Auto Focus is a monument to everything rotten in so-called "biopics" today; it's based on nothing but rumor and innuendo and is not the true story of Bob Crane's life. Period. Not even close. The movie is slow, flat, shallow, and boring. I wanted to leave the theater--not because I hated the portrayal of my family (which I do; that's what kept me there) but because I was so goddamned bored.
Allow me to clue you in to some of the inaccuracies:
·My father did not film women without their consent. It's plain to see from his photos and films that the women are mugging and posing for the camera.
·The reference to a vasectomy that "leaks" not only implies that I may not be Bob's son, but also suggests that my mother cheated on my father. She did not.
·Bob Crane did not engage in S&M. Believe me, my dad photographed everything, including traffic jams. He was also murdered. He did not have time to hide anything. If it were true that he engaged in S&M, I would have the pictures. In fact, director Paul Schrader admitted to me that the S&M scene in Auto Focus (calm down--it's boring too) is from an experience he had in his own life while "researching" the film Hardcore. (See Peter Biskind's book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, pages 382-383.)
·Bob Crane and John Carpenter did not hang out together until 1975, long after Hogan's Heroes was canceled.
·Bob recorded his extramarital activities as early as 1956, long before he became a Hollywood star. He was what many today would deem a sex addict. He was not a Pat Boone type who succumbed to the temptations of Hollywood and Carpenter, as the film depicts.
·Bob Crane did not have a penile implant, as his autopsy details confirm. He rather famously did not require this enhancement. The procedure wasn't even invented until four years after his murder.
·My father was not a churchgoing saint with a priest for a buddy. During the last 12 years of his life, he went to church three times: when I was baptized, when his father died, and when he was buried.
·The portrayal of my mother (played by Maria Bello), who was still married to my father at the time of his death, is complete and utter bullshit. My "half brother," who contributed to this film, has always "had a problem" with my mother.
Other inaccuracies include the portrayal of my mother as a social-climbing, money-grubbing lush who pours vodka into her orange juice in the morning. My mother quit the business the minute Hogan's Heroes was canceled. My father was so broke after his divorce from his first wife that when my parents married, he moved into my mother's house in Westwood, California, where we lived when I was born. My mother accepted my father's extramarital swinging lifestyle because she loved him and he was always up-front about it. She has often been quoted as saying, "Bob didn't lose his First Amendment rights when he married me." However she was hardly the groovy bohemian girl portrayed one-dimensionally by Maria Bello in this film.
This story has all the ingredients to make a great movie without the Travis Bickle sensationalism. But it's not great. Willem Dafoe is great with what he was given (not much), but unfortunately his role is also amazingly one-dimensional. I feel sorry for him for his affiliation, but it won't make me less of a fan. Rita Wilson (Anne Crane) is believable as a stereotypical 1950s hausfrau. I must admit there was a part of me that was preparing to perhaps enjoy some of this movie despite its defamation of my family. Didn't happen.
None of this should come as a surprise, as Paul Schrader has never done well as a director. His biggest achievements are his writing of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, but remember, those films were directed by Martin Scorsese, and starred Robert De Niro. Schrader's directorial efforts have usually fallen flat (Cat People, Hardcore). Auto Focus: The Life of Bob Crane is no exception to this trend.
Note to Paul: Your film is visual crap and a theatrical disaster. I doubt any reviews that don't come from well-greased machines will disagree with me. You shouldn't have bothered with this lazy, half-assed attempt at portraying my father.
Scotty Crane is a record producer, recording-studio owner, and host of Seattle's own Shaken, Not Stirred on KQBZ 100.7 FM "The Buzz."