Nothing Lasts Forever (1984)

Nothing Lasts Forever has never been released theatrically or even on VHS, DVD or blu ray — hell, it isn’t even streaming — in the United States. The closest anyone ever came to seeing it was when a fan uploaded a copy to YouTube, which was up for moments before Turner Entertainment demanded it be removed. Ever since, it has aired only at live screenings and rarely on the TCM Underground late night movies on Turner Classic Movies.

Good luck finding it.

The writer and director of Nothing Lasts Forever, Tom Schiller, is perhaps most famous for the short films he made for Saturday Night Live. Perhaps the best-known one is Don’t Look Back in Anger, a tale where a much-older John Belushi dances on the graves of all of the other Not Ready for Prime Time Players. Even in art, Belushi knew that he would pass away before them all, so this sketch is at once hilarious and heartbreaking. Another of his films, Love Is a Dream, featured the gone too soon Phil Hartman and Jan Hooks, and is equally depressing yet full of optimism.

Yes, the work of Schiller is often a juxtaposition. Much like this film, which tries to be a crowd-pleasing 1940’s mainstream film made in 1984 for audiences that probably wanted nothing to do with it.

Adam Beckett (Zach Galligan) starts the film in a dream, forced to sit behind a player piano and miming through songs before he is caught. As he awakes, he is asked what he wants to be.

Surely, he could be an artist. But the Port Authority has assumed control of New York City and forces him into manual labor, led by Buck Heller (Dan Aykroyd), his probably mentally deranged boss.

However, he soon learns that the true power in the world lies in the hands of the tramps who huddle around open fires and live underground. As he has been kind to them, they help him travel to the moon on a bus driven by Ted Breughel (Bill Murray) where he will be inspired by his true love Eloy (Lauren Tom). Her name is a reference to the future people in The Time Machine.

We end where we began, with Beckett on stage playing the piano, yet now fulfilled and sure of himself.

Along the way, Eddie Fisher plays himself as an entertainer on that aforementioned bus to the moon, Imogene Coco shows up and Mort Sahl appears. Yes, this movie was made in 1984. It also features a cameo from Dr. Emanuel Bronner, the man who made the soap with all of the Bible verses and strange words all over the packaging. I knew who he was the instant he began to speak.

There are many lessons to be learned in this film, with dialogue like “You will get everything you want in your lifetime, only you won’t get it in the way you expect.” This is the kind of movie that makes me tear up when I think of it. I wish that it was easier to share, something that could be found, but perhaps the occult nature of it being lost adds to its power, its mystique.

Someday, it may be available on a Criterion blu ray or able to stream whenever you want to watch it. But in a world where everything is at our fingertips, it gives me some joy to know that not everything is so easy to touch.

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