This week on TCM Underground: NOTHING LASTS FOREVER (1984)

Nothing Lasts Forever

A young man with artistic ambitions but no actual talent flees Manhattan in the not-too-distant future and hops a shuttle to the moon in search of true love.

Cast: Zach Galligan (Adam Beckett), Apollonia van Ravenstein (Mara Hoffmeier), Lauren Tom (Eloy), Sam Jaffe (Father Knickerbocker), Paul Rogers (Hugo), Bill Murray (Ted Breughel), Dan Aykroyd (Buck Heller), Imogene Coca (Daisy Schackman0), Anita Ellis (Aunt), Mort Sahl (Uncle), Jan Triska (Architect), Eddie Fisher (Himself), Avon Long (Steward), Calvert DeForest, King Donovan (Passengers), Lawrence Tierney (Carriage Driver), Walt Gorney (Stage Manager), Tom Schiller (Mara’s friend), Raynor Scheine (Hillbilly) Marc Alderman (Lifewalk 5000 Conceptual Artist). Director/writer: Tom Schiller. Cinematography: Fred Schuler. Music: Howard Shore.

Color/B&W, 82 min.

Showtime: Saturday, January 3, 11pm (PST), 2am (EST). 

Bill Murray as Ted

Bill Murray isn’t the star of NOTHING LASTS FOREVER (1984), the one and only feature film (to date!) directed by SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE‘s Tom Schiller, but he is the star of its resurrection. If you’re of a certain age, you will remember, and I hope fondly, the Schiller’s Reels that would run on SNL between sketches. “La Dolce Gilda” was a smart send-up of Federico Fellini’s LA DOLCE VITA (1960) — Fellini loved it — and “Don’t Look Back in Anger” a now eerily ironic trip through the Not Ready for Prime Time Players Cemetery, where sole series survivor John Belushi dances on the graves of Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman, Jane Curtin, and SNL apostate Chevy Chase. It was obvious back then that Schiller was too hip for the room, his stuff flying over the heads of SNL fans who were more into the sophomoric excesses of ANIMAL HOUSE (1978) and CADDYSHACK (1980) than canny allusions to Depression-era Hollywood films, Renaissance art, and German Expressionism.

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Not surprisingly, when Schiller answered the call from Hollywood it wasn’t person-to-person but via the Lorne Michaels party line. The creator of SNL (then in its seventh season), Michaels had just signed a five picture deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer at the rollout of his pet production company, Broadway Video. (Billeted in the historic Brill Building, Michaels also put the comedy team of Al Franken and Tom Davis on a project, a proposed spoof of George Orwell’s 1984 to be titled 1985). NOTHING LASTS FOREVER got underway in April 1982 but Belushi was already in his grave, for real. Riding high on the success of STRIPES (1981), Murray contributed a cameo, as did Dan Aykroyd (in a bit of a career slump post-NEIGHBORS, his final partnering with Belushi, and prior to his comic comeback with TRADING PLACES and GHOSTBUSTERS and disarmingly winning supporting roles in DRIVING MISS DAISY and MY GIRL); Schiller cast his movie with a mindblowing melange of old-and-new-timers, among them a pre-GREMLINS (1984) Zach Galligan and a pre-THE JOY LUCK CLUB/FRIENDS/FUTURAMA/KING OF THE HILL Lauren Tom and such industry veterans as Mort Sahl, Imogene Coca (whose next film was NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION), GUNGA DIN‘s Sam Jaffee (sans nappy), former movie tough guy Lawrence Tierney (hard up for paying work between ARTHUR and RESERVOIR DOGS), crooner Eddie Fisher, and King Donovan (this was the INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS‘ last film role), as well as novelty acts Calvert DeForest (aka Larry “Bud” Melman, David Letterman’s amorphous amanuensis), pure castile soap magnate Emmanuel Bronner, and British stage actor Paul Rogers  (then starring as “Sir” in the original Broadway run of THE DRESSER). Plus! Plus! Plus! Crazy Ralph from FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980) and FRIDAY THE 13TH PT,. 2 (1981)! (Even after name-checking all these people I have to admit my favorite line in the whole movie comes courtesy of Broadway hoofer Avon Long, who passed away in February 1984 after playing a bit in TRADING PLACES.) If you’re not thinking “Wow” or “Holy Gee” or “Man oh Mantan Morleand,” then just stop reading here and go watch GAME OF THRONES or do whatever hipsters do nowadays, live tweet about SXSW or something.

