Arrow once again delving into the diverse back catalogue of eccentric but ebullient Greek director Nico Mastorakis following Island of Death, The Wind and Bloodstone, 1988’s Nightmare at Noon sees him on American shores, with filming having taken place in Moab, Utah, standing in for Canyonland, population 963 and dropping rapidly, and the dramatic scenery of the nearby Arches National Park for the final act.
A sinister experiment is underway, the townsfolks of Canyonland the guinea pigs from whom no consent has been sought, black windowed vans marked Agency for the Protection of the Environment tainting the water supply with chemicals which provoke bodily changes and violent behaviour, setting up a magnetic field to prevent anyone from leaving or calling for help from outside.
Tourists just arrived in town, Ken and Cheri Griffiths (Wings Hauser and Kimberly Beck) picked up hitch-hiker Reilly (Bo Hopkins) on the road and now find themselves trapped, helping Sheriff Roy Hanks (George Kennedy) and his daughter and deputy Julie (Kimberly Ross) try to maintain control as shootings and stabbings run rampant, nightfall bringing the true enemy to appraise the results of their research.
The parallels with The Crazies of George A Romero released fifteen years before undeniable, the script by Mastorakis and Kirk Ellis feels as though it were written in service of the admittedly spectacular stuntwork and endless fight scenes but lacks coherent progression or even basic structure, the outside agency influencing events presented in the opening scene rather than as the characters discover evidence, a revelation which would have had more impact.
Filled with explosions and flame before a spectacular finale recalling the aerial antics of Airwolf, Sherriff Hanks’ request that the infected townfolk be incapacitated rather than killed is forgotten as soon as it is spoken, leaving little room for the characters to act as anything other than automatons similar to those they are fighting with Blade Runner’s Brion James particularly underused as the leader of the covert APE operation, hiding in the mountains and playing with his electronic toys.
Restored for Blu-ray from the original negative by Arrow, their new edition of Nightmare at Noon carries a featurette on the making of the film with contributions from Mastorakis, behind the scenes footage and contemporary onset interviews with Hauser, Hopkins, Beck, George Kennedy and James as well as optional Greek subtitles in honour of the director’s homeland.
Nightmare at Noon will be available on Blu-ray from Arrow from Monday 5th December