Nightwing (1979)

PG | 105 mins | Horror | 29 June 1979

Director:

Arthur Hiller

Producer:

Martin Ransohoff

Cinematographer:

Charles Rosher

Editor:

John C. Howard

Production Designer:

James D. Vance

Production Companies:

Film Finance Group , Aspen Productions
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HISTORY

At the end of the film, the following statement appears onscreen: “In recent years, vampire bats were discovered and destroyed in a cave in Val Verde County near Del Rio, Texas.” End credits contain the following acknowledgements: “Special thanks to the office and staff of the Governor of New Mexico; the State of Nevada, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Division of State Parks for permission to use state parks in the filming of Nightwing; and Dr. Clay Mitchell, technical advisor.”
       The first name of actor Stephen Macht is spelled correctly in the opening credits, but misspelled as “Steven” in the end credits.
       As stated in production notes in AMPAS library files, the film marked the fourth collaboration for producer Martin Ransohoff and director Arthur Hiller. The story was a departure for Hiller, who had never directed a contemporary thriller. Nightwing also represented the first U.S. feature for Canadian actor Nick Mancuso in the starring role of “Youngman Duran” and the debut feature film for actress Kathryn Harrold in the co-starring part of “Anne Dillon.”
       According to a 3 May 1978 Var article, the $7 million production was largely funded by Film Finance Group (FFG), a venture capital investment firm based in Bermuda and supported by Guinness Brewery in England. A 27 Apr 1978 HR article noted that executive producer Richard R. St. Johns represented the interests of FFG and its partner company, Aspen Productions, which is credited as providing production services on the film. St. Johns estimated that the budget was closer to $8 million.
       A 28 Mar 1978 HR item reported that principal photography ... More Less

At the end of the film, the following statement appears onscreen: “In recent years, vampire bats were discovered and destroyed in a cave in Val Verde County near Del Rio, Texas.” End credits contain the following acknowledgements: “Special thanks to the office and staff of the Governor of New Mexico; the State of Nevada, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Division of State Parks for permission to use state parks in the filming of Nightwing; and Dr. Clay Mitchell, technical advisor.”
       The first name of actor Stephen Macht is spelled correctly in the opening credits, but misspelled as “Steven” in the end credits.
       As stated in production notes in AMPAS library files, the film marked the fourth collaboration for producer Martin Ransohoff and director Arthur Hiller. The story was a departure for Hiller, who had never directed a contemporary thriller. Nightwing also represented the first U.S. feature for Canadian actor Nick Mancuso in the starring role of “Youngman Duran” and the debut feature film for actress Kathryn Harrold in the co-starring part of “Anne Dillon.”
       According to a 3 May 1978 Var article, the $7 million production was largely funded by Film Finance Group (FFG), a venture capital investment firm based in Bermuda and supported by Guinness Brewery in England. A 27 Apr 1978 HR article noted that executive producer Richard R. St. Johns represented the interests of FFG and its partner company, Aspen Productions, which is credited as providing production services on the film. St. Johns estimated that the budget was closer to $8 million.
       A 28 Mar 1978 HR item reported that principal photography was scheduled to begin 17 Apr 1978. The 3 May 1978 Var article mentioned the shooting schedule as ten to eleven weeks, marking the estimated end of production in mid-Jun 1978. According to production notes, the majority of location filming took place in the vicinity of Albuquerque, NM, on Native American territory. To represent the desert landscape surrounding the bat cavern, the filmmakers shot at the Valley of Fire near Echo Bay, NV. For the film’s climatic sequence, an interior cavern sixty feet high was constructed on Stage 16 at Burbank Studios in Burbank, CA.
       In an 11 Jul 1979 DV editorial, filmmaker David Saxon wrote that he produced footage of real bats for the film, photographed at Bracken Cave in Comal County, TX. Saxon noted that he had used the same location to film a 1973 National Geographic Special on bats titled, Strange Creatures of the Night. As explained in a May-Jun 1979 Marquee article, the bats were also created using special visual effects, credited to Carlo Rambaldi, an Academy Award-winning effects artist, whose previous credits included King Kong (1976, see entry), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, see entry), and Alien (1979, see entry).
More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
31 May 1978.
---
Daily Variety
11 Jul 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Mar 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Apr 1978
p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jun 1979
p. 5, 37.
Los Angeles Times
28 Jun 1979
p. 1.
Marquee
May-Jun 1979
p. 14, 16.
New York Times
29 Jun 1979
p. 21.
Variety
3 May 1978
p. 7, 52.
Variety
4 Jul 1979
p. 24.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Columbia Pictures presents
a Martin Ransohoff production
an Arthur Hiller film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
DGA trainee
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Still photog
Key grip
Gaffer
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Best boy
TBS best boy
Elec
2d grip
Dolly grip
Grip
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Const supv
Set dec
Set des
Leadman
Asst prop
COSTUMES
Men's costumer
Women's costumer
Extra costumer
MUSIC
Mus mixer
SOUND
Sd eff
Prod mixer
Dial mixer
Eff mixer
Boom man
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec visual eff
Spec eff
Opt supv
Titles by
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Exec asst to prod
Scr supv
Unit pub
Transportation coord
Auditor
Prod secy
Project asst
Secy to dir
Prod services by
Secy to prod
Secy to prod
Prod coord
Transportation capt
First aid
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt person
Stunt person
Stunt person
Stunt person
COLOR PERSONNEL
[Col by]
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Nightwing by Martin Cruz Smith (New York, 1977).
SONGS
“Lucille,” performed by Kenny Rogers, courtesy of United Artists Records
“Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” performed by Crystal Gayle, courtesy of United Artists Records.
DETAILS
Release Date:
29 June 1979
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 29 June 1979
Production Date:
17 April--mid June 1978 in Albuquerque, NM
Echo Bay, NV
Burbank, CA
and Comal County, TX
Copyright Claimant:
Polyc International, B.V.
Copyright Date:
14 August 1979
Copyright Number:
PA41714
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses/Prints
Camera equipment by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
105
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
Netherlands, United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

