The Man . . .
The Machine . . .
I sat down to write this review wondering how I felt about remembering a television series now a quarter-century old. Yeesh. I'm not getting any younger, that's for sure. In any case, the series I'm referring to is the short-lived 1985 action adventure program Street Hawk, and I remember liking it as a ten-year-old. Heck, I even remember the network it originally aired on: ABC. Street Hawk reflected the genre conventions of other popular weapons-heavy, sleek-looking, crime-fighting, vehicular programs of its day, like Knight Rider, Airwolf, and Blue Thunder. It's a fairly juvenile and silly concept (more on that for the uninitiated in a moment), and it hasn't aged well either. However, Street Hawk is still undeniably fun in a nostalgic sense, and I'm glad to see that the show has finally received a home video release courtesy of Shout Factory timed for its 25th anniversary.
This 4-DVD set collects all 12 original episodes of Street Hawk but begins with a 13th show, a 70-minute pilot that introduces the major characters and sets up the premise of the series. In it, a young daredevil motorcycle cop appropriately named Jesse Mach (pop singer Rex Smith) catches the attention of nerdy Norman Tuttle (Joe Regalbuto, who would later find TV success with the long-running Murphy Brown). It seems that Tuttle has spent the last four years working on a top secret federal government project: a sleek motorcycle armored with weapons and capable of speeds up to 300 miles per hour. The higher-ups think Mach would be the ideal candidate to helm Street Hawk, against Tuttle's initial objections. Unfortunately, Mach and his motorcycle cop best friend (Robert Beltran, who later was a cast member of Star Trek: Voyager) run afoul of a cocaine trafficker played by the always-great Christopher Lloyd. The friend is murdered (and thus must be avenged, of course!) and Mach is left with a crippling injury that removes him from active motorcycle duty.
Enter the Feds again, who make an offer Mach cannot refuse. With an experimental treatment, his leg injury is fixed and he gets to helm Street Hawk, with Tuttle in a control room helping direct Mach's activities on the bike. Together, they fight crime in a pseudo-vigilante way - starting off, of course, with taking down the gang that did in Mach's best friend. Mach continues to work in public relations for the police department, however, pretending to still need a cane as to avert suspicion from his extracurricular crime-fighting. A couple of these latter contrivances were altered for the series proper, though.
What follows are 12 fairly self-contained episodes, roughly 48 minutes each, of Mach and Tuttle collaborating on the Street Hawk motorcycle as it zooms, or make that Hyperthrusts, around the city and machine guns / missile launches bad guys into submission. Mach and Tuttle work well as character foils, and their interactions contrive to get a few laughs between the former's macho bravado and the latter's nerdy prudishness. The stories are rather juvenile and predictable, but kids today may still get a kick out of the episodes as their parents may have done a generation ago. These episodes are chock full of violence and stunts, but of the cartoonish TV variety that neither shocks nor offends - though parents should be aware that on-screen deaths occur from time to time.
The show has a nostalgic '80s feel with the customary overdone hairdos and excessive outfits, as well as green-screen computers, for those who remember the era. Plus, you've got to love the evil bad guys and their requisite machine-gun toting henchmen, as that old standby is employed time after time here. The score is memorable, especially the theme song. I was surprised to see that the prolific Tangerine Dream was credited with it; some may recall that band's electronica from Legend and other films.
What most entertains today, though, are the series' surprising number of guest stars. In addition to the aforementioned Christopher Lloyd, supporting one-episode cast members include Sybil Danning, Jere Burns, Daphne Ashbrook, Clu Gulager, Keye Luke, Bianca Jagger, Bibi Besch, and Dennis Franz. And, most significant, in the episode "A Second Self," we get a very young, future Oscar winner George Clooney as Mach's old racing buddy who has now gone to the dark side of a car theft ring. Come to think of it, that's a particularly fun episode, with Clooney sporting poofed-up hair and a medallion - and the storyline spends a lot of time on a weird "bro-mance" triangle between him, Mach, and Tuttle.
In any case, not only is the complete series offered in this set, but Shout Factory has kindly supplemented the release with several extras sure to delight fans who remember Street Hawk fondly. More on the extras are further in the review. I give the company credit for adding these, as it seems a lot of cult television is getting dumped onto home video recently with no extras at all.
Street Hawk may not have impressed me today the way it did 25 years ago, but then, I'm no longer a kid either. Still, as a time capsule of this type of television programming - and of the '80s in general - it's a lot of fun. The show's opening, with its heavy narration (reminiscent of The A-Team) and blue-lit, fog-shrouded shots of the Street Hawk motorcycle, successfully preps the viewer for each particular episode. The speeded-up visuals of Street Hawk in Hyperthrust action set to synth music still work, ludicrous as the notion is, and though the stories are fairly predictable and silly, they do hold a certain charm. Overall, I liked watching them again and have no qualms about highly recommending this release to fans of the series.
Shout Factory presents Street Hawk in a 4:3 aspect ratio that obviously represents its original television presentation. The series was clearly shot on film, with some specks noticeable throughout. But, given the vintage of the series, I thought the visual quality was pretty good, overall.
The lone audio tracks on all episodes are English language Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. Surprisingly, the Tangerine Dream score comes across quite vibrantly. The mix has quite a bit of oomph given its mono quality, and dialogue is always clear.
Neither alternate language nor subtitle tracks appear available.
As I mentioned above, I give Shout Factory credit for producing extras at all for their release of Street Hawk, as many other cult TV programs get dumped to home video via "bare bones" releases.
In any case, all extras are housed on the fourth and final disc. The centerpiece is Street Hawk: The Making of a Legend (40:39), a contemporary documentary on the program that includes the participation of series regulars Rex Smith, Joe Regalbuto, and Jeannie Wilson. It's a breezy, in-depth remembrance of the show - and it's in anamorphic widescreen to boot.
Also included are a rather generous collection of image galleries, divided into the following categories: Publicity Stills, Publicity, Action Shots, Bike Designs, Behind the Scenes, Original Bike Restoration, and Collectables. The last of these is probably the most fun, with images of vintage Street Hawk merchandising.
In addition, text extras provide biographies (both vintage and contemporary) for Rex Smith, Joe Regalbuto, and Jeannie Wilson, as well as a brief series synopsis, an original series concept, and the original press brochure release. Rounding out the extras is the unbroadcasted pilot (1:13:48) - which isn't in great visual shape and has the text "PROP. MCA #3965" at the bottom throughout.
Finally, Shout Factory includes a booklet with episode information and a double-splash page of what I assume to be original early concept art of the Street Hawk motorcycle.
For fans of the short-lived 1985 television series Street Hawk, this DVD set from Shout Factory, replete with generous extras, is highly recommended. As someone who remembers the show from its original run, I have to say the viewing experience is much different today, as the show still has charm but seems dated and admittedly juvenile. I think it's also worth a look for nonfans unfamiliar with the series, given the number of notable guest stars, especially George Clooney in the episode "A Second Self," a predictably silly but surprisingly entertaining entry.