Made and released at nearly the same time as ’79s THE PROPHECY, the killer bat movie NIGHTWING shares many similarities with our favorite mutant bear flick. Riding the tail end of the nature-bites-back wave goaded by JAWS, both PROPHECY and NIGHTWING were directed by established directors, wore their long-winded environmental messages on their sleeves and questionably recruited up and coming swarthy Italian actors to represent the plight of the American Indian (ARMAND ASSANTE and NICK MANCUSO respectively).
NIGHTWING probably still holds the title as the best killer bat movie ever made, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s fatally dry and about three times more talky then it needs to be. (Take it from me, I own the seriously uncompelling Fotonovel). The cast couldn’t be better, MANCUSO is the sh*T, THE ISLAND‘s DAVID WARNER makes a far better scientist than a pirate, and have I mentioned my long standing adoration of KATHRYN (THE SENDER) HARROLD? The cinematography and the musical score by HENRI MANCINI are top notch as well, but there’s no way around the fact that most of the flick is about as stagnant as a stalactite.
There is one scene that gives you a taste of what the film might have been and frankly it’s almost too awesome to describe. Right smack in the middle of the film, surrounded by all that ponderous dialogue is NIGHTWING‘s crown jewel, a campfire attack to end all campfire attacks. The special effects may be a tad crappy by today’s standards, but the set-up and surprisingly sadistic tone more than make up for it. Watching co-eds meet the business end of gardening equipment may be fun, but you have not lived until you have observed stuffy, prissy middle-agers running about pell-mell with bats chomping on them from head to foot. What’s remarkably hilarious is just how cowardly the male campers are (keep an eye peeled for CHARLES HALLAHAN whose head will later sprout spider legs in J.C’s THE THING), they leave one woman to fall into the actual fire pit and catch aflame, and the other one is refused access to the safety of a nearby van. When the poor woman seeks refuge under the vehicle, her husband nonchalantly drives over her head!
Two more scenes of this caliber of questionable taste and overall pandemonium would have made NIGHTWING an instant classic but alas, some people insist on taking the high road and it is we the audience who suffer. NIGHTWING (and the beloved PROPHECY to some extent) is a good example of trying to woo respectability at the cost of forgetting just who butters your bread. Let me tell ya’ future monster movie makers, that Oscar is never going to be yours; do yourself (and your actual audience) a favor and spread on the blood.