Monday, December 31, 2007

Nick Knight – review


Director: Farhad Mann

Release date: 1989

Contains spoilers

This feature length pilot – released on region 1 DVD as a stand alone, was the failed pilot for a series. That series would later be reprised with a, virtually, all new cast and run for three seasons – it’s name Forever Knight. Now, as I sit to write this review I must admit that whilst I had seen this film before, I have not – at the time of writing – ever seen the series. The three box sets are sat waiting to be watched, Christmas presents from my wonderful wife. Thus I go into this review with no preconceptions born from the later series and with a promise that the blog will look at the series just as soon as I can get through 70 episodes (though that will be split as I will review a season at a time).

The film starts out in the Mexican desert. A range rover approaches an archaeological dig just as the workers find something. The driver, Dr Alyce Hunter (Laura Johnson), gets out and retrieves the artefact. It is a jade goblet fashioned into the shape of a Mayan figure with fangs.

We cut to LA and see a cityscape. It is clear that we are in a point of view mode from something breathing and flapping. It aims straight for the Natural History museum and we got point of view camera work as someone stalks the corridors. This point of view camera was meant to hide the villain from us in an attempt to build mystery and suspicion. To be honest, for me, it just became annoying.

dead guardA display case holding the goblet is smashed and it is taken. A guard comes running and is attacked for his trouble, managing to squeeze a couple of ineffectual shots off. He is left on the floor, his neck ripped open. Oh gee, let’s see, flying and neck biting – vampire. Well, it wouldn’t be on this blog if it wasn’t.

Nick Knight (Rick Springfield) is in a tanning booth, he seems to be having difficulty and hits a panic button. By the time the staff get to him he is sat up – he felt claustrophobic. One of the attendants thought him dreamy but the other thinks him weird. He goes three times a week and never gets a tan (strange as he has a tan…) In his car, a ’59 Cadillac chosen because of boot size, he gets a call about the attack – it is the fourth one.

Laura Johnson as HunterNick is the detective in charge of the other murders – all of homeless people - and when he gets to the museum he gets grief off another detective, Schanke (John Kapelos). Knight speaks to Hunter, revealing a higher than normal knowledge of Mayan history. The goblet is the only thing taken and was used to drink the blood of sacrificial victims.

Nick and JackThe press are now interested, as the guard was not homeless, and are calling the attacker the vampire killer. At the morgue, the attending Doctor, Jack Brittington (Robert Harper), asks Nick about the tanning booth and tells him to drink the cup (of tea?) he has given him and making the comment that he will have Nick on chicken soup soon. The guard attack is different than the others, his neck has been bitten the others were slashed. Nick then learns he is to be partnered with Schanke – despite the fact that he works nights and alone.

Lacroix with gobletOkay, all things point to Nick being a vampire and this is confirmed when he gets home and heats bottled blood in – the jade goblet. The film tries to make you wonder if Nick is actually the killer but, given how he wants to be human – with Jack acting almost like an AA sponsor – and the fact that the film is named after him it is a fool’s errand. Nick is convinced the killing was by LaCroix (Michael Nader) the one who turned him. He has been trying to thwart Nick’s return to humanity and it is rumoured that having a pair of goblets will allow a ritual to turn a vampire back to human. There is just the pesky question of why the homeless victims had their throats slit.

Rick Springfield as Nick KnightWhat we get is a prototype 'anguished vampire now detective' show and to be honest Springfield does rather well in the role. Not the same can be said for some of the co-stars and Johnson, whilst not necessarily providing a bad performance, was especially miscast as Hunter for my money. Perhaps it had more to do with the script and directing but I just didn’t buy her character. The film does open up many questions also. How did Nick manage to become a cop springs to mind (and I suspect that the question will remain through the series)? The relationship between Knight and Hunter is also badly handled, rushed almost. Part of this is born of the fact that this was a pilot but it is presented as a movie.

the cross scaresThe vampire rules are very familiar. Crosses ward, sunlight burns, garlic holds them off, fire decapitation and a stake through the heart all kill – though a metal spike will not. The vampires can fly, but flight is always point of view so I can only guess that they turn into bats (we did hear wings beating). The exception is when Nick rises from a pool to attack a bad guy, he is in human form but that might be an exception. Nick covers his mouth and nose when near blood, acts very much like a recovering/slipping addict and likes to watch the sunrise on multiple TVs.

little like Lost BoysThere is some vamp face going on. When angered or hurt the look seems to be similar to that which Buffy would later use. Fanged and ridged seems to be the order of the day. When Nick is aroused it became an eye and fang effect that, for some reason, reminded me of Michael in The Lost Boys.

Michael Nader as LaCroixThis isn’t bad, but it is not the best thing I have seen. Having had a check around opinion seems to be split as to whether the series or this was better. It also seems to be a fundamental split. At the point of writing, I can not say but feel that the series should have the advantage of length. This feels rushed and has too many unanswered questions to be truly satisfying. The filmmakers spent too long hiding the baddy from us and casting suspicion on Nick and not enough time in actually building the full mystery. The soundtrack, incidentally, I thought was awful – way too eighties for present day sensibilities (though to be fair it was an eighties film) and thus horribly cheesy. Let's face it, in the main, soft pop-rock does not make a good vampire movie soundtrack.

All in all 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Derek said...

I love this movie, but it benefitted at the time from being the only game in town when it came to televised vampire heroes. I'll never be able to watch it critically as a result. I do think that this movie and the resulting series had a profound effect on the direction vampire pop culture is today - for good and ill.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Derek, The biggest problem with this is it doesn't work as a stand alone.

I'm quite a way into season 1 of the series now and, whilst the film (stock) quality and budget are obviously lower it hits a lot more buttons... due to the length, I guess, in that it is answering questions that annoyingly hung in this.

You are right on the effect level, and I'll more than likely discuss that when I look at season 1.

Cheers for the comment.

Derek said...

I didn't catch that you hadn't seen the series. I like the series, the main problem I had with it is that the episodes were shot so that they could be shown in any order in syndication. In other words, no ongoing storylines. The third season started to break away from that limited approach, but by then it was too little, too late.

Like the pilot/movie, the series was the only game in town for awhile, so I am not the harshest critic of it; it's part of my vampiric upbringing. I do wish that the producers had allowed the writers to create ongoing storylines with it instead of re-establishing the status quo at the end of every episode.

Overall, it is the kind of series that could benefit from a "re-imagining." Also, be sure to find a copy of Susan Sizemore's tie-in novel "Stirring of Dust." It actually shows more of a love for the characters and concept than the TV series did itself!

Taliesin_ttlg said...


I can see, where I am up to, the point you are making - in fact I intended to make it in the season 1 write up (yes I'm already thinking through it!). That is that the series suffers for having no real over-arching plot and each episode is fairly self-sufficient.

I had already looked at the book on amazon, before the comment lol.

I am sure we will have much debate as I get through the seasons. It is a shame I never caught it originally but I am not sure if it ever aired in the UK, if it did it would have been a late at night job I'm sure.

Derek said...

As you continue through the series, you'll see a very confused vampire mythology. I firmly believe that they made it up as they went along. It starts off with fairly standard 90's vampire lore, before going off on weird tangents. The Sizemore novel I recommended actually takes pains to tie the threads together and try to make cohesive what the show writers didn't. It is truly strange, having a tie-in novel that is superior to any episode of the actual series, but there you go.