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 Post subject: Re: Underrated
PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 12:01 pm 
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Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK
I'm not sure if this is underrated as much as totally forgotten, but last night I saw an extremely strange comedy film last night called Nothing Lasts Forever.

The film begins in black and white with 30s style credits and introduces our main character, Adam Beckett (played by Zach Galligan in the same year he made his name in Gremlins), having his musical career spectacularly fail when he cannot keep up the charade of being a great pianist during a concert and stands up revealing to the audience that he's actually been fooling everyone with a player piano. After the refined audience riot and invade the stage (wrapping Adam up like a mummy in the sheet music pulled from the piano!), we next see our hero on a train in Europe trying to find inspiration to become a great artist.

After being given some cryptic encouragement from a fellow passenger (Snip Snap Snorum, Hay Kakalorum!) Adam returns to New York and has to take an artist's test to prove his skills before he is allowed back into the country (a test which involves sketching a nude lady giving him come hither looks while an enormous clock ticks away the three minute time limit, all the time speeding up faster and faster, and a intercom voice gives helpful and constant twittering advice about making sure to have captured gradations of light and shade). He fails and instead of becoming an artist is put to work turning back undesirable characters (or undesirable cars!) from going through the Holland Tunnel (with his supervisor played by Dan Aykroyd).

The film takes another turn into a New York art scene satire at this point, as Adam starts up a relationship with a German bohemian who has also been put to work in the tunnel. They go to coffee bars together and visit art installations where an artist is counting in German while walking on a treadmill, things like that, and during this Adam is trying and failing to find his artistic side. There's quite a funny sequence where the couple's lovemaking comes to an abrupt halt for Adam's girl to obsess over the technique displayed in the Odessa Steps sequence of Battleship Potemkin on a miniscule television screen!

The next turn comes when Adam is visited at work by a tramp he had given some money to earlier in the film, who takes him to an underground society where hobos are secretly running the world (shades of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere!), which is presented in colour, where he is told that it is up to him to bring hope and love to the peoples of the moon by meeting the moon lady from the painting in his apartment (Lauren Tom, probably best known as the voice of Amy in Futurama) and falling in love(!)

After being forcibly ejected from the place (and finding out that his boho girlfriend has shacked up with the treadmill guy from the art gallery!), our understandably disoriented hero stumbles onto a bus, which he is surprised to find out is bound for the moon, with Bill Murray as the ship steward!

The bus is full of elderly people, in a sort of anticipation of the space tourist craze except that this bus features lots of luxuries such as a restaurant and lounge bar with Eddie Fisher crooning away - a far cry from what Dennis Tito probably experienced travelling to the International Space Station!

It turns out that the US established a base on the moon in the 1950s and have been sending busloads of elderly American tourists there to giant shopping centres while subjugating the local indigenous population and forcing them to work as tour guides! The passenger's postcards back to their families from their trip are routed through Miami and only the elderly are taken on trips so that their Moon ramblings are not taken seriously by their families back home!

Once the bus arrives on the moon (also presented in colour) and the tourists are given an indiginous local dance (think Hawaiian hula and flower necklaces) they are packed off to a giant shopping warehouse by the dastardly Murray. Eloy sneaks Adam off to her geodesic dome made out of bamboo reeds (the cratered, barren Moon is just a stage set put up for the tourists, the rest of the Moon is a wild jungle), then the film has a big musical number between the pair, Murray turns up and has his hired goon punch Adam out, which somehow throws him back to Earth.

Adam wakes up, is told that his mission has been successful and is now a great artist and is about to play the piano for real at Carnegie Hall. He performs in front of all the other characters from the film and finally even Eloy turns up (brought to the performance in a handsome cab driven by Lawrence Tierney!), and all is well with the world!

Even describing this film cannot really put across just how bizarre it is! I can see why the film is so little known - the shifts from black and white to colour, the mix of 30s style and 50s cheap sci-fi trappings all take some getting used to. Also, while the film is obviously a comedy it is not a laugh out loud one, more an extremely off-kilter one! (but the quotes from the film on imdb give a taste of the humour!) For example a lot of the lines delivered by the elderly moon tourists are not funny in themselves but are spoken in such a bizarre manner that they do somehow become comic!

I'm not sure that this is a film for everyone, but it is certainly worth checking out if you can find a copy (it is not out on DVD though, and I don't even think that there is a VHS out there of it. It is an MGM film). The nearest thing I can compare the moon scenes with are Queen From Outer Space combined with that early episode from Futurama where the crew visit the moon and have their illusions thoroughly shattered! (I would be very interested to know whether Nothing Lasts Forever had any influence on Futurama - the presence of Lauren Tom would seem to be one of the connections to the series).

EDIT: Here's a fan trailer


Last edited by colinr0380 on Thu Feb 12, 2009 12:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Underrated
PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 12:43 pm 
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Joined: Thu Feb 15, 2007 10:20 am
Location: Guernsey
Seconded. Nothing Lasts Forever is a genuinely odd film, which has the feel of a misremembered dream. I've seen it a couple of times, once on the much missed Moviedrome strand and then again at the Brighton Cinematheque where it shared a double bill with the John Cleese / Arthur Lowe Sherlock Holmes pastiche, The Strange Case of the End of Civilisation As We Know It.

