In 1984, Tom Schiller made his feature film debut with a terrifically ambitious and idiosyncratic little movie titled Nothing Lasts Forever, the tale of a young man (Zach Galligan from Gremlins) who aspires to become “an artist” but whose lofty ambitions are foiled by the Port Authority of New York who run Manhattan like a totalitarian state. He fails the test for a “creativity license” and they assign him to direct traffic at the Holland Tunnel. The film is shot mostly in black and white, with limited but effective use of color and deftly used cut-ins from from vintage movies, giving it a uniquelytimeless feel (especially for a film made in the 1980s).
Nothing Lasts Forever is similar in some respects to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, with its depiction of a bureaucracy run amok, but with a hefty dollop of Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 thrown in for good measure: While the Port Authority may run New York City like a police state, it’s really a fraternal order of benevolent Illuminati tramps who are calling all the shots. There’s also a bus trip to the moon and true love. Along the way are vivid cameo appearances from Bill Murray as a suspicious bus conductor, Eddie Fisher playing himself as a broke lounge act, Dan Aykroyd as Zach’s uptight manager, Mort Sahl, Lawrence Tierney, Imogene Coca and Larry “Bud” Melman. Lauren Tom (later of Friends) plays the intergalactic love interest. John Belushi was to have played a small role in the film, but died six weeks before photography began.
Nothing Lasts Forever is as difficult to see as Tom Schiller’s SNL shorts. In fact, the film was never given a proper theatrical release to begin with. It was screened once—once—for a test audience in Seattle who gave it the thumbs down and then shelved. For reasons perhaps having to do with clearing the vintage footage Nothing Lasts Foreverhas never been released on VHS or on DVD, either, although it’s been screened on the German TCM channel in a dubbed version titled “Alles ist vergänglich” (a version has made the rounds on Demonoid that used that retracked with a visually inferior English language VHS bootleg’s soundtrack). From time to time Tom Schiller, who has gone on to direct over 500 television commercials (I’d love to know which ones) will appear at a screening of the film or Bill Murray will request that it be screened at a retrospective honoring him. Barring one of those rare screenings, you can watch Nothing Lasts Forever, where else, on YouTube: -Dangerous Minds
Since this post, YouTube has pulled the file. We’ve twisted the arms at Warner Brothers to dig out their 35MM print for us and writer/director Tom Schiller will be in attendance for this very special screening that will take place on Sept 27th at 7:00p.m. Tickets are 16.5