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Nightwing, Shadow of the Hawk - Double Feature - BD
This bare-bones Double-Feature Blu-ray from Mill Creek Entertainment combines a pair of '70s Native American Shockers that will appeal to two types of genre fans; those who need to see every horror-thriller ever made, and those who specialize in Native American Shockers. Both features have enjoyed previous lives in VHS and DVD form, but here they are now with better picture quality to scratch that itch! But wait! Are the movies any good? We shall see ...
Nick Mancuso stars as Masaki Deputy Youngman Duran, a strong advocate for his people, who's up against weaselly Tribal Chairman Walker Chee (Stephen Macht) and his suspicious dealings with the Federal Government. However, that's not the worst of it, as something is killing livestock (and people), in such a way that freak-show Phillip Payne (David Warner) is on the case. What's Payne's angle? "I kill Vampire Bats. I find them and I kill them. That's what I do." So there you go! Duran might even be able to ignore Payne if his girlfriend Anne Dillon (Kathryn Harrold) wasn't caught out in the desert, on a camping trip with four senior citizens or something.
Nightwing is daft, but its greatest sin is being fairly boring for the first 40 minutes, with lots of low-key internecine arguing and beautiful scenery, but zero energy. Luckily, events eventually start climbing into the dippy stratosphere, proving that while director Arthur Hiller may be slightly slumming in this foray into horror, but at least he has a rudimentary knowledge of how to finally start turning the screws.
As we finally get down to brass tacks, the 'nature's revenge' tropes ground viewers a bit. Chee and the Feds don't want any publicity about the bats (despite the lack of any people or a regional festival that must go on) and Duran has to fight the power to make people believe! Hiller constructs a few corny/fun scenes of bat attacks, as well as a couple other suspenseful set-pieces, to keep you entertained. Warner's performance is sadly earnest, and thus totally delirious, as he appears to be taking his role seriously, and it should be noted that our heroes endure the climatic scenes while high out of their minds on Datura root. Good stuff! Rent It.
Second up is Shadow of the Hawk (1976), a supernatural thriller starring Jan Michael Vincent as a half-Native American businessman living the high life in Vancouver BC while ignoring his roots. He's so callous that he tries to send his grandfather back home on the Greyhound after the old man walked 250 miles just to tell him he loves him. (I may have that wrong. It's either that he loves him, or that JMV needs to get off his ass to save the tribal village from a vengeful ghost.) Whatever the case, Shadow leaves no doubt, this is some Saturday Afternoon Fun!
Credited director George McCowan was much more versed in schlock than Nightwing's Hiller, which shows, as he manages to bring the spook factor to the fore right of the bat, with freaky images of the ghostly Dsonoqua haunting both JMV and his grandfather, (played with aplomb by Chief Dan George). Unfortunately, McCowan also spent a lot of time in the television trenches, which leads to some early static pacing, and goofy bits like 'dueling-eye-closeups' as Old Man Hawk (George) stares down an enemy. On the other hand, McCowan and screenwriters Norman Thaddeus Vane and Herbert Wright drops some lovely grace notes throughout, like the Highlanders Pipe Band at the bus station!
Shadow of the Hawk will ultimately both thrill and confuse viewers, which, as a jaded movie-goer, should be a real boon. The movie, a simple tale of supernatural vengeance, passes through the genres of Action-Adventure, Buddy Comedy, Horror, and Romance (yick) before bringing home the groceries with some wild set-pieces. A speeding car hitting an invisible wall, and a perilous trip across a rope-bridge (complete with burly male stunt-doubles) are two stand-out scenes in a movie that's just good enough to warrant repeat viewings on rainy Saturday afternoons. Genre fans are more-than-encouraged to Rent It. With two entertaining and amusing Native American horror-thriller also-rans on one Blu-ray disc, (minus extras) for about the same price as two rentals, this Double-Feature somehow crawls up into an overall Recommended status. If you've read this far, I guarantee you'll want to watch these more than once.
Nightwing wings your way in a hi-def 1.85:1 ratio presentation that holds its own. Though plenty of grain is present, especially in darker scenes, details hold their integrity, becoming softer especially in the background, but not breaking down. Close-ups and daylight scenes of the beautiful desert are crisp and express a fair amount of fine detail. Colors seem natural, as well. Virtually the same picture quality assessment can be levied on Shadow of the Hawk, although heavy grain is more apparent in dark scenes. Both probably look as good as they're ever going to, and neither deliver anything to complain about.
Uncompressed LPCM 2.0 Stereo Audio for both features is perfectly fine if unremarkable. The mixes are clean and free of distortion or damage. The stereo presentations help immerse you in a swarm of bats, or a vertiginous rope-bridge traverse, as necessary.
No extras are included on this Double-Feature.
Mill Creek (all dolled up with a redesigned logo) presents two entertaining and amusing Native American horror-thriller also-rans on one Blu-ray disc, (minus extras) for about the same price as two rentals. With that in mind, this Double-Feature somehow crawls up into an overall Recommended status. If you've read this far, I guarantee you'll want to watch these goofy thrillers more than once.
- Kurt Dahlke