Friday, May 26, 2017

Movie review - "Nightfall" (1988) **

The overall quality of Roger Corman's (and his wife Julie's) output dropped off sharply in the early 80s when he sold New World and started making movies more for video than cinema screens. However they did occasionally try to do something different.

This was Julie Corman's attempt at making something special - an adaptation of Isaac Asimov's 1941 short story (highly regarded, though I had to admit I'd never heard of it - but then I'm not a big sci-fi reader). The writer and director was Paul Mayersberg, who wrote The Man Who Fell to Earth - you can entirely sympathise with why Corman made the choice she did. But I feel Mayersberg stuffs it.

Absolutely yes the budget was low. Possibly too low for this ever to have worked, considering the filmmakers had to create an entire civilisation. It would say though that the production values of this aren't bad - there's some impressive desert landscapes, and nice photography.

I think it's main problems are (a) it looks silly and (b) it's not dramatised.

To tackle point (a), a low budget is no excuse for David Birney's absurd Issac Newton wig, or some of the sillier costumers, or archaic dialogue. I was constantly wanting to invest in the film - which is full of smart ideas and interesting - but kept getting distracted.

For (b) there is some terrific potential conflict - science vs religion, man vs his ex, father vs daughter... but Mayersberg drops the ball. Scenes just sort of start and stop without building - as a viewer I was constantly outside the drama as opposed to being inside it.

There are bold ideas and I enjoyed its ambition. It's a mess but it tries.

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