On the Maski Indian reservation in the desert Southwest, tribal deputy Youngman Duran is summoned to a ranch where a herd of horses has mysteriously died. Examining a mare, Duran is dumbfounded by the plethora of deep bite marks and the strong smell of ammonia around the dead animal. Duran is upset to see Walker Chee, a chief from the neighboring Pahana tribe, arrive by helicopter with a veterinarian, since the Pahana do not have jurisdiction in the area. Considering his own tribe’s impoverishment, Duran resents the Pahana’s affluence, as well as Chee’s business schemes. Duran leaves the investigation with Chee, whose veterinarian is also baffled by the horse massacre. Duran then visits Abner Tasupi, a Maski priest, who has been banished from the community, for witchcraft. Although Duran was raised by Abner and admires him, he reminds the elderly man that Maski leaders fear his magic. Under the influence of the hallucinogenic datura root, Abner declares that he has cast a spell to end the world, whose greed threatens the Maski. Pointing to a circular painting on the floor, Abner says that he has instigated this apocalypse by destroying the outer ring of the picture, thus “opening the circle.” Furthermore, Abner predicts that he will die that evening and announces Duran will be a powerful warrior. Skeptical, Duran leaves. At sunset, Duran relaxes in a hot spring with his girl friend, Anne Dillon, an aspiring doctor who runs a clinic on the reservation. He is jealous to learn that Anne has been accepted to medical school and will be moving to Houston, Texas, while he ... +


