When I saw the documentary De Palma last year, my wife and I were disappointed. It was strange to watch a filmmaker I enjoy talk endlessly for two hours, while boring us most of the time, even when he was talking about his films that I liked. I figured this documentary would be worse, considering I had never heard of the subject of it — Hampton Fancher. Boy was I wrong. Now, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t take a fair amount of patience listening to him tell stories. Sometimes it does. There’s also a problem with the fact that HE is the only one talking about his life and loves, which included Teri Garr, Barbara Hershey, and Sue Lyon, the star of Lolita, whom he married. Now, Lyon is somebody that had an interesting story herself (many marriages, one to a guy in prison convicted of murder, who got out, and promptly got involved in a robbery). You wonder why a documentary wouldn’t be made about any of those people, who are all more well-known than a guy that had small parts in movies and TV shows like Bonanza and Iron Side. Yet when you get somebody that’s got some interesting stories, you’re enthralled. That doesn’t mean this is film is without its flaws. Francher drones on endlessly on some subjects, and doesn’t share as many Hollywood anecdotes as I’d like. He comes across as a bit of a BSer and hustler, but…my wife and I couldn’t stop laughing watching this goof ball. He is most well-known for co-writing Blade Runner (as well as the sequel, which should be released in a few months). Again, a more interesting documentary would’ve been on Philip K. Dick, who wrote the book Blade Runner is based on (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?).
Things start off with Fancher going on about his early career in Hollywood, while we see clips of TV shows and movies that fit the stories (sometimes he’s in those clips, sometimes he isn’t).
When filmmaker Michael Almereyda realized this guy can talk, and does such long drawn out stories, they opted to do a timeline that just shows on the screen the various things he did — including going to another country to study Flamenco dancing, working at a newspaper, as well as moving to New York to start his own dance studio.
As interesting as it is hearing him talk about growing up in a ghetto, or finding a job as a ditch digger, it was the Hollywood stories that were the most amusing. He beat up Teri Garr’s old boyfriend because the wouldn’t pay her back a few thousand dollars.
When he went to do promotion for a film, he ended up sleeping with a woman that was driving him from place to place. He decided to stay a few hours longer with her for breakfast, and that saved his life. The plane he would’ve been on crashed.
He became good friends with Brian Kelly, the star of Flipper, yet he seemed to resent the fact that everyone liked Kelly more, and that he slept with lots of women. It’s odd that he’s bothered by that, as he seemed to have had his share of women, too. He also came across as a bit creepy in that regard. For example, he saw a poster of Lolita, and was determined to meet the star (whom he later married). He met Hershey at a dinner party, and stole her away from David Carradine. It doesn’t phase him that he’s in his early 40s and marrying the star of Lolita (who was around 18), or the other things he did to manipulate women.
For San Diegans, we all know about the history of the Hotel Del Coronado. We’ve heard the same Some Like it Hot stories, but…who knew that when the movie Stuntman (Peter O’Toole) was being filmed there and he was staying with Hershey, she encouraged him to write the adaptation to Blade Runner. The first page was written on Hotel Del stationary!
Fancher may not be the most credible, or interesting, storyteller you’ll come across. But it’s interesting to hear the story of a guy who always seems to be in the right place at the right time, and etched out a career in Hollywood, despite not being a household name.
This gets 3 ½ stars out of 5.