is “auto focus” an out-of-focus half-assed piece of garbage?

IT’S NOT OFTEN that I am moved to write a piece about a movie based on a review of the movie instead of the movie itself. But last night I watched Auto Focus with Greg Kinnear playing actor Bob Crane. I knew very little about Crane’s life, except that he was the star of Hogan’s Heroes, had a HUGE lust for women—lots and lots of women—and for videotaping his activities with those women. And that he was murdered.

Videotaping of consensual sex is kinda kinky, but usually only to non-kinky people.

This morning I looked the movie up to check out its accuracy and found a review by Scotty Crane, Bob Crane’s son. “Raging Bullshit (Auto Focus Is Not My Dad’s Story)” opens reasonably enough:

In the film Auto Focus: The Life of Bob Crane, Greg Kinnear plays Bob Crane on two. Bob was never on two. He was always on 11. My father was charming, silly, and gregarious, sometimes to the point of annoyance.

He was hardly the beaten-down sad sack that Kinnear plays in this cheap, predictable, out-of-focus piece of goddamn garbage. 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. Not even close.

Scotty Crane then lists eight bones of contention he has with the film’s historical accuracy. For me, the most important were these:

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. [He] recorded his extramarital activities 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. 1

My father recorded his activities long before he became a star and did not film women without their consent!

After tearing the film apart for factual inaccuracy, he concludes with a denigrating look at director Paul Schrader (edited below):

This story has all the ingredients to make a great movie without the Travis Bickle sensationalism. Didn’t happen. None of this should come as a surprise, as Paul Schrader has never done well as a director. Schrader’s directorial efforts have usually fallen flat (Cat People, Hardcore). Auto Focus is no exception to this trend.

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. 2

Now THAT’S a review! 3

Photo of Greg Kinnear and Maria Bello in the movie AUTO FOCUS.

FEATURED IMAGE: Auto Focus stars Greg Kinnear as Bob Crane nd Willem Dafoe as John Carpenter. It has an excellent supporting cast, with Maria Bello as Patricia Olson, who acted under the stage-name Sigrid Valdis, and who eventually married Crane. The photo at the top of the page is from the movie depicting a scene from the ’60s television series Hogan’s Heroes. This scene shows Bob Crane (Kinnear) as Colonel Hogan with Patricia Olson (Bello) as Hilda, the German POW camp’s secretary

Finally, consensual photographing or videotaping of consensual sex is kinda kinky, but usually only to non-kinky people. It can be lots of fun for everyone involved! But photographing or filming your sex partners without their consent is creepy and criminal. Based on the movie, Bob Crane was kinda kinky but not creepy or criminal.


1   I did not get this point at all: that Crane had somehow “succumbed to the temptations of Hollywood.” What Bob Crane and John Carpenter did was highly unusual by any standards of the time: most people (and that includes actors), do not have hundreds of sex partners a year, year after year; most people have never had a threesome, let alone a foursome; most people have never filmed their sexual activity. Those statements remain true today.

2   While it may be a “lazy, half-assed attempt” at understanding and depicting Bob Crane, Auto Focus is an enjoyable movie with good acting from the leads to the excellent supporting cast. 

3   I am praising the damn-the-torpedoes attitude of the review, not agreeing with it. I enjoyed the movie, even if it was slow at times. But it definitely needs a new ending: given the final minutes of the movie, it is difficult not to assume that Carpenter murdered Crane. There was no real evidence, and he was acquitted in trial.

Schrader gives us little motivation for Carpenter have killed his best friend, but he gives no one else who could have had any other motivation (burglary was not involved). Yet by the time of Bob Crane’s murder in 1978, he had slept with and/or photographed and/or videotaped thousands upon thousands of women. Each of those women and thousands of husbands and boyfriends had possible motivation to murder the man . . . 

Bob Crane's lust for lots and lots of women and videotaping them was kinky but not criminal. Click To Tweet

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