NIGHTWING—–this dopey 1979 fright flick took flight as part of a horror sub-genre of the era, loaded up with trendy faux Native American mumbo-jumbo around spirits, animals, ecology and retribution for screwing everything up. Wanking entries included Wolfen, The Manitou, Prophecy and Poltergeist II. This time it’s bats, those maligned, wondrous creatures that are always getting a bum steer. No wonder they seek revenge. Arthur Hiller took this as a directing assignment for some reason (too many cocktails?), but he was defeated by its silliness. The fur-fluttering special effects don’t pass muster.
Filmed in New Mexico, with Nick Mancuso (reservation cop), David Warner (visiting British scientist who hates bats and their “foul syrup of digested blood“, grousing that they “drink blood and piss it out as ammonia“—lighten up, Bat Masterer), Kathryn Harrold (helpful smitten Anglo neighbor), Stephen Macht (bad-medicine tribal turncoat), Ben Piazza (oil company swine), Charles Hallahan and the at-home-with-craziness Strother Martin. 105 minutes.
Writers Martin Cruz Smith and Steve Shagan use made up tribes–the ‘Pahana’ and the ‘Maskai’: so much for honoring Great Spirit. The vampire bats that swarm here are also carrying bubonic plague germs in their sharp little flying rodent teeth. The mumbo-mayhem did manage to mop up $9,900,000.