I think colinr get it right - it's not exactly funny as such, but its strangeness and absolute refusal to follow anything but dream logic makes it constantly amusing. Funny peculiar perhaps, rather than funny ha ha. The nearest I can otherwise come to it would be Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid or What's Up Tiger Lily - or indeed the recent La Antena.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 12:25 am 
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Was wondering if anyone on the board has seen this. Unlikely, as it's never really been shown theatrically, but this article makes it sound really intriguing.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 4:43 am 
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Oh, I'd kill for the chance to see this on the big screen! This is such a strange, delightfully warped little film, with some pretty unforgettable imagery. It's rarely very funny (though Bill Murray is a scream as the bus driver), and Zach Galligan looks a little bit in over his head as the lead, but it's such an obvious labour of love it can't help but win you over.

Warner has discussed a DVD on and off for the past few years, I've been dreading the prospect of it winding up as an Archive DVD-R recently, rather than the decked-out, remastered special edition the film fully deserves. Though anything would be better than the rip from German TV I've been watching.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 12:50 pm 
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Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK
Here's a fan trailer

There's nothing better than the moment when the refined audience for a piano recital for no reason suddenly turns into a gang of western-style cowboys and storms the stage when they realise they're being duped by Galligan:

"It's a player piany! Get 'im!"

Or the 'proof of artistic credentials' test which involves sitting in a booth and sketching a scantily clad girl giving extremely distracting come hither looks while an enormous clock ticks away the alloted time for the exercise to be completed, constantly speeding up faster and faster.

I wrote a bit about it in the underrated thread, and Dr Amicus has seen it too. It was shown on the BBC's old Moviedrome series introduced by Alex Cox back in 1994 (in a double bill with Excalibur, of all films! But it made for quite an entertaining evening!)

I still think either Matt Groening or David Cohen should be interrogated about the influence that this film may have had on Futurama. Lauren Tom, who voices Amy in the series, plays the girl in the moon in this earlier sci-fi comedy about another rather clueless New Yorker being buffeted along through various bizarre adventures and romantic entanglements. The early episode where the Planet Express crew visit the Moon and Fry has his illusions thoroughly shattered seems to have some similarities, and the underground society of tramps being revealed to be shaping and guiding the destiny of mankind could be seen to have some relationship to the bums that appear in the final Futurama movie Wild Green Yonder too.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 7:42 pm 
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The article, if I remember rightly said that MGM owned the film and refused to release it, not Warners. Is that correct?


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 7:59 am 
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It was MGM who initially refused to release it, but WB has it now.

This has been theatrically screened before, including an NYC showing a couple of weeks ago (presented by Not Coming to a Theater Near You!). And there were several screenings a few years back, to tie in with a book about Schiller's work; evidently it played at the Lincoln Center, the George Eastman House and the St. Louis Film Festival (which I stupidly missed even though I lived there at the time). I'm guessing they had WB's cooperation, since these don't seem like the kind of venues that would screen a studio film without proper clearances.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 12:13 pm 
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Every time I learn that Warners has a film that I'm interested in seeing, but unreleased, I give a big sigh of dejection.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 04, 2013 8:08 pm 

Joined: Wed Mar 16, 2005 9:20 pm
I wish Warner Brothers would let Criterion license Nothing Lasts Forever. I've been wanting to see that for ages. It's supposedly great. I don't see why it hasn't been released via Warner Archives.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 04, 2013 9:07 pm 
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I would certainly still contend that Nothing Lasts Forever has had some considerable influence on aspects of Futurama!


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2014 12:25 pm 
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I've never known how to see it, but apparently Nothing Lasts Forever has been hanging out on youtube for a few years.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 3:35 pm 

Joined: Thu Jul 25, 2013 3:37 pm
I realize this is way far in advance, but it looks like Nothing Lasts Forever will be shown on Turner Classic Movies during the TCM Underground block late on Saturday January 3, 2015. I know there is the rip floating around from the German TV airing, but if this is the first US airing, I wonder if that means that the legal issues that have prevented a home video release have been sorted out...


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 24, 2014 6:00 pm 

Joined: Wed Mar 16, 2005 9:20 pm
Nothing Lasts Forever is airing on TCM Underground on January 3rd. So it seems to have the clearances to be released. Considering Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd are in the cast; it seems odd that this is still unavailable. Hopefully the TCM broadcast is an indication that Warner is planning to do something with this film on dvd/blu via the archives or Criterion.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 24, 2014 8:28 pm 
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Huh, I just looked it up and it sounds right up my alley so I'm surprised I'd never heard of it. Hopefully this does indicate a release in the future.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 24, 2014 8:47 pm 
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It is always interesting to compare Nothing Lasts Forever to Futurama, and I'm not just saying that because Lauren Tom is in the cast! If Criterion ever release it, I'd hope that they try to interview Matt Groening or David X. Cohen about the film!


