Auto Focus

Dir: Paul Schrader, 2002


The, officially, unsolved murder of Hogan’s Heroes star Bob Crane, still fascinates people, today because of the sordid goings on of what the public perceived to be a family man and entertainer.

A hit show to his name, Crane was loved and adored by the American viewer, but his private life was a bevy of beautiful girls and sex tapes.

Based on the book The Murder of Bob Crane by Robert Graysmith, Auto Focus details Crane’s descent from a church going and loving husband to sex addict and purveyor of home made pornography.

The principal suspect in the case has always been Crane’s close friend and bad influence, John Carpenter.

Auto Focus doesn’t take a solid stance on who the culprit was, but Schrader leads the viewer to conclude that Carpenter was involved.

It’s no secret that Crane led a sleazy existence. A non-smoking, tee-totaller who refused to indulge in the partaking of drugs, the actors only vice was women.

The film revels in the seediness that Captain Hogan enjoyed, and takes great delight in parading a harem of naked girls in front of the camera, much like Crane did in real-life.

Schrader hints at stuff rather than outright says it. It has been, often, alleged that Carpenter was bisexual and had an obsession with Crane. The only time this element of Carpenter’s life is touched upon is when Crane sees his friend’s hand on his backside during an orgy.

Greg Kinnear is excellent in the main role, with more than a passing resemblance to the real Bob Crane. Willem Dafoe plays a good part, but looks nothing remotely like John Carpenter.

The ambiguity of the film leaves you wanting more and stokes the fire of interest in the case, but it also feels unfinished. Schrader can’t be blamed for the lack of closure but a more satisfying ending could have been added to close the film.

Director Schrader, shoots the film with the unsavoury flavour that Crane lived his life. However, it comes across as exploitational. It’s rumoured that Schrader used the actual sex tapes that the star made on the televisions in the background.

Some of the incidents seem out of character. Crane and Carpenter masturbating next to each other while watching a film of the former’s exploits is one such example.

While there is no dispute over the pair’s shenanigans, it’s difficult to imagine them being that close that they openly cracked one off in each other’s company.

Dull and overlong, Auto Focus fails in its endeavors to educate and entertain with only an occasional interest.


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