Steve G’s review published on Letterboxd :
A FAIR FEW SPOILERS IN THIS BUMHOLE-HEALINGLY LONG REVIEW.
In fact, why not ease any spoiler worries by watching this wonderful film on YouTube courtesy of a very nice person who taped it off Sky Movies in the 1990s? Or you could ignore this review completely and do something worthwhile instead.
Nothing Lasts Forever is the 1984 sci-fi fantasy comedy, Saturday morning matinee homage and love letter to more film genres than I could possibly get my head around in one viewing that MGM didn't know what to do with. As such, it has sadly sat on the shelf for almost 30 years now without a VHS or DVD release in that time as MGM alleges that such releases have been denied due to "copyright problems" over the old stock footage and music that the film uses.
This is actual horseshit. Director Tom Schiller, who is probably better known for his work on Saturday Night Live back when it was good and relevant and producing comedians that actually made people laugh, was given the opportunity to make this film by comedy super-producer Lorne Michaels completely without interference from the studio. The reason he was able to do that was because Michaels had a development deal with the studio and as the studio showed more or less indifference towards Michaels, they let him go and ahead and hand the film to Schiller presuming it was just a quick piece of crap he was going to knock out to work himself out of his contract quota.
It just goes to show that sometimes you really cannot win within the studio system, though. Here was a bright and exceptional talent who found a way to make exactly the film he wanted with the cast and crew that he wanted for a major studio, but having made the film he then was faced with complete indifference from that same studio. MGM, having no idea how to market the film, more or less shelved it. Considering its small budget of around $3 million, heavy damage at the box office could not have been their main concern.
It may simply have been a reputation concern. They twice denied the film a chance to be screened at Cannes, a location that has always been far more receptive of the kind of offbeat and quirky vision that is presented in this film, and since then repeated calls for a DVD release have been met with a variety of 'maybes' and 'possiblys'. Occasional screenings at film festivals, backed by one of its stars, Bill Murray, and occasional appearances on European TV not to mention a reasonably healthy presence online now have been the only reason this film has survived.
I probably shouldn't get angry or upset about the film's plight - after all, at least you can still watch it, something that cannot be said of huge numbers of films that have fallen lost since filmmaking began. Some of the greatest directors of all time such as John Ford and Alfred Hitchcock saw many of their early films lost and as such we should be thankful that losing films these days is extremely difficult, if still all too frequent.
The issue with Nothing Lasts Forever, however, is that it is a film that should not on any level have been suppressed by its studio. It's a film about a man who, having been exposed as a fraudulent piano player in Europe returns home to New York only to see his hopes of being an artist dashed by Port Authority regulations before salvation appears in the form of a bus trip to the moon organised by some sagely tramps. What better opportunity for a studio to point to itself and say, "Hey! We let a young director make this film! There's hope for all you hopefuls yet!"
There is a germ of absolute genius running through Nothing Lasts Forever that makes its continued lack of release all the more criminal. Its short running time, at just over 76 minutes once you disregard the credits as I do, mean that many of its ideas can seem underdeveloped or only given lip service to. But this is the film that Schiller wanted to make. It's not been pruned by studio interference, as far as I can gather, so that certainly isn't an excuse that could be used to explain the numerous elements in this film that could be viewed as shorn of potential higher quality or development.
It's a criticism often levelled at the film from what I have read but I don't agree- except perhaps when it comes to the ending of the film when Zach Galligan finally makes his journey to the moon and meets his true love, Lauren Tom. That part is perhaps the only notably disappointing part of the film for me although I have found myself wondering if the film's many wonderful little nuggets of brilliance do deflect away from problems that I have been shielded from.
I don't much care, really. As rushed as the ending can be seen to be, I absolutely loved Galligan's art studying through his relationship with his girlfriend Apollonia van Ravenstein - their visit to a gig by an industrial rock band, possibly influenced by San Francisco avant-garde experimental rockers The Residents, is superb, as is an encounter with a post-Beatnik art nerd as they sit at their intentionally jauntily angled tables in a bizarre wine bar-cum-nightclub. van Ravenstein's inter-coital appreciation of Battleship Potemkin is also chucklesome.
For all its quirky stylings, homages and pastiches as it also patterns its acting styles and dialogue on quota quickies and sci-fi B-pictures (Galligan is surprisingly adept at pulling this off and is actually superb here - who knew?), it also happens to be very funny indeed at times. Rather than being odd for the sake of it, Schiller first and foremost makes sure his film is funny and it's hardly surprising that Dan Aykroyd, as Galligan's boss, and Bill Murray, as the conductor of the 'moon bus' are at the centre of the film's funniest moments.
I can easily see many viewers of this film being frustrated by the incomplete feeling you could get from many of the strands on show here if you are not won over by the film's regular minor idiosyncrasies, as I was. At the same time, there is a very good chance that you will find it as charming, funny and occasionally brilliant as I did. If I cared at all about Blu-ray and all that jive, at this point I would say something like, "Cor, this would bloody lovely on Blu-ray!"
However, I don't care about that jive - but the fact that it looked gorgeous on a ropey quality YouTube upload should be enough of a clue as to what they could do with Nothing Lasts Forever should they ever decide to let the world see it properly.