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 04, 2015 3:02 am 
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Jeff wrote:
This has already been mentioned in the Criterion/Warner thread, but it's worth repeating. Tom Schiller's Nothing Lasts Forever airs tonight at 2 AM EST. Never released on theatrically or on video, and I believe this marks the first time it has ever aired on U.S. television.

Got my DVR set in the nick of time. Never thought I'd get to see it!


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 04, 2015 4:28 pm 
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Looked leagues better than the bootleg-VHS rip I had before, but while the film will never be reference quality—it was deliberately given an "old movie" look, meaning soft and kinda hazy—I would be surprised if the broadcast was from a true HD source. The fact it was broadcast at all is remarkable, given WB's treatment of it over the years, but I wouldn't be surprised if the sum total of their plans are the TCM airing and a DVD-R release via the Archive.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2015 7:36 pm 
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A bizarre little movie, and not in the ways you'd expect given the premise. A comedy that's not particularly interested in laughs or gags. A romance where the leads spend a fraction of the screentime together. A film about youth cast to the brim with old actors and obsessed with arcane pop culture. A sci-fi/fantasy whose trappings are deliberately shoddy and handmade. It's completely of a piece with the later Schillervision shorts from SNL – "Life Is a Dream", "Falling In Love", "Broadway Dreams": not particularly funny, unapologetically old-fashioned, a little baffling, a little corny, yet endearingly personal in a way that ultimately wins you over. I'm not at all sure if it's a good movie – and in retrospect, there was no way MGM could have ever dreamed of selling the film - but it charmed me nevertheless.

If nothing, this lovely musical number with Lauren Tom has been running through my head all week.

I wonder if Tom Schiller at all retained the rights to those later Snl shorts, as he already had his succesful commercial production company at that point. Nothing Lasts Forever, obscurity aside, might not make for a spine. But I'd purchase it in a minute if it came with all those shorts.


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 Post subject: Re: Underrated
PostPosted: Sat Jan 10, 2015 6:31 pm 
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colinr0380 wrote:
Adam returns to New York and has to take an artist's test to prove his skills before he is allowed back into the country (a test which involves sketching a nude lady giving him come hither looks while an enormous clock ticks away the three minute time limit, all the time speeding up faster and faster, and a intercom voice gives helpful and constant twittering advice about making sure to have captured gradations of light and shade).


This scene was missing from the version that aired on TCM recently. It cut straight from him being told about the artist's test to him sitting back in the office with a drawing of pubic hair.

What is the reason the film went unreleased? I can see MGM not being enamoured with it, but at least dump in a few cinemas or on VHS.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 10, 2015 9:33 pm 

Joined: Sun Oct 14, 2007 5:31 am
Cameron Swift wrote:
colinr0380 wrote:
What is the reason the film went unreleased? I can see MGM not being enamoured with it, but at least dump in a few cinemas or on VHS.


Yes, MGM was not thrilled with it. Peter Bart, being of infinite wisdom, bashes it in one of his books and says that had MGM's catalog never would've been sold if they hadn't produced films like it. It actually did play in New York in 1984, and a trailer was cut (it was narrated by the late Don Pardo, and featured the famed pubic hair art scene!).

Tom Schiller had to go to the Directors Guild a few years ago to put pressure on WB to strike a new print, which is the most complete version of it in existence.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 12, 2015 8:18 am 
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Some guy on Twitter says the life drawing scene was cut out of Schiller's personal print that was screened at MoMI in 1992. Perhaps the TCM version was transferred from that? The same fullframe print has been screened on TCM channels in Europe for quite a few years now. I'd imagine the HD broadcast was just an upscale.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 12, 2015 10:33 am 
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I've twice seen a print Schiller brought to the Alamo Drafthouse during the past 4 years, and both times the scene was intact. We saw the nude woman and the clock ticking down.


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PostPosted: Mon May 25, 2015 8:28 pm 
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On TCM Sunday, May 31 at 2:00 AM ET.

Image

NOTHING LASTS FOREVER (1984)

A displaced artist falls in with a group of social outcasts who actually rule the world.
Dir: Tom Schiller Cast: Zach Galligan , Apollonia van Ravenstein , Lauren Tom.
C-82 mins, CC


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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2015 11:47 am 
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"Due to a rights issue we very unfortunately have to pull NOTHING LASTS FOREVER scheduled for this week. Hope to get it back on the air soon."


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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2015 2:54 pm 
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That's unfortunate, but not entirely surprising.

A couple weeks ago there was quite a lengthy Projection Booth podcast on Nothing Lasts Forever that discussed the fillm's history & interviewed the writer/director as well as the author on a book on the making of the film and the lead actress. What's really fascinating about this is how absolutely nobody involved with the actual making of the film - even Lorne Michaels - knows exactly why it never received a theatrical or home video release.

I saw it when TCM aired it earlier this year, and while I appreciated its nostalgia for an earlier style of American film (it's much more concerned with style than it is with being a comedy), it did seem like something that would've worked better as a short film. But it's certainly interesting and whimsical.


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