sweet one, when Kinnear laughs and points out 'Look at that Tin Tin hairdo'; Dafoe quips 'when the breeze kicks in, folks...'

Published January 1, 2003

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CAST: Greg Kinnear, Willem Dafoe, Rita Wilson, Maria Bello, Ron Leibman, Bruce Solomon, Michael E. Rodgers, Kurt Fuller, Christopher Neiman, Lyle Kanouse, Donna-Marie Recco, Ed Begley Jr.

DIRECTOR: Paul Schrader

SCRIPT: Michael Gerbosi (book, The Murder of Bob Crane by Robert Graysmith)

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen (1.85:1, 16:9 Enhanced)

SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary by director Paul Shcrader; commentary by Greg Kinnear and Willem Dafoe; commentary by producers Scott Alexander and larry Karaszewski and writer Michael Gerbosi; deleted sscenes with optionsl director commentary; 2-part behind the scenes documentary; behind the scenes featurette on the making of the movie; trailers

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: December 31, 2003

DVD RELEASE: Col Tristar Entertainment

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