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Catchfire is a 1990 American action thriller film directed by Dennis Hopper and starring Jodie Foster, Hopper, Fred Ward and Vincent Price with cameo appearances by several other notable actors, including Charlie Sheen, Joe Pesci and Catherine Keener. The film was disowned by Hopper before release and he is therefore credited under the pseudonym Alan Smithee.

Film Poster for Catchfire.jpg
Video poster for Catchfire as Backtrack: Director's Cut
Directed byDennis Hopper (as Alan Smithee)
Produced byDick Clark
Written byRachel Kronstadt Mann
Ann Louise Bardach
Alex Cox
Tod Davies
StarringJodie Foster
Dennis Hopper
Fred Ward
Vincent Price
Music byCurt Sobel
CinematographyEdward Lachman
Edited byDavid Rawlins
Distributed byVestron Pictures
Release date
  • April 3, 1990 (1990-04-03)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$10 million
Box office$5 million

The original screenplay was written by Rachel Kronstadt Mann, then re-written by Ann Louise Bardach, who was hired by Hopper and producer Steven Reuther. During the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike, Hopper hired Alex Cox to do another polish while the film was shooting.

Hopper released a director's cut of the film in the United States on cable television titled Backtrack, which runs 18 minutes longer than the theatrical version.


Conceptual artist Anne Benton (Jodie Foster) creates electronic pieces that flash evocative statements. Her work has begun to attract major media attention.

Driving home one night, Anne suffers a blowout on a deserted road and, while looking for help, witnesses a mafia hit supervised by Leo Carelli (Joe Pesci). Leo spots Anne, but she escapes and goes to the police.

Two of the mobsters, Greek (Tony Sirico) and Pinella (John Turturro), go to Anne's house to silence her, but manage only to kill her boyfriend, Bob (Charlie Sheen). The police offer Anne a place in the federal witness protection program, but when she sees another mobster, John Luponi (Dean Stockwell), at the police station, she disguises herself with another woman's wig and raincoat, and flees.

Mob boss Lino Avoca (Vincent Price), Carelli's boss, summons top-of-the-line hitman Milo (Dennis Hopper) to silence Anne. Milo purchases one of Anne's artworks and ransacks her house, discovering intimate Polaroids taken of her.

Months pass; Anne has severed all ties with her past and re-established herself in Seattle as an advertising copywriter. Milo, who never gives up, recognizes the tagline of a lipstick ad as one of Anne's catchphrases, and tracks her down. The police also track Anne down, but she manages to once again elude all the men who are pursuing her.

Milo tracks Anne to New Mexico. This time, he offers her a deal: he'll let her live, if she'll do anything and everything he asks.

Milo's interest in Anne, it turns out, is more than professional, but not exactly what she thinks. He doesn't want her to be his sex slave, though sex is part of the equation.

A man obsessed, Milo has fallen in love with Anne. And he has no idea how to cope with the unfamiliar emotion. Astonishingly, after a rocky start, Anne realizes that she has also fallen for him.

By failing to kill Anne as he was hired to do, Milo has marked himself for death, and the two flee together to an isolated farm that Milo owns.

Avoca's men track them there, and they realize that in order to be free, they must return and confront their pursuers. They concoct a plan leaving Avoca, Carelli, and their men dead.

Anne and Milo escape together to a new life.



Alternate versionsEdit

There also exists a 180 minute long original cut which remains unreleased.

External linksEdit