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July 26, 1979 - Image 7

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1979-07-26

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The Michigan Daily-Thursday, July 26, 1979-Page 7
Summer cinema sappy, not scary

(Continued from Page 6)
sch, there's not enough of it-or of
anything else, for that matter. It is
probably the most laid-back horror film
I've ever seen, beholden to no one, of in-
terest to few more.
NIGHTWING'S villain is a giant hor-
de of vampire bats that suddenly begin
terrorizing southern New Mexico, its
heroes are a near-psychotic
professional bat hunter (blatantly lifted
from the obsessed shark catcher of
Jaws) and a less-rapt (but wiser) In-
dian deputy. The film unfolds slowly
and deliberately, a process which could
have proven a welcome change of pace
from the loose-ends mania endemic to
most horror cinema. Yet any slow build
needs a solid, shivery payoff to build
toward, and Nightwing ultimately
provides none. It's a monster movie
virtually without a monster.
Responsibility for this strange void
presumably lies with director Arthur
Hiller, probably the least talented
American filmmaker alive and a per-
petual bane to dozens of more able ar-
tists who work far less regularly than
he. Martin Cruz Smith's original novel,
while no work of art, at least provided a
goodly share of gruesome thrills and
atrocities prerequisite to netting a hefty
readership. But despite a huge budget,
director Hiller and screenwriter Steve
Shagan have simply eliminated many
of Smith's shock scenes and whittled
down the remainder to the level of
Rocky the Flying Squirrel.
Nightwing's bats from Hell occupy
no more than ten minutes of the film's
two hours of running time, and are
largely painted onto the screen as
crudely as were the feathered friends of
Hitchcock's The Birds-save for one
oft-repeated closeup of a cuddly rodent
grimacing and arthritically flapping
his wings following a trip to the
taxidermy shop. It's no mystery why
the kiddie corps has avoided this epic in
droves- Nightwing is not only idiotic, it
isn't any fun either. And in this genre,
that's by far the greater sin.
MOONRAKER, the eleventh and by
far the most financially lavish of the
limitless James Bond epics, suffers

from a similar handicap in that its most
memorable scene occurs during the fir-
st five minutes of the film-even before
the opening titles, in fact-and thus all
the lavish machinations that follow
comprise a visual if not thematic an-
ticlimax. Its opening sequence, in-
volving free-fall hand-to-hand combat
between Bond (Roger Moore) and an
adversary over a parachute, is so daz-
zingly delineated that one is caught
halfway between skittery apprehension
over whether the hero will emerge
triumphant and open-mouthed in-
credulity over how they ever managed
to stage the thing at all. When moments
later the lovable leviathan Jaws
(Richard Kiel) swoops Dracula-like out
of the sky hot on Bond's airborne trail,.
one gets the giddy feeling that Moon-
raker's potential for wizardly adven-
ture is going to be limitless.
That this promise isn't fulfilled
shouldn't really be that surprising.
What's fascinating is how durably
popular the Bond genre has remained
since its inception in the early 60's, how
the series' intransigent formula
pastiche of mod weaponry,
megalomaniacal villains and exotic
females has survived intact through a
decade and a half of assassinations.
Vietnam, Watergate and Werner Erhard.
Yet how fresh cana formula remain when
it is repeated to the point of somnam-
bulism? Beneath its bevy of slapdash
gizmo machinations, Moonraker
exudes an overbearing weariness, a
lack of creative energy symptomatic
not so much of social rigor mortis as of
simple cinematic lethargy, of a
timorous disinclination to tamper with
a heretofore inexhaustible money
DIRECTOR LEWIS Gilbert pulls all
the usual strings, but his frenetic
pacing does little to camouflage the
film's absence of invention and flare.
Moonraker's action scenes rarely
exhibit the ferment or humor charac-
teristic of the series' earlier days, its
time-honored sexual double entendres
fail to rouse anything more than a
lukewarm snicker. The film even
exudes an unmistable technical
tackiness, notably during a climactic,
planet-saving outerspace battle which
never rises above the level of a Bat-
tiestar Gallactica shootout-rather less
than one would expect from a (much-
advertised) 30 million dollar budget.

Gilbert's vapid direction extends
down to most of his actors. 'Roger
Moore again proves all too whinsically
bland a Bond (though I always found
Sean Connery's basically vicious inter-
pretation equally unsettling). Michael
Lonsdale projects the most stodgily
vapid supervillain ever to grace the
series, while the untalented Lois Childs
is so remote and passionless as Bond's
fellow agent and bed partner that one is

barely aware she's in the film at all,
even though she occupies a goodly por-
tion of it.
Which leaves the charisma depar-
tment pretty much solely up to the 7'2"
Kiel, who lurches, grunts and gouges
with a bouncy, determined vigor. Too
bad he's not given more than two
speaking lios or allowed to flash his
steel chopperk on less than a hundred
occasions; even charm has its limits.


0 hie
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Mon. Tues. Thurs. Fri. (Adults $1.50 tit

enT RGmonT
This popular French pianist
makes his fifth Ann Arbor appearance.
His recital program is:
Four pieces from Op. 118 . . Brahms
Symphonic Etudes ...... Schumann
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Sonata No. 2 ........... Prokofiev
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the night of the 30th, also at the box
office after 7 pm Tel: 665-3717.
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