Nightwing (1979)

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Nightwing (1979)

Post  BoG on Tue Oct 14, 2014 9:34 pm

This was one of the last 'nature-amok' films of the seventies and placed a slight sheen of some high class into the proceedings - but it still dipped into melodramatics even with the reserved performance of Brit actor David Warner as the obsessive scientist of the piece.  The creatures of nature running amok in this one are vampire bats. It takes place in the desert region of New Mexico.  Warner's science guy has been tracking and eliminating these bats for several years; he considers them the ultimate evil of nature, freaks which don't fall into the usual 'give-and-take' of nature's balance (in his opinion).  Anyway, he deduces that a large cluster of these bats has settled in some large cave in the area. Of course, he is correct, even though he's met with skepticism.

Mixed in with this is a bit of mystical mumbo-jumbo involving a Hopi Indian medicine man who dies near the start of the film. This medicine man had raised the hero of the story, who is now the local Indian cop, Youngman (Nick Mancuso).  Though Youngman buries his father figure, the grave is later found empty and it's suggested that the medicine man has resurrected. This medicine man has also predicted and/or cursed the entire region with doom, which the bats may very well bring about.  Youngman has a romantic relationship with the local white doctor (Kathryn Harrold); she guides a small group into the desert and they are attacked by the bats at night; she's the only survivor. In the end, the plan is to extinguish the bat hive with poison but the last-minute option is fire.  
There are almost no scares in this film - perhaps that's the fault of director Arthur Hiller, who usually directed dramas and light comedies.  He's fine in attempting to present well-rounded characters for such a film, but there's no tension, no fear, no jolts.  That's a severe drawback for such a film, in the genre that it's in.  Marketing oversold the concept of this threat as the ultimate evil; in the film itself, it's just a bunch of bats (see also Chosen Survivors-1974 and Bats-1999). The photography is nice - emphasizing both the beauty and desolation of the desert - and all the acting is decent, but it's on the dull side.  Stephen Macht co-stars as a callous Indian capitalist and Youngman's rival, and there's also a small role for Strother Martin as a local eccentric retailer.  BoG's Score: 5.5 out of 10
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