Resources like IMBD and social media certainly make it easier to be a walking encyclopedia of movie trivia, but back in 1980, it was a rarer and harder talent to acquire.
Released the same years as The Shining and Friday the 13th, Fade to Black sadly never gained the mainstream recognition as they did, but it’s no less a classic than they are.
It’s a creative slasher that delves deeply into fandom to the point of obsession, something that seems even more relevant now than it did 40 years ago.
So in honor of its 40th anniversary today, we thought it would be fitting to look at 40 fun facts about Fade to Black!
1. Fade to Black often gets confused with three other movies of the same title, from 1993, 2004, and 2006. The most famous of which is the 2004 documentary about rapper Jay-Z.
2. The film’s title is a screenwriting term. At the end of the script, it’s typical for the last lines to be “fade to black”, indicating that the film is over.
3. Writer/Director Vernon Zimmerman hadn’t directed a film in 8 years (the last being 1972’s The Unholy Rollers and Deadhead Miles), and wouldn’t direct again until the 1995 short film Chuck and Wally on the Road, 15 years later.
4. Zimmerman keeps busy teaching screenwriting classes at UCLA and USC.
5. Originally Blondie was approached to do the soundtrack, but the deal fell through and Chris Stein was hired instead.
6. When Zimmerman was first pitching the idea, he discovered that executive producer Irwin Yablans had a very similar concept for a script. The two of them combined their ideas, which led to Fade to Black.
7. Yablans also served as executive producer on such classics as Tourist Trap, and the first three Halloween movies.
8. Posters for both movies are even visible in Mr. Berger’s (Eric’s boss) office in the film.
9. Star Dennis Christopher really wanted to do his own stunts during the rooftop scene, but the producers wouldn’t let him for insurance purposes, so they hired a stuntman.
10. Dennis Christopher would go on to star as the adult version of Eddie in the 1990 It
11. Upon his casting, Christopher was fresh off of a Golden Globe nomination for his critically acclaimed performance in 1979’s Breaking Away.
12. Some have speculated that the main character Eric is on the autism spectrum, and possibly has Asperger’s. Even the film’s Wikipedia article lists under “Films about Autism”. However, the movie itself never directly claims or references this “fact”.
13. The biggest evidence of this that people point to is the shower scene, where Eric startles Marilyn in the shower, and honestly doesn’t seem to realize he crossed a boundary.
14. Primarily shot around the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles, the same area where A Nightmare on Elm Street, Heat, and Donnie Darko were filmed.
15. Primarily shot during the early winter months of 1980, and released that October.
16. The character of Dr. Moriarty got his name from Sherlock Holmes’ archenemy Professor Moriarty.
17. The police captain even sarcastically calls him “Sherlock” when he tries to put together a profile of the killer they’re searching for.
18. This was only Mickey Rourke’s second theatrically released film, the first being Stephen Spielberg’s 1941.
19. The character of Marilyn O’Connor (Eric’s love interest) was not so subtly based on Marilyn Monroe.
20. Australian actress Linda Kerridge actually played a Marilyn Monroe double in three different movies.
21. In Casablanca, Rick’s last name is actually Blaine, as per Eric’s bet with Richie in the movie.
22. Eric mentions wanting to get his aunt buried next to Marilyn Monroe, but is told there was no room. Monroe’s tomb is at the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park, which is now a historic landmark. It’s also the gravesite for many celebrities including Kirk Douglas, Rodney Dangerfield, Ray Bradbury, Hugh Hefner, Florence Henderson, and many more.
23. Like many other horror movies, Fade to Black features footage from Night of the Living Dead. George A. Romero famously forgot to put the copyright symbol on the print, so the movie is public domain, and free for anyone to use footage from.
24. Fade to Black was the first horror film to ever shoot in the Chinese Theater in Hollywood.
25. The next time a horror movie would be shot there was 2009’s Zombieland.
26. Eric dresses as the Bela Lugosi version of Dracula, but in the scene where he kills the sex worker in that outfit, footage of Christopher Lee’s Dracula is shown instead.
27. In total, Eric dresses up as Dracula, Hopalong Cassidy, the Mummy, and gangster Cody Jarrett.
28. A total of 6 people die in the course of the movie, including Eric himself.
29. Film critic Leonard Maltin only gave it 1.5/4 stars, claiming that it was a creative idea but that excessive violence ruined it.
30. Roger Ebert on the other hand, praised the movie. He gave it 3/4 starts, and called it an “intriguing thriller”.
31. Even now, it only holds a 45% Tomatometer rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
32. In a lot of ways, Fade to Black was ahead of its time, with its philosophical debate of whether violence in media influences people.
33. The film’s advertising campaign included a 30 second TV spot with a twisted version of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”.
34. Sadly, it didn’t do well at the box office, getting lost in the shuffle. It was released the same week as Superman II and The Elephant Man.
35. Despite its financial/critical failure, Fade to Black was nominated for several Saturn Awards including Best Horror Film, Costumes, Actor, Supporting Actress, and Director.
36. Eve Brent was the only one to win her award for Best Supporting Actress.
37. It also won the Bronze Mask Award at the Taormina International Film Festival
38. Colin Booker, who was nominated for Best Makeup, would go on to work as a makeup/hair stylist for Star Trek: 30 Years and Beyond.
39. It finally got a DVD release in 1999, after gaining a cult following.
40. Fade to Black just made its streaming premiere on Shudder in 2020.
Which of these did you already know? Which ones surprised you? Let us know in the comments!