Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Nightmare Never Ends (1980) - Part 2 of 3

The is Part 2 of The Nightmare Never Ends. Part 1 is here. Last time, we broke off as Lt. Sterne (Cameron Mitchell) and Mr. Weiss (Marc Lawrence) as they raced in pursuit of David Cassidy (Robert Bristol). We shall see if Mr. Cassidy will be brought to justice for killing Mr. Weiss's family in World War II.

Sterne and Weiss find David Cassidy leaving the ballet and follow him to his urban mansion, after which Detective Sterne brilliantly deduces that it's unlikely a 25-year-old man is responsible for a 35-year-old murder. At this point, a lesser film might veer off on an unnecessary tangent searching for alternative explanations. Could Mr. Cassidy  be the murderer's son, or grandson, or nephew? But this film has no time for such feeble rationalizations. There is only one possibility. Mr. Cassidy's apparent age is irrelevant. He is the murderer.

Lt. Sterne drives Mr. Weiss home where they have a measured, articulate debate about identity and the nature of evil.

Cameron Mitchell and Marc Lawrence play off each other expertly in this sequence. Seeing the two seasoned Western actors trade nuanced dialogue is truly a high point of English-language cinema.

After Lt. Sterne leaves, Weiss takes a pistol from his underpants drawer and goes back to David Cassidy's house. What are his intentions? Surprisingly, the Nazi hunter intends to kill the Nazi. Pistol drawn, Weiss approaches a silk curtain--and suddenly a demon with the head of a cobra (or possibly that of a boar) leaps at him.

Is this the end of Mr. Weiss?

Yes. Yes, it is.

Meanwhile, James and Claire Hansen engage in scintillating conversation at an Italian restaurant. Why was her vision about Nazis? It turns out Mr. Weiss contacted Claire earlier to ask why her husband would write a book called God Is Dead. James, befitting someone who wrote a book arguing against religion, is skeptical. Why would Weiss even contact Claire?

But Claire believes her visions can mean only one thing--the devil is loose again.

After Mr. Weiss's body is found, Claire Hansen, surgeon and medical examiner, examines the body to find, in addition to a concentration camp tattoo, a tattoo of the number 666. Lt. Sterne loiters in the strikingly empty, strikingly white city morgue, waiting for his partner Dieter and a uniformed officer to enter and give him some information about the late Mr. Weiss.

What were Weiss's last words? "Look at the wall." But the younger officer is confused. There were no walls. It was a parking garage. Parking garages don't have walls, obviously.

"Look at the wall." Is even Lt. Sterne a brilliant enough detective to discover the meaning of this cryptic clue?

It is important to stop here and note that Lt. Sterne's partner Dieter looks remarkably like Mr. Weiss, minus the theatrical beard. In fact, Mr. Weiss and Dieter are both portrayed by Marc Lawrence.

Elsewhere, James Hansen needs to defend his God Is Dead book. Claire informs him it's not too late to stop the publication, contradicting the immediately previous scenes of a printing press and a bookstore in which the book is flying off the shelves. James is harassed by a bearded monk named Papini, who lectures James about God, Satan, man, and free agency.

The stories come together at a trendy new disco where James and Claire try to relax, Lt. Sterne and Dieter sit around looking uncomfortable, and David Cassidy stares at Claire, giving her visions of a boar demon.

Then, in a series of events whose complexity rivals that of Greek tragedy, David Cassidy uses his Bela Lugosi eyes to seduce James' nephew Jim's new girlfriend. Back at the Cassidy mansion, David gets a little more comfortable with the girlfriend by removing his boot, then his sock, in a justly celebrated scene of pure terror. He reveals that underneath the sock is a goat's hoof! A goat's hoof! What can this mean?

We'll find out what it means n the next installment of our discussion of 1980's The Nightmare Never Ends/Cataclysm/Satan's Supper. Stay tuned. Read Part 3 here.