'Nightwing' & 'Shadow of the Hawk' Blu-ray Double Feature: '70slicious Tales of Terror on Indian Reservations
Mill Creek Entertainment embraces the true Halloween spirit regarding the October 23, 2018 Blu-ray double-feature release "Nightwing" (1979) and "Shadow of the Hawk" (1976). The common theme of both is terror on American Indian reservations. The other shared element is both shoot-on-location films greatly benefiting from the crystal-clear BD images showcasing the beauty of the Southwest and the the Pacific Northwest respectively.
"Nightwing" awesomely melds old-school horror with social commentary that remains relevant nearly 40 years after its theatrical release. The surprisingly strong pedigree of this entertaining B-movie includes director Arthur Hiller ("Love Story"), prolific composer Henry Mancini (original "Pink Panther" films), and star NIck Mancuso. The A-list continues with the film being based on a story by well-known thriller noveilst Martin Cruz Smith, who additionally is a "Nightwing" screenwriter.
The IMDb description "killer bats plague an Indian reservation in New Mexico" reflects the traditional "animals gone wild" element of "Nightwing." Hiller and Smith stick to the script by having the horror begin with discovering mutilated horses with mysterious wounds. That brings reservation lawman Youngman Duran (Mancuso) literally and figuratively into the picture,
The tried-and-true continues with scientist Phillip Payne (David Warner) arriving on the trail of the aforementioned air-borne threat. He has been tracking the caravan of that threat to homeland security from south of the border and has dire news for the locals. The immediate potential for harm extends to two-legged animals; the bigger picture is that this swarm is using the area to fuel up before going to more populated feeding grounds.
Of course, even Duran does not initially believe Payne but changes his tune after a comically campy attack on a group of not-so-good Christians. It is equally predictable that the rest of the population remains skeptical,
The climax regarding this comes down to Duran going on a risky mission that runs the dual risks of his becoming a bride of Dracula and having his plan blow up in his face. The one certainty is that he is in deep guano.
The new-school elements revolve around issues related to tribal politics; relative traditionalist Duran already is at odds with the leader of a more prosperous neighboring tribe that our hero believes has sold out to the white man. Discovering a valuable natural resource on the land of the tribe of Duran at the same time that the bats show up further complicates matters.
The fun of "Nightwing" relates to the variation on man v. weaponized spiders, or bees, etc. These films provide plenty of thrills and chills while making us wonder if mosquitoes ever will become more of a threat than being a highly annoying insect.
"Hawk" has a more eerie feel. Jan-Michael Vincent stars as fully assimilated American Indian Mike who is enjoying an office job and good lifestyle when his grandfather Old Man Hawk (Chief Dan George) literally goes off the reservation to track down Mike and convince him to return to his roots. The rest of the story is that Hawk is tasked with keeping a legendary witch and her "monkeys" at bay; Hawk being convinced that he is about to die prompts a mission to get Mike to take his place regarding this effort.
This reunion leads to Mike abruptly leaving a swinging bash at his bachelor pad to escort his grandfather home. The aforementioned minions are in hot pursuit and drive the pair (as well as the love interest who largely is along for the ride) off the road and into the woods.
The eerie moments include Hawk and Mike each having several disturbing visions; we further get Mike engaging in a highly symbolic mission that culminates in an equally symbolic battle.
The fun of "Hawk" begins with the generation gap that the roughly 50-year age difference and greatly divergent world views exaggerates. