The bizarre Nothing Lasts Forever, the Saturday Night Live movie you haven’t heard of, never received a commercial release. While it has been on YouTube since 2012, it is only just now getting attention thanks to an article in The Telegraph. It is a fascinating oddity…
While Nothing Lasts Forever, isn’t based on any SNL sketch or character, it was produced by the show’s producer, Lorne Michaels, written and directed by Tom Schiller, one of the show’s writers and directors during the 1970s and 1980s, and featured Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd in small roles.
According to the Telegraph article, MGM was originally planning to release the film in September of 1984 in hopes of capitalizing on star Zach Galligan, who also starred in the hit Gremlins, as well as the presence of Murray and Aykroyd, who were riding high on the success of Ghostbusters.
While Schiller never got a straight answer on why the film was ultimately canned, he believed it was because it was decided it wasn’t commercial enough. This is probably true as the tone is closer to that of an arthouse film than the sort of mainstream sci-fi comedy that MGM was likely hoping to market it as.
Galligan stars as Adam Beckett, an aspiring artist, who isn’t sure what medium he works in. After trying to find himself in Europe, Adam returns to a New York City that is run by the Port Authority due to strikes. Manhattan has its own customs and border protection. Artists are required to pass the Port Authority Artist Test: sketching a nude woman in four minutes.
When Adam fails the test, he is told he must work as a border guard at the Holland Tunnel. His boss (Aykroyd) tells him to turn away all foreigners, especially those from New Jersey and Connecticut.
Adam’s kindness towards the homeless gets him noticed by the secret underground guardians of New York, who inform him that he can become a true artist if he can bring love to the moon.
Murray, playing a lunar flight attendant, is the film’s nominal villain. He doesn’t take kindly to Adam joining a group of elders on a bus to the moon.
Shot in black and white, Schiller wanted to make a throwback to cinema of the 1940s and 1950s, which he makes clear from the first frame by utilizing a retro opening credits style. His visuals take on the workmen-like aesthetics of the period’s low-budget studio films.
The special effects are charmingly cheap with models and sets that don’t attempt to hide their artifice. It is a loving tribute and fans of 1950s science-fiction should appreciate the attention to detail in recreating the endearing silliness of the era.
In addition to paying homage to a specific time period, Schiller also satirizes avant garde art. Adam meets a German woman who introduces him to Dadaism and counter culture. The visual of a group of artists fascinated by an exhibition of a man counting to a million in German while walking on a treadmill is an amusing commentary on the pretentiousness of (some) conceptual art.
The cast also includes Lauren Tom, who went on to voice Amy Wong on Futurama, Sam Jaffe, a character actor who appeared in such films as Ben Hur and The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Imogene Coca, who played Aunt Edna in National Lampoon’s Vacation.