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|Index||27 reviews in total|
I rented this movie because the Martin Cruz Smith book had recently come my way and I found it quite good. The movie is not unfaithful to the book, though it does suffer in comparison in the strength of the characterizations - in the book we learn why Youngman Duran, Mancuso's character, is so tortured which, of course, makes his ordeal much more significant and meaningful. I'm writing mainly to defend David Warner whom another reviewer characterized as as "bad actor". Warner is a terrific character actor who can presently be heard doing a rich villiany voice on the Saturday morning "Men in Black" cartoon (which is better than the movie, in my opinion). It seems Americans have trouble with classically trained English actors whose diction and style may seem too broad if your only frame of reference is Brad Pitt. Recently went to "Peeping Tom" and sat next to a group of teenagers who laughed all the way through, completely oblivious to the historical context of the film and its quality. So "Nightwing" is pretty good - good character acting (also love Strother Martin), lovely cinematography, nice Mancini score. Blood and gore special effects quite restrained a la 1979 technology, so if that's your thing this isn't your movie.
I liked this movie so much that it prompted me to take a trip to New
Mexico and to eventually move there!! Unfortunately, due to medical
problems, I was forced to come back to Kansas, but I will never regret
moving to the Southwest.
Okay, so Nick Mancuso, who played Duran, sounded like he was from the Bronx occasionally and the tribes were renamed, but I purchased the VHS tape many years ago and check out every DVD web site hoping to find it there. It is probably the only reason I still have a VCR.++++++
The book was written by Martin Cruz Smith, an accomplished author, it was directed by Arthur Hiller, and the musical score done by Henry Mancini. Just how bad could it be?? If it is a horror movie you are looking for, this is not going to satisfy you. But a movie about the hardships and superstitions that still persist on the Navajo and Hopi reservations is as relevant as it was when Nightwing was made back in the 70s. I think that if the movie had not been billed as a "horror" flick, it would have gained much more of a following. I find it quite amusing that although it has never been made as a DVD, it is still found almost every other month on one of the pay movie channels. So I guess I'm not the only one who thinks that Nightwing is worth watching!
******SPOILERS****** One of the main reasons that I like "Nightwing" is
that the movie educates the audience about the subject matter in it.
You learn more about Vampire Bats in just a five minute conversation
between Phillip Payne, David Warner, the Bat investigator and Walker
Chee, Stephan Macht, the Indian official then you learned about the
same subject in all the movies that Hollywood made about Bats put
The movie also gives you an interesting look about what I think is it's main subject; the mystical and religious as well as the cultural customs of the American Indians of the American South-West. The movie "Nightwing" has a dual story in it. Deadly Vampire Bat attacks on people and livestock in the South-West, the state of Arizona. There's an attempt by a big oil conglomerate, Peabody Mining, to buy up and strip mine a large section of two Indian Reservations, the Pahana & Maskie. This is being done with the help of a corrupt top Indian official, Walker Chee, in the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
A number of cows and horses are found dead and the local farmers as well as government officials are left confused and baffled by what caused it. These incidents have attracted Phillip Payne who's a bat researcher or as he calls himself "The Exterminating Angel" to the area. Payne has been tracking down the migration of Vampire Bats since 1973 from South America Mexico and now to the southern part of the United States and he thinks that a large colony of Vampire Bats are responsible for whats been happening in the places effected with dead livestock and now people. There has also developed a number of deaths due to Bubonic Plague which Payne feel that the Bats are transmitting to both people as well as animals. Both the Peabody Mining Corp. and Walker Chee want to keep all this out of the news in order to protect their attempted land grab in the area.
With nothing able to stop the "Killer Bats" advance as they attack and kill people and cattle almost undeterred as a last resort Indian Police Sheriff Youngman Duran, Nick Mancuso,tries something new to stop the killer bats. With the help of ancient Indian Mysticism that Duran learned from his friend and Maskie Indian High Priest Abner Tasupi, George Clutsei, he's able to stem the tide of the Vampire Bat invasion.
Defiantly better then most of the movies about the same subject with it's focus on detail science and history instead of horror shock and gore. The rivalry between the upright and honest Indian Sheriff Youngman Duran and the corrupt and deceiving Indian official Walker Chee alone makes the movie interesting all by itself.
The Bat menace in the movie was intelligently handled and the film tried as much as possible to keep the supernatural and mystical angle in check making it more real as well as effective. The final sequence of "Nightwing" in the deadly "Bat Cave" as Duran Payne and Duran's girlfriend Anne Dillion, Kathryn Harrold, were working against the clock, or better yet the night, to destroy the giant Vampire Bat colony before it woke up was nail biting and very effectively done. The scenes of the Bat attacks in the movie, there were only three, were believable as well as shocking even though the special effects back then, in 1979, were primitive to what they are in movies today.
All and all "Nightwing"is one of the most unknown, it's almost impossible to find it on VHS today and it's never been released on DVD, and at the same time best movies about "Killer Bats" that you'll ever see.
A group of vampire bats descend upon two Indian reservations that stand as the ground for a feud between honest Deputy Duran (Nick Mancuso) and money hungry Walker (Stephen Macht). Also cruising around the desert is Phillip Rayne (David Warner), a guy who hunts vampire bats. What the heck is going on with this film? What should have been a straightforward "JAWS with wings" gets turned into a bizarre commentary on Indian mysticism, politics and environmentalism. But PROPHECY (1980) this ain't. Anyway, I dig someone trying to do something original and all this would be fine if the film wasn't so boring. The few moments there are bat attacks are so poorly handled by director Arthur Hiller, that you can only dream of how someone with a sense of suspense could have pulled them off. All of the actors are fine, but their motivations are paper thin. "I kill them because they are evil," is how Warner justifies his ridiculous supporting turn as the vampire bat hunter with a state-of- the-art van and no means for financing. On the plus side, there are some stunning locations in New Mexico and a great score by Henry Mancini.
I rather enjoyed this mediocre horror film. It succeeds at doing what
it sets out to do -- ratchet up the suspense and provide the viewer
with reckless and unthinking entertainment. And on top of that, there
is some wonderful New Mexico location shooting, which can't be
dismissed out of hand. You have never seen such vast expanses of rugged
buttes, sandstone canyons, and pink dunes, all carefully accessorized
by the occasional pale green of a shrub.
"King Kong," which set the rules for this genre, featured a gorilla doll that was about two feet tall and contained an armature, which is a brass skeleton of sorts with flexible joints, around which the flesh and hair are modeled.
Narratives in the genre have a kind of metaphorical armature that follows the structure of "King Kong" the movie. At first, everything is innocent and peaceful. Complications are present, yes, but they haven't erupted. But then there are intimations that something is up. The natives kidnap Fay Wray, but for what purpose? A sea gull thumps against a closed door or strikes a pretty blond out of the blue. Cattle and horses are found dead for some mysterious reason. And what ever happened to those two miners with their mule? Suddenly the cause of the disaster is revealed -- crashing out of the forest or striking en masse from the skies or swimming sneakily into the lagoon, it doesn't matter how. Here, there is utter silence while the investigators wait for an attack -- then a cut to a close up of a vampire bat's hideous face zooming into the camera with a piercing shriek. Well, it may be homocentric to describe a bat's face as ugly. After all, they probably find us unattractive too, and they must find each other appealing enough to mate with. I call it bad taste but a vampire bat wouldn't.
The hero is a lawman (Mancuso) representing the tribal council of the fictitious Maski tribe, although the real power brokers seem to be the dozen or so priests who run the reservation. The succulent Kathryn Harrold is his girl friend, a nurse. She was my supporting player in that bright star in the cinematic sky, the sublime and poetically executed "Raw Deal." David Warner plays roughly the same role he did in "The Omen," the researcher who does the leg work and tells the hero what's up. Stephen Macht is the leader of the equally fictional neighboring Pohana tribe, the dilatory unbeliever who wants to sell out the reservation for money. I always enjoy Stephen Macht. Mancuso, the nominal hero, is handsome in the way a TV star is handsome, but Macht's features have character. He could never be mistaken for anybody else. Plus he has a doctorate in dramatic arts and gave up a tenured position to become an actor, which is a pretty dicey thing to do.