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By Tom Schiller’s own account, the making of NOTHING LASTS FOREVER was happy and exciting, with the filmmaker riffing on art that inspired and compelled him and thinking about what was in the cards for all of us. The movie is certainly prescient about — among other things — branding, that noxious practice of declaring what something is before it’s anything in the hopes that it will be. Zach Galligan’s hapless Adam Beckett (wait for it) isn’t to be demonized for his lack of talent but rather lauded for not putting up with the artifice, for making his own mediocre way. The movie shares a kind of crooked kinship with Martin Scorsese’s THE KING OF COMEDY (1982), as well as a cinematographer in Fred Schuler (the Munich-born former camera operator had learned his craft on the sets of ACROSS 110TH STREET, JAWS, DOG DAY AFTERNOON, ANNIE HALL, and THE DEERHUNTER before breaking out on his own as a DP with John Cassavetes’ GLORIA in 1980), with both protagonists managing to find a level of happiness in their blessed ordinariness. Schiller was making the movie not by agenda but out of his gut, Grandma Mosesing his way by instinct.

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“It’s not one film,” Schiller told writer Jenny Jediny for the website Not Coming to a Theater Near You in 2010, “it’s all the films I saw growing up watching late night television when I was eleven or twelve. Trip to the moon movies, every Fellini movie I ever saw, and the spirit of all those bad sci-fi movies from the 50s, and also American studio films of the 40s and 50s.” NOTHING LASTS FOREVER also seems to share a bloodline with that great wee-small-hours variety show NIGHT FLIGHT; common to both is a compulsion to work out the problems of the present day in the chintzy crucible of pop culture. Schiller’s tack was anti-glitz, anti-importance; he even cast Zach Galligan over Matthew Broderick, John Cusack, and Matthew Modine because he wanted an unknown in the part. The participation of their of those rising stars would have given NOTHING LASTS FOREVER a better leg up with the Metro brass but after a disappointing preview in Seattle the studio shelfed the film, which was not even finished. Failing even to fix some flaws in editing (a duplicate scene, for example), the studio remaindered the film to video and pawned it off on Europe. Tom Schiller never made another feature and went back to working on SNL while directing commercials and episodic TV. Though there was interest from the Cannes Film Festival to show NOTHING LASTS FOREVER in conjunction with its Director’s Fortnight but MGM said no.

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Over the course of the last thirty years, NOTHING LASTS FOREVER has been less lost than lost cause. You could see the thing. New York’s Museum of the Moving Image staged a day of “SchillerVision” back in March of 1992, exhibiting Schiller’s short subjects and capping the event with a screening of NOTHING LASTS FOREVER. But re-consideration and renewed interest is down to Bill Murray, who insisted that a print of the film be made available for a retrospective of his work at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2004. Since then, NOTHING LASTS FOREVER has played festivals (the St. Louis International Film Festival, the Olympia Film Festival in Washington state) and rep dates (The Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, Cinefamily in West Hollywood, the 92nd Street Y-TriBeCa in New York). Big names like Richard Corliss and Richard Brody and several other people not named Richard hopped up on the soap box to plead the movie’s case and some good Samaritan even uploaded it in its entirety to YouTube and then Warner Bros. (who inherited the property from MGM) pulled the plug and…

Warner Bros

By now I hope you appreciate the seriousness of the situation. Though the good people at the Warner Archives would love to get the go-ahead to put NOTHING LASTS FOREVER onto DVD, who knows how long it will take the lawyers to work out the details. For now, the film is showing this Saturday on TCM Underground, so set your recording devices accordingly.

