The enduring appeal of the forgotten Nothing Lasts Forever is embedded with film buff lure. On paper, SNL writer Tom Schiller’s sci-fi black comedy should have been a sure-fire hit but, following a catastrophic test-screening in Seattle MGM, decided to pull the film’s release in September 1984. Thirty-five years on and Nothing Lasts Forever has still yet to be theatrically released. The film recently opened Glasgow’s Matchbox Cineclub’s Weird Weekend in glorious 35mm to rapturous applause and rightfully so – this film is sincerely weird.
The film follows the struggles of Adam Beckett (Zack Galligan pre Gremlins fame) as he tries to find his place within the New York art community following a recent stint in Europe. On his return to New York he finds the dystopian city under the control of the oppressive Port Authority. Adam has yet to find his artists medium and after failing the Port Authority Art Test he goes to work as a nightshift traffic controller in the Holland Tunnel. There he meets a fellow struggling artist Mara Hofmeier (Apollonia van Ravenstein) who introduces him to the varying New York art scenes to help find his artistic medium. In a chance encounter on the way back from work Adam shares his breakfast with a homeless person. His generosity is awarded as he is invited to visit the cities secret underground network which is controlled by the homeless. He meets Father Knickerbocker (Sam Jaffe) who instructs him that he must visit the Moon to find his true love and finally become a true artist. Are you keeping up?
Adam boards the Lunar-Cruiser (masked as a school bus) manned by passive aggressive flight-attendant Ted Breughel (Bill Murray). Adam finds himself amongst a spacecraft full of the elderly who are all making repeat shopping trips back to the Moon. As the bus rockets its way into space the occupants are invited to enjoy flashing Lunartini’s whilst relaxing on the moon deck. There is some clever casting of Eddie Fisher, 1950s Hollywood alumni, as the Lunar-Cruiser crooner. The elders dance to Fisher and subsequently cannot hide their fevered excitement to be in the star’s presence reducing them to squealing teenagers all over again. Schiller has commented that the absurdity of sending a bus load of well-dressed old people to the moon to shop his comment on society’s shunning of the elderly.
There is a myriad of threads running through the film including consumerism, society’s treatment of the elderly and artistic authenticity The overwhelm felt by Adam as he embeds himself in the New York art scene and learns about artistic movements is tangible. As a former art school student the ridiculousness of the Port Authority art test is hilariously relatable. The absurdity of the New York art scene in the 1980s, which of course is even more absurd today, provides a lot of laughs. Alongside the film’s overall familiar juxtaposition of genres and visuals, famous artists’ ‘cameos’ are peppered throughout the film — see how many you can count!
The film itself feels like a love letter to many genres from the screw-ball comedies of the 1930s to the affectionately hokey special effects very much in the vein of 1950s b-movies. There is also an obvious homage to The Wizard of Oz with a burst of technicolor towards the end of the film.The inclusion of older actors and actresses lends itself to the nostalgia and along with the use of archival film I felt a heady, hazy deja-vu feeling whilst watching it. We often connect to the older generation through classic movies. Nothing Lasts Forever encourages a deeper respect for the older generation and acts as a sentimental love letter to cinema history.
by Casci Ritchie
Casci Ritchie is an independent dress historian specialising in fashion, film and consumer cultures. Her true great loves – film and fashion – began when she watched her first film noir, The Big Sleep, as a teenager and fell in love Bacall and Bogie hook line and sinker. Some of her favourite films include Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Beetlejuice, Double Indemnityand Cry Baby. You can find her over on Twitter at @CasciTRitchie & her blog www.casciritchie.com.