Nightwing (1979)

Martin Cruz Smith may be best known for his Arkady Renko books, which start with Gorky Park, but he also wrote the book that this vampire bat movie is based on. It has the tagline “Day belongs to man, but night is theirs!” and is much closer to Jaws than any Dracula film.

Arthur Hiller directed and he was behind plenty of great comedies, like the Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor vehicles Silver Streak and See No Evil, Hear No Evil. He was also the Alan Smithee who directed An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn and his last film, perhaps ignominiously but hey, we all need to work, was National Lampoon’s Pucked, which starred Jon Bon Jovi.

Youngman Duran (Nick Mancuso) is a deputy on a New Mexico Native American reservation who is investigating a series of cattle mutilations, which seemed to be happening all the time in the 70’s (or maybe all I did was watch In Search Of and horror movies, so perhaps I was more attuned to it happening).

His foster father — a medicine man — reveals that he has conducted a ritual to bring about the end of the world and his body is soon found drained of all its blood. There’s also a tribal council member named Walker Chee (Stephen Macht, who teaches ethics at Harvard) who has found oil and plans to keep it all for himself.

With the help of a British scientist named Phillip Payne (David Warner!) and medical student Anne Dillon (Kathryn Harrold, the only actress I know who has been paired with both Arnold Schwarzenegger (Raw Deal) and Luciano Pavarotti (Yes, Giogio). Strother Martin shows up, too!

This is perhaps the only vampire movie to feature “Lucille” by Kenny Rogers and “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” by Crystal Gayle on the soundtrack.

While this movie was destroyed by critics in 1979, it has acquired somewhat of a cult audience ever since. If you’re looking for a slow boil about ecology and the plight of our indigenous peoples that suddenly gets awesome when bats swarm a campfire and an old woman gets set ablaze, good news!

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