The script has its weaknesses, even given any low expectations we might have regarding the movie. Macht's politician claims at one point that half the time the priests go around stoned on Datura williamsii or Jimson weed. They wouldn't do that. Datura isn't a mellow high. It was used in some Southwestern ordeals and initiation rites. It induces often frightening and chaotic hallucinations. It's unclear why Mancuso seems to run around chewing on it and having long conversations with a ghost. One of those conversations interrupts his attempt to save the lives of himself, Harrold, and Warner, just as the plague-ridden vampire bats are about to attack him. He stops his rescue attempts and begins a foggy theological argument with a ghost while the bats whirl around his head. El momento de la verdad -- and he's telling a phantom where to get off.
The visual effects are adequate, no more than that. Arthur Hiller, the director, might profitably have watched some of Val Lewton's psychological horror movies to learn how to scare the wits out of people while keeping the monster's appearances to a minimum. Still, there is all that majestic scenery, including Kathryn Harrold.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I absolutely loved this movie. A young, Hot Nick Mancuso was definitely a bonus! :-) I liked how it delved into Native American lore...the visions inside the cave were awesome. The familiar faces of Stephen Macht and David Warner were also a plus. I can't believe I haven't seen this movie until yesterday. True, the story line could have been a bit better, but remember, this was made in 1979. They didn't have the tricks of the trade that the movie makers have now-a-days. The bats looked true to life enough to be convincing. The methods of the vampire bat hunter were a bit weak and..a bit silly. Would you lean over the top of a cave without being secured to something safe? YIKES! The music was great. Mancini scores always are. :-)
This movie's fun, if based on a questionable premise. We have the
stereotypical Menace -- in this case, vampire bats -- who have to be
exterminated before they Get Us All, and the pivotal character is an
American Indian cop.
A tribal elder on a reservation is apparently behind the appearance of the bats, as he apparently shamanistically summoned them to "end the world." This because sacred grounds are being threatened by an industrialist, who wants to exploit resources.
Now, a word of reality here: movies to the contrary, real Vampire Bats don't suck blood. They evolved from fruit bats, and they nip their sleeping victims and lap the blood. The astonishing thing is that they do this without waking their victims. Their bite and anticoagulant saliva are being studied by medical institutions for new technological advances (in surgery and anesthesiology). They're neither aggressive nor dangerous.
Nonetheless, the movie bats are a menace, and a force of nature. The film reaches a satisfactory ending, which solved the problem set up by the industrialist, too. Fun, but not to be taken seriously.
I love the story line and the scenery. I can watch this movie over and over again. I love the way the main characters interact. Duran is quite a tough guy with a soft touch. He's not afraid to stick up for what is right. Duran's relationship with Anne shows depth. Anne is fighting the good fight. Her issues with health care are still relevant. She also has to deal with the struggle of career versus personal life - relevant to many women. I find Payne's character engaging. He takes things seriously and carries the scientist mantle well. All three characters have a sense of dedication and perseverance that is refreshing. I really enjoy this type of horror - not overtly gory with a great plot. The characters can overcome and aren't victims. I also like the political intrigue and the way it plays in the story.
Not that I can think of any others. In fact, the only other killer bat movie I know of is "Bats" and it looked really bad. This one though I liked...as a kid anyway. It used to come on HBO and Cinemax all the time when I was a kid and I watched it numerous times, it was a horror movie that was PG and easy to see, a rarity in those days. This movie is of course about killer bats terrorizing an Indian reservation. There are conflicts of culture and other messages of this sort, but for me it was the killer bats. David Warner is in this one as a researcher, and he has a rather good scene where he is stuck hung up in a most dangerous position. There is also another Indian, who I think was some sort of law enforcement agent or some sort of park supervisor who is also trying to find out what is behind the strange killings. There is a good scene where the bats attack this group in the desert and many other good bat attack scenes. There are also a number of scenes that may be happening or they may just be a hallucination.
Okay, it's not a good movie, how could a movie about a plague of killer
vampire bats in the American desert possibly be good? Especially with all
the corpses covered with bat pee, and a mad scientist played by a ham bad
But it has some redeeming qualities. It's set on a beautiful southwestern Indian reservation, and our hero is a likeable tribal cop like my fave rave Jim Chee (and a stud). The location photography is nice to look at, most of the acting is decent, and the finale is worth a look. How do you kill off a whole cave full of vampire bats at once? I like their method...
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