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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 59:48)
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
    English, French, Arabic, English - Hearing Impaired
  • 5 Deleted scenes
  • 3 Teaser trailer
  • 2 Theatrical trailer
  • 3 Audio commentary
  • Featurette - Making Of
  • Documentaries - Murder in Scottsdale
  • Dolby Digital trailer

Auto Focus: CE

Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 101 mins . R . PAL


Most of us who grew up in the '70s and early '80s will remember that afternoon television was less about kid’s shows and advertising masquerading as crappy game shows, and more about half-hour silly comedy shows such as I Dream of Jeannie, Get Smart, Gilligan's Island, Bewitched and, of course, Hogan's Heroes. Most of us will remember Hogan's... as the really unlikely show about a group of Allies voluntarily running an escape network, and specialising in sabotage and the destabilisation of Nazi Germany from the Stalag 13 in Nazi Germany. It was unlikely because of what they had set up, the things they got away with, and the fact they played the Nazis, including the Gestapo, for complete fools and dimwits that didn't even know when their own arses were on fire. They were lead by Colonel Robert Hogan, played by Bob Crane, a witty, charming, decent-looking family man - with an overwhelmingly destructive obsession with sex.

Bob Crane was a successful and respected radio DJ and wannabe jazz drummer. In 1965, he was offered the role of Hogan in the television series that many know and love. His wife at the time, Anne (Rita Crane), was reluctantly happy for him, and the show proved to be quite a success and ran for six seasons. Endless reruns into the '70s and '80s ensured new audiences, as mentioned above, not to mention a great deal of wealth (25% of $90M) for the Crane estate due to his stake in future earnings. All other cast members received a salary only.

The real story in Auto Focus lies well behind the sheen of the public figure, and is far sadder and seedier than most could have believed, and remained largely unknown for most of Crane's life. His unhealthy preoccupation with women and sex in general was always a part of his life, but really blossomed when he met John Carpenter (Willem Dafoe) on the studio lot. They struck up a relationship/friendship based on Carpenter's interest and access to the latest home video and hi-fi equipment. The friendship was definitely a two-way street. Carpenter got Crane all the latest equipment that Crane could make great use of documenting his exploits, and Carpenter got access to women and parties that he might not otherwise have had.

Through Hogan's Heroes and beyond, Crane's obsession merely strengthened and as new technology was being developed, so was his fascination with home video recording and photography (that was already an interest). It meant that he could keep a record of his sexual exploits and he did so with great gusto, mostly oblivious to the fact that most of those around him did not share his overwhelming love of porn and sex, and an interest that most did not feel the need to share as he did.

The film basically plots Crane's slow slide from star to has-been, and is a rather explicit and detailed look at that slide. It is not really judgmental and certainly doesn't preach. It is a film about the not-so private life of Bob Crane, and his violent, almost pathetic end. The story of Bob Crane after his death is possibly even more fascinating, but it is not touched upon in the film.

The actors playing the leads all do a great job, especially the few charged with portraying the cast of Hogan's Heroes, and Kinnear himself does a fine job portraying the multi-leveled Crane. The movie is based on the book The Death of Bob Crane and even has a cameo from one of Crane's children. It has received the endorsement of those who were closest to him, confirming that the public Bob Crane was quite different to the one most of us remember, even if not all of it is very savoury.

Those who like a good true-life murder mystery should feel satisfied with Auto Focus. If you need a nice wrapped up end with no question about 'whodunit' then you may feel a little frustrated, but that's the reality of Bob Crane's life and death.


Auto Focus is a film that is almost in two parts, but this is quite deliberate. The whole film is in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16:9 enhanced. The first half looks very different to the second half, being very clean cut and sharp, with an overuse of almost cartoonish straight lines and colours. It is very clean and well lit, to highlight the 'niceness' of the pre-Hogan's Crane and his clean living. The second half of the film maintains the sharpness, but everything looks a little darker, less cartoonish and less bold. Of course this is deliberate and is a great way of demonstrating the sleaziness and depravity of the private Bob Crane.

Elsewhere, everything looks good. The print is very clean and sharp, with generally good levels of shadow detail and no evidence of grain. There is very little to no shimmering and aliasing that is a bit if a surprise given the number of striped shirts and other potential nightmares. Being R rated, there is some nudity, but it is limited to the deliberately grainy, low quality, black and white home movies that Crane was so fond of. The layer change is relatively well placed between scenes at 59:48.


Those who don't speak French and therefore will care little for the French Dolby Digital 5.1 audio will more likely be interested in the English equivalent. This is a pretty standard 5.1 track that keeps much of the action and certainly most of the dialogue along the front and centre. There is some noticeable separation and mostly natural sounding panning, but the rears channels are used mostly for ambience and for creating space. There are one or two scenes, however, that make aggressive use of the rear channels, and the subwoofer tends to kick in only from time to time.

All dialogue is clean, clear and there are no issues with synchronisation. There are subtitles if needed, but they shouldn't be required just to understand dialogue. There are few opportunities for the audio to really do its stuff, but this is a film that requires little in the way of big action anyway!


I am not usually a fan of audio commentaries on the whole, so when this film offered three, I almost flipped out. One's first thoughts were, "How can there possibly be three radically different commentaries that don't overlap?" There is some overlap, naturally, but generally all three are sufficiently different enough to keep a listeners attention, especially if you space them out.

The first, from director Paul Schrader, is a consistent affair from go to whoa, with lots of information about what is happening on screen, from the casting, to lighting, the deliberate use of certain colours and light, the editing and use of various director's tricks when working to a small budget. The second commentary, from producers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski as well as writer Michael Gerbosi, is also a very chatty and friendly affair with all three obviously proud of the film. They interact well and make for quite a light-hearted commentary that is fun yet not flippant. They cover some of the same ground as Schrader. The third commentary is from cast members Kinnear and Dafoe, and is also fun to listen to as the actors interact well and have some slightly different views on some of the scenes, but remain positive. This commentary does contain a few pauses, but they are not overly lengthy.

Possibly the best and certainly the most interesting extra is the two-part documentary Murder in Scottsdale. With a combined length of almost an hour, this doco takes a detailed and mostly first-hand account of the dramatic events after Crane's body was found, the subsequently badly handled police investigation, through to the re-opening of the case some ten years later with the arrest, charging and trial of John Carpenter. There is a great deal of interview footage used from the various law enforcers who were involved, and even Crane’s family and Carpenter’s widow. It seems everyone has a theory on what happened and why, yet to this day the murder remains a mystery. This is thought-provoking stuff, and very interesting.

The Making of that is included is quite a short one at just on seven minutes, but crams a fair bit in, with comments and snippets from various cast and crew (some of whom are Crane offspring). It runs a little like a seven-minute advert, but is still worth a look.

The five Deleted Scenes are all quite quick and have optional director's commentaries. This is always nice to have, especially when a scene seems a bit too good to have been chopped.

Lastly, there are a few trailers, including two for Auto Focus, the first of which is your standard two-minute affair, but the other is entitled Auto Focus R Redband Trailer. Both have the same specifications as the feature, but the second naturally enough includes a few shots the first one doesn't. The other three are for Sniper II, xXx, and Spider's Web.


Auto Focus is a sad story about a man who should have had it all - fame, wealth and happiness. His public life, for a while at least, seemed well ordered and normal, but his private life was anything but. Even after his death, the story of Bob Crane can intrigue and Auto Focus does a good job of keeping the mystery alive.

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      And I quote...
    "A rather honest look at the dark and unsavoury private life of Bob Crane, better known as Colonel Hogan. His life was something of a mystery, and his death even more so…"
    - Terry Kemp
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
    • TV:
          TEAC CT-F803 80cm Super Flat Screen
    • Receiver:
          Pioneer VSX-D409
    • Speakers:
    • Centre Speaker:
    • Surrounds:
    • Subwoofer:
          Sherwood SP 210W
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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