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‘Nightfall’ (PG-13)

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 30, 1988

"Nightfall" is the "Plan 9 From Outer Space" of the '80s, an instant entry into the film world's hall of shame. Based (rather loosely, one hopes) on a short story by Isaac Asimov, the film looks like it was shot. On a weekend. In an outdoor area covering perhaps half an acre. With a budget in the hundreds of dollars and a cast of dozens. With costumes picked up at the "Ishtar" distress sale. With a screenplay credited to director Paul Mayersberg, though it has the feel of communal improvisation. With no beginning, no development, no explication de texte, and, most frighteningly, no apparent end.

Which may explain why the crowd at the Jenifer on Friday night sat dumbfounded for the first half before finally surrendering to the inanity, at which point the ludicrous flowing Prince Valiant wig worn by leading actor David Birney became a symbol of "Nightfall's" stab at immortality.

Unfortunately, Birney is no Tor Johnson and Mayersberg is no Edward D. Wood Jr. (the star and producer-director-writer of the 1959 classic "Plan 9"), so "Nightfall's" only redeeming value is that someday viewers will be able to tell their grandchildren that, sure, they saw that one "in a movie theater." Even then, they still may not believe they saw the whole thing.

For the record, Birney plays a mystic gone misty over a mysterious woman. Meanwhile, his wife has abandoned him for a cult led by a blind prophet. Meanwhile, their planet (it looks like a cross between ancient Greece, hippie New Mexico, India and Turkey, depending on the costume of the moment, though the passions are strictly Peyton Place) is going through a crisis of its own as its life force of perpetual light is threatened by the seven suns sinking in the west (much more quickly than the movie itself, incidentally).

Although it's in English, "Nightfall" has the feel of a dubbed film, sort of like the Steve Reeves "Hercules" without muscles. On the other hand it's so inept, obtuse and absurd that it serves as a celluloid Rorschach, inspiring giggles and groans with virtually every frame. Consider yourself warned: This is rock bottom cinema. "Nightfall" couldn't fall much lower. Paul Mayersberg will make you suffer for his art.

"Nightfall" is rated PG-13, but contains some nudity.

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