Escape-From-Ox-Baker

Following NOTHING LASTS FOREVER in the “overnight” slot is another dystopian Manhattan classic, John Carpenter’s ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981). Memorable among Carpenter’s rogue’s gallery of supporting players is wrestler Ox Baker, the Great Heart Puncher, whom we lost this past October at the age of 80.

15 Responses This week on TCM Underground: NOTHING LASTS FOREVER (1984)
Posted By AL : January 1, 2015 12:30 am

what about ANITA ELLIS ? “La Dolce Gilda” ?

Posted By tdraicer : January 1, 2015 8:41 am

I never heard of this, but now I certainly will be dvring it-thanks! (But Game of Thrones is brilliant btw.)

Posted By Lamar : January 1, 2015 6:58 pm

Thanks for the heads up-have long wanted to see this. More Avon Long is always a good thing.

Posted By Doug : January 1, 2015 10:03 pm

Those of us of a certain (wonderful) age watched the very first episode of SNL-Belushi as an immigrant learning English from a wicked Michael O’Donohue.
Schiller was one genius among many at that show; I would like to see this film, if only for nostalgia.

Posted By Carol : January 2, 2015 1:34 pm

Hey, some of us have enjoyed both this and Game of Thrones! I watched this when it was on YouTube and look forward to seeing it on a larger screen. Thanks for the notice!

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : January 3, 2015 1:27 am

Oh, I’m just ribbing you about GAME OF THRONES. Hipster!

Posted By Danny : January 4, 2015 7:27 am

This is a refreshingly unique choice for TCM Underground. It shows how creative and talented SNL’s original batch of writers were. A true hidden gem of a flick!

Posted By JfJeter3 : January 4, 2015 2:54 pm

Caught the last half of this last night/this morning and was intrigued. I’m begging the powers that be to please put this thing out on DVD ASAP.

Posted By Gary : January 4, 2015 3:28 pm

Richard, will this film be playing again anytime soon on TCM? Thanks.

Posted By Avery Sloan : January 4, 2015 8:48 pm

Great film! When will this be aired again? I came across it this morning and only saw the last 2/3.

Posted By swac44 : January 5, 2015 6:31 pm

I saw someone on Facebook noting that the transfer of Nothing Lasts Forever shown on TCM this weekend had an odd green tinge, and was missing a scene that he remembered from a festival screening. Sad to think that the version was compromised, but maybe that scene had to be withheld for copyright reasons (I have no idea myself what it might have been). I suppose we should be lucky to see this film in any form at this point; I saved a copy from YouTube before it was pulled, but I’m sure whatever TCM showed would be an improvement.

I remember seeing La Dolce Gilda when SNL showed it following Radner’s passing, with a touching introduction by Steve Martin. Of all the SNL talent we’ve lost, her loss feels the saddest, because she was so fearless and funny.

Posted By Avery Sloan : January 5, 2015 7:08 pm

I was able to view the entire movie using TCM On Demand. It will be available until Jan. 11th.

Posted By Carol : January 8, 2015 1:48 pm

Am I still a hipster if I’ve also been reading the series since it started? :)

TCM Party on Twitter held a #WatchTCMParty for this movie the other night; Zach Galligan even joined in, sharing tidbits like the party at Aunt Anita’s apartment was filmed at Anita Ellis’ actual apartment. Somebody put all of the relevant tweets together to be read at https://storify.com/willmckinley/live-tweet-of-nothing-lasts-forever-1984-w-watchtc.

Posted By swac44 : January 8, 2015 8:34 pm

I liked Lou Lumenick’s tweet about NYC being at its nadir in 1982, this morning I watched the remarkable A Most Violent Year which is set in NYC in 1981, and whose title refers as much to the crime rate in the city at that time as it does to the events that transpire in the story. I remember visiting the city for the first time as a child around that time with my family, and being a bit terrified, given its reputation during that period.

Posted By Mario500 : February 19, 2015 9:11 pm

According to the “full” programming schedule for Turner Classic Movies on their main World Wide Web site, they would have “Nothing Lasts Forever” broadcast again this year on the Sunday of May 31st between the Central times of 1:00 a.m. and 2:30 a.m.

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