It’s always fun discovering a rare film. The type of movie that isn’t readily available, either because of rights issues or the simple fact that the film is an atrocity. Several months ago, Turner Classic Movies presented what appears to be the North American television debut of one such film, Nothing Lasts Forever (1984). With a cast that includes legends like Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, is this movie a classic waiting to be discovered or something better left in dust bins?
The movie stars a young Zach Galligan, fresh off of Gremlins, as Adam Beckett, an aspiring artist. In the opening scene, we see him apparently playing the piano like only a true concert pianist could. However, once he reveals that it is only a player piano, the appreciative crowd quickly turns on him. He escapes to Europe where, after explaining he wants to be an artist, he receives encouragement from an architect on a train. He decides to return to America. However, upon his arrival at New York City, he discovers that the Port Authority now controls it, along with everyone there, in an almost totalitarian state.
The tale unravels much like a Terry Gilliam film might, just with less color and eccentricity. For starters, the film is almost exclusively in black and white. It’s presented much like a film noir of sorts as Adam discovers that the city’s tramps are secretly in control of the world. They give him the mission of traveling to the moon, finding his true love and spreading world peace. Appearances by such stars as Dan Aykroyd (Adam’s boss in the Holland Tunnel), Bill Murray (the moon bus conductor) and Sam Jaffe (mysterious underground leader) are what really make this film a novelty, not to mention the color sequences underground or on the moon ala The Wizard of Oz.
The film’s more exciting story is the history of its release and availability. After a screening to MGM Hollywood executives, the movie was shelved. It was never released theatrically nor has it ever been made available on any home media. It has been shown on German and Dutch television, contributing to the bootleg copies circulating amongst rare film collectors. In 2011, one such copy found its way to YouTube, where it apparently survived until a 2014 online article discussing the film essentially alerted Warner Brothers (now the film’s owners) and, not surprisingly, the film was quickly pulled. A brief clip in the Holland Tunnel featuring Zach Galligan and Dan Aykroyd is still available as is a fan-made trailer (not bad considering the poor quality).
However, the film has circulated in various film festival screenings over the last decade or so. Then, in January 2015, it aired on Turner Classic Movies. While Warner Brothers claims rights issues are preventing its home video release, airing it on television seems less complicated.
Personally, I found the novelty and rarity of the film ultimately more appealing than the film itself. It wasn’t bad but I also wasn’t overly impressed. While Lorne Michaels and Tom Schiller created something that would have been a fun skit on Saturday Night Live, it seemed to really be stretched thin for a film with a running time of 82 minutes. While I won’t be adding it to my personal collection, I am glad to say that I’ve finally seen it.
Podcaster extraordinaire Terry Frost reviewed this film over at the Paleo Cinema podcast in episode 59 way back in 2010. Go check it out and tell him Monster Movie Kid sent you. Then, begin your search of the dark corners of the internet to see if you can find a copy of the film. It’s certainly worth the journey if for no other reason the fact that the powers that be are trying to keep it from you. That always seems to make the viewing experience that much more fun.