film reel image

film reel image

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Nightwing 1979 * * * Stars

NightwingDirector: Arthur Hiller
Year: 1979
Rated PG
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Nick Mancuso, David Warner, Kathryn Harrold

1979's Nightwing is an ominous, quasi-horror film with some supernatural and political ties. As something about a colony of vampire bats that terrorize a small New Mexico village, Nighwing is well-plotted, a little slow in spots, beautifully grainy, and atmospheric. Heck, call it a Peter Benchley thriller for the Native American tribe.

So OK, I used to watch Nightwing relentlessly as a kid back in the early 80's (gotta love HBO). Thirty-plus years later, it's not quite as scary but still effective. It takes a sort of Hitchcock approach by not showing the pesky mammals for a good 40-50 minutes. When they do show up, they don't look fake but rather authentic. Nightwing is recommendable even though it's a little preachy and not nearly as gory as 1999's cult hit, Bats (starring Lou Diamond Phillips). 

The cast of Nightwing is solid especially the characters who try to exterminate the bloodthirsty varmints from their cave-dwelling abobe. Nick Mancuso as deputy Youngman Duran and David Warner as scientist Philip Payne are the disciplined standouts.

All in all, it's difficult to find Nightwing on any streaming service so I bellied up and just bought the Blu-ray. Yup, it's one heck of a good-looking print for '79. The cinematography by the late Charles Rosher Jr. (The Onion Field, Semi-Tough) is swallowing as you check out the beautiful New Mexico landscape. Oh and don't forget Henry Mancini's foreboding, musical score that feels so 70's nostalgic.

Bottom line: As one of the most misunderstood fright fests of the "Me Decade", Nightwing doesn't have to "wing" it in my book. Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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