On the Maski Indian reservation in the desert Southwest, tribal deputy Youngman Duran is summoned to a ranch where a herd of horses has mysteriously died. Examining a mare, Duran is dumbfounded by the plethora of deep bite marks and the strong smell of ammonia around the dead animal. Duran is upset to see Walker Chee, a chief from the neighboring Pahana tribe, arrive by helicopter with a veterinarian, since the Pahana do not have jurisdiction in the area. Considering his own tribe’s impoverishment, Duran resents the Pahana’s affluence, as well as Chee’s business schemes. Duran leaves the investigation with Chee, whose veterinarian is also baffled by the horse massacre. Duran then visits Abner Tasupi, a Maski priest, who has been banished from the community, for witchcraft. Although Duran was raised by Abner and admires him, he reminds the elderly man that Maski leaders fear his magic. Under the influence of the hallucinogenic datura root, Abner declares that he has cast a spell to end the world, whose greed threatens the Maski. Pointing to a circular painting on the floor, Abner says that he has instigated this apocalypse by destroying the outer ring of the picture, thus “opening the circle.” Furthermore, Abner predicts that he will die that evening and announces Duran will be a powerful warrior. Skeptical, Duran leaves. At sunset, Duran relaxes in a hot spring with his girl friend, Anne Dillon, an aspiring doctor who runs a clinic on the reservation. He is jealous to learn that Anne has been accepted to medical school and will be moving to Houston, Texas, while he struggles on the reservation. The next morning, Duran finds Abner lying dead next to the floor painting with bite marks on his face and realizes that the old man’s rant was not a hallucination. After gathering supplies for the burial, Duran returns to the dwelling and is angry to find a British scientist named Philip Payne taking tissue samples from Abner’s corpse. Despite Payne’s insistence that he is a specialist who can determine the cause of death, Duran points a gun at the man and orders him to leave. As Duran buries Abner, Anne embarks on a tour of the reservation for several days with four missionaries whom she hopes will contribute funds for new medical clinic. Meanwhile, at the Pahana Tribal Council, Payne meets with Chee to ask for support in tracking vampire bats that have likely migrated to the area from Mexico. However, Chee says he does not have time to facilitate Payne’s research. Frustrated, Payne leaves and tells Chee to telephone him if there are sightings of carcasses smelling of ammonia. In the meantime, Chee pursues a lucrative business deal and appeals to Duran regarding a permit to mine shale oil in Maski Canyon. Insulted by the idea, Duran reminds Chee that the area is the holiest site within the Maski religion. Elsewhere, Payne confirms that vampire bats massacred a flock of sheep and alerts Chee. After examining a blood specimen from the carcasses, the scientist demonstrates to the tribal chief and a medical doctor that the bats carry bubonic plague. He also explains that the ammonia smell results from the bats discharging excess blood in order to become airborne again. Payne warns that the colony will eventually be drawn to human populations and spread the plague. Arguing that a quarantine on the reservation will attract inexperienced health officials and lead to panic, Payne convinces Chee that he can track and exterminate the bat colony within three days. In the meantime, Payne provides the doctor with a vaccine that offers some resistance to the plague. Meanwhile, at their campsite in the desert, Anne and the missionaries are attacked during the night by the vampire bats. Anne is the only survivor, but she is stranded after their camper van crashes in the desert during the escape. Elsewhere, at a rain dance ceremony, Duran discovers seven dead Maski priests, who contracted the plague after stealing Abner’s corpse to curtail his afterlife powers. Although Duran wants to notify health authorities, Chee persuades the impatient deputy to give Payne, whom he has verified as a rare expert in the field, another thirty-six hours to locate the colony before alarming the Center for Disease Control. In meantime, the media is informed that the priests died of food contamination. Payne continues to chart the bats’ movement and gets closer to the nesting area after finding two of the dead missionaries. As soon as Duran hears about the campsite attack, he sets out to find Anne and rendezvous with Payne in the desert. There, Payne is equipped with a truck that operates as a mobile laboratory. Following tire tracks from the camper van, the two men locate Anne and help her recover from dehydration. Meanwhile, Payne is confident that the bats’ lair is located within sacred Maski Canyon and explains to Duran that once the exact cave has been identified, he will release a poisonous gas and exterminate the colony. During the daytime, Payne sets up his equipment at the entrance to the canyon. At sunset, he, Anne, and Duran remain inside a wire mesh cage rigged with an electrical current and wait for the night creatures to find them. As the colony surrounds them, Payne fires an electronic tracking dart into one of the bats. The next day, Payne follows the dart signal and climbs to the top opening of the bats’ lair. While preparing to release the gas, Payne accidently falls into the cave. However, he is able to clutch a rope in time and hangs precariously above a pool of ammonia surrounded by jagged rocks. Meanwhile, Duran accesses the cave through a lower entrance and chews on the datura root to expand his senses. Despite his insistence that Anne stay behind, she follows him. When Duran sees Payne dangling above, he instructs the scientist to swing his body toward the soft sand of the cave floor, then cut the rope. Payne survives the fall, but is severely injured. Meanwhile, the bats begin to stir as sunset nears. Under the influence of the root, Duran sees Abner’s painting on the cave floor and uses shale rock to reclose the circular border. As the creatures attack, Duran fulfills his destiny as a warrior and ignites the formation of shale rocks, creating a powerful ring of fire that destroys the vampire bat colony and engulfs the cave. Carrying Payne, Duran and Anne escape outside. As the threesome recuperate, Duran looks at the burning caves and believes that Abner used his powers to summon the fires to protect the sacred Maski Canyon from mining interests. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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