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.

indelible scenes

  • It may take place on a super fake soundstage but the campfire attack is gleefully brutal
  • Director HILLER squeezes some genuine suspence from the electrified cage scene
  • Sighting of seventies staple STROTHER MARTIN (SSSSSS)
  • Duran (MANCUSO) is visited by his dead grandfather who claims responsibility for the bats being summoned. Is this a hallucination or our these bats supernatural in origin?
  • Working against the clock our heroes venture into the bat's cave ... be careful of the deadly ammonia pit!
  • nightwing

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    Jeff Allard
    15 years ago

    Awesome write-up, Unk! I really have to track a copy of this down. Nightwing definitely made an impact on me back when it came out (I rememeber thumbing through the Fotonovel at my local Stop & Shop and thinking about how great the movie looked!).  Of course, it ended up not being all it could've been but until someone makes a better killer bat movie, Nightwing is the best of the bunch.

    Amanda By Night
    15 years ago

    OK, this is what weirds me out… I always thought Bradford Dillman was in this movie. Why oh why? He looks NOTHING like Nick Mancuso. Nothing. Nada… you get the point.

    I love bats. I should see this again. It's been a long time…

    Amanda By Night
    15 years ago

    Oh, I have a Love at First Bite fotonovel. I still haven't seen the movie. Can you believe that one?!?

    Amanda By Night
    15 years ago

    Can you believe I've never seen Ice Castles.  Wow. I have it, I just haven't gotten around to it.

    I actually remember that fotonovel for Charlie's Angels. I worked at a bookstore then. I think I browsed it to see Crispen Glover. I do love him so!

    Wow, we should form a publishing house and get the rights to these and then re-release them. I mean, it can't be that hard, right? Well yeah, it probably is… but I can dream, right?

    aunt john
    15 years ago

    @A.B.N.: Cancel all of your plans, hold all of your calls, and for the L-O-V-E of all movies created for television… watch ICE CASTLES! ROBBY BENSON is at the top of his game, and that LYNN-HOLLY JOHNSON is adorable! Be warned, it's a tear jerker…

    15 years ago

    I have ICE CASTLES in my house and me and my daughter crack that sucker out every so often when we have a Snow Day.
    The other day me and my husband were watching I LOVE THE '70s or I LOVE THE '80s or something and they showed clips from this movie. My husband said "I have never seen it". It was one of those Earth-shattering revelations where I realized (yet again!) I do not know this stranger I lie down with at night! HOW could he have NOT seen ICE CASTLES??? Especially when you consider we OWN a copy!!!!!

    15 years ago

    Absolutely love the middle poster in the article, the big canyon bat. Now that is advertising!