Search - Auto Focus on DVD

Auto Focus
Auto Focus
Actors: Greg Kinnear, Willem Dafoe, Maria Bello, Rita Wilson, Ron Leibman
Director: Paul Schrader
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television, Mystery & Suspense
R     2003     1hr 45min

Dramatization of the turbulent life of Bob Crane, popular for his role in the television program Hogan's heroes.

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Movie Details

Actors: Greg Kinnear, Willem Dafoe, Maria Bello, Rita Wilson, Ron Leibman
Director: Paul Schrader
Creators: Alicia Allain, Brian Oliver, James Schamus, Larry Karaszewski, Patrick Dollard, Michael Gerbosi, Robert Graysmith
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Love & Romance, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Sony Pictures
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic - Closed-captioned,Dubbed,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 03/18/2003
Original Release Date: 01/01/2002
Theatrical Release Date: 00/00/2002
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 45min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 17
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Member Movie Reviews

Rob F. (stalkersrage) from NORTH CONWAY, NH
Reviewed on 1/3/2009...
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.

By Louise Keller -
0 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Jeff V. (burielofmel) from HARRIMAN, TN
Reviewed on 10/26/2008...
This is the movie about the sexually perverse life of Bob Crane, star of the show Hogan's Heroes. It seems to pretty much follow the same storyline as the version told on Unsolved Mysteries. There is a "Murder in Scottsdale" documentary which is interesting. Also a "Making of" featurette and a decent commentary. Willem Defoe is kind of creepy and strange in this one.
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
John G. from ROCHESTER, NY
Reviewed on 10/26/2008...
A work of complete fiction!No family helped write this crap and it's full of lies! besides Greg Kinnear is not even half as good an actor or good looking as Bob was!
2 of 11 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

Disturbing, but Oscar-worthy by Kinnear
Jason Kirkfield | Rocky Mountain High | 09/22/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"5 stars for Greg Kinnear as Bob Crane. William Dafoe is super creepy as John Carpenter. Is he even acting? LOL

The rest of the cast is mostly a blur but this is a biopic after all.

I've wanted to watch Auto Focus for some time. It recently came up on On Demand so I got lucky. If I were to consider getting the DVD now, it wouldn't necessarily be to watch the film again, but rather for all the extras (commentaries & documentaries). It should come with a coupon good for a free shower!

Not sure if it will post, but a brilliant interview with Kinnear on the film is here:

If not, at least here's an insightful quote:

"I think if Bob Crane were selling insurance instead of acting, he would still have had the same problems. I don't think the temptation is exclusive to celebrity. I think everybody, in their own life, has them. Does celebrity grease the wheel? Absolutely. Are there enablers around? Certainly. The bigger issue of temptation, avoiding it and making conscious decisions to maybe not go down certain roads, that everybody has to deal with it. Whether Bob is choosing to go down certain roads, it's not only about sex. It's an addiction.""
Fascinating look at sexual addiction that is naturally a bit
RMurray847 | Albuquerque, NM United States | 07/23/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I remember in 1978 hearing on the news that Bob Crane had been murdered. I was about 14 at the time, and I was a little bummed, because I occasionally watched reruns of HOGAN'S HEROES (although it was never a real favorite of mine). Every five years or so, it would occur to me that I never heard if they found out who killed Crane. But that was before Google, so I never checked.

Then, when I heard about the movie AUTO FOCUS coming out, and that it would reveal the sleazy life of Bob Crane...I began to understand a bit more, as an adult, that Crane's murder wasn't just a robbery or random act. It was, it appears, the ultimate outcome of many years of leading a furtive life that allowed him to indulge in his sex addictions.

We've seen so many movies over the years where stars are shown with drug addictions, alcohol addictions or simply "fooling around" over and over on their spouses. Sometimes combinations of the above. Crane was different because his addiction was sexual (yes, he "fooled around"...but it was more than that. Crane clearly had a true addiction to sex, porn and the related exciting possibilities brought about by the emergence of Video Tape Recorders).

POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD: I'll be talking more in detail about the plot than usual for me, because the EVENTS that happen, to me, aren't as important as the mood and mindset of the two main characters. If you'd still rather not know, skip ahead.

In the fascinating film, we first meet Crane (Greg Kinnear) as an affable, goofy radio DJ / talk show host. He's a popular radio personality, but yearns to return to the screen. He's offered the role as Hogan in a comedy about a POW camp in WWII, and after some reluctance (a lot of people assume it's a comedy about a concentration camp...which would clearly be a career killer), Crane accepts the part. He's a handsome, charming, church-going family man with an easy smile, an agreeable manner with fans and a loving wife (Rita Wilson) and father of three. It's the late `60s, but Crane doesn't listen to rock `n' roll, he doesn't drink and he doesn't cheat. He's a good guy.

We see women throwing themselves at him, but he brushes them off. But when he meets (to his great misfortune) the greasy but compelling John Carpenter (no relation to the director!), his hidden desires come to the forefront. It's almost a perfect storm of bad circumstances. He is vaguely interested in Carpenter (Willem Dafoe) because the man is very interested in electronics (he works for Sony, and always has the most cutting edge devices)...and Crane has an interest in photography and when he hears about video photography, he's like a kid in a candy store. Then he meets Carpenter at a strip joint to socialize and when he expresses his interest in drumming, Carpenter gets the club owner to let Crane "guest" on drums with the live band that accompanies the stripper. And Crane eats that up! For awhile, drumming is all he does, and we viewers wish that was where it stopped. But Carpenter, like a minor league Svengali, entices Crane with the easy women and with the realization that Crane's stardom gives them their pick of women and Carpenter's technical know-how gives them an opportunity to videotape themselves with these women.

It's all downhill from there. The two men are addicted to the porn they create. The movie is a fascinating portrayal of sexual addiction, I have to admit. I've not really seen it addressed in such a manner, as a central topic. Crane cannot help himself...he needs more and more women, because he needs more and more photos and videos. He is insatiable.

Naturally, his home life is destroyed; his career suffers, and so forth. The trajectory of his life is ultimately not all that is the dissection of his madness that makes the film noteworthy. He talks about getting treatment. He even remarries (Mario Bello) and tries to walk more straight and narrow. But he also uses his trips to perform dinner theatre around the country as excuses to meet new groups of women eager to be filmed. And hanging by his side through all this is the leech-like Carpenter. That Crane was eventually murdered in an ugly, seedy fashion is no surprise.

END OF SPOILERS: In many ways, the film is of little importance. A very minor star and his sordid descent into sexual insanity. Titillating but hardly "important." However, I would argue that it is worth seeing for the performances. Rita Wilson (who rarely works) is very good as Crane's wife. Her gradual realization of just who she's married to his subtly done. Bello, whose part is actually fairly small, presents us with another of her patented smart but sexy women. Dafoe, who for me can frequently be a very annoying overactor, is well suited to this part, because he CAN play desperate, greasy and just a little nuts very well. But this is Kinnear's best performance. We've seen him do the nice, gentle guy (AS GOOD AS IT GETS), the nice, handsome guy (SABRINA), the nice but stressed guy (LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE) and even the nice but just a little crazy guy (FLASH OF GENIUS). Here he's the nice but sick `n' twisted guy. His performance is splendid because almost right up to the end he seems like just a nice, ordinary American guy who is just a little befuddled that his nice life is consumed with sex and homemade porn. We root for him to shape up. We often feel that he's right on the verge of pulling himself out of his debauchery. It's a simple, clean performance that nonetheless has many layers of complexity. I dare say that he should have received more notice at awards time...but the film came and went so quickly that no one remembered it.

The film is also nice to look at. The art direction, taking us from mid `60s to late `70s is impeccable. Costumes and hair are great. The aging on Crane is well done. Director Paul Schrader tells his story in a straightforward manner with no fancy tricks...kinda like Kinnear's performance. (And the brief recreations of HOGAN'S HEROES are a hoot, if you know the series.)

It's a VERY R-rated film...with lots of nudity and just an all-around "mature" theme. I didn't love the film, because in the end, it was all so squalid and insignificant. But I great admired it, and would recommend it to mature movie-goers. If you like Greg Kinnear, it's particularly a must-see.