By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated October 03, 2002 10:25 AM

The dark side of the late “Hogan’s Heroes” star Bob Crane goes under the microscope in “Auto Focus” from director Paul Schrader (“American Gigolo”), who previewed the film for the press Wednesday at the New York Film Festival, reports.

The ’70s-era drama, which focuses on Crane’s addiction to sex and the kicks he got out of videotaping his acts, stars Greg Kinnear — his chestnut-brown hair dyed black and his baby blues concealed by brown contact lenses — as Crane, and Willem Dafoe as John Carpenter, not the horror movie director but a onetime Sony frontman who pushed home-video equipment on stars.

Crane was found brutally beaten and dead in an Arizona motel room in 1978. (He was 49.) His murder has never been solved, though the theory — and the movie — point the finger at Carpenter, who has since died.

Kinnear, 39, admitting that the role is a departure from his usual lightweight romantic romps, said at a post-screening press conference that he was fascinated by “the wild contradictions” in Crane’s life. “On the one hand,” he said, “he was a one-woman family man. On the other hand, he was this wildly lascivious guy.”

Crane’s son, Robert Crane, appears in the film in the brief role of an interviewer for a Christian publication. He also served as a technical adviser to the production, which opens nationally later this month.

Speaking of his father, Crane (balding, in his 50s and looking nothing like his dad) said: “He was a good guy. I do want to mention that. He had two halves in his life. The dark half and the family man.”

He added, “It’s an incredible waste that he’s dead, (but) if he were alive, there wouldn’t be a movie.”