Timothy Busfield pads through an anemic “Fade to Black” as a “social anthropologist” who uses his amusing title as a license to be a Peeping Tom. Armed with a faulty video camera to tape neighbors in his apartment complex, he records what looks like Michael Beck knocking off a pretty blonde across the courtyard; no one, of course — including the viewers — will believe him or anything else.
Heather Locklear shows up in that same apartment across the way, and Beck turns up again. Busfield, seeing Locklear having a tussle with Beck, runs over to protect her, and so on.
Douglas Barr’s leaden script, unhelped by John McPherson’s flat-footed direction, trudges along looking for excitement but finding none.
No rhythm, no innovations, no suspense shore up the vidpic, which tries to explain away Busfield’s voyeurism by noting that not only is he a university professor, but his wife has just left him after less than a year; no wonder.
Busfield’s acting style runs to bland, though he’s fleet of foot. Locklear’s contribution is unpretentious.
Beck looks severe, but the rest of the cast’s thesping is indifferent–with the exception of Cloris Leachman, whose able characterization of a sympathetic neighbor has credibility.
Production values are minimal, with Dick Quinlan’s lensing unimpressive. Editing by Karen Stern — at least one scene doesn’t match its predecessor — is in the same category. William McAllister’s production design takes in little of Portland’s pluses, but the apartments look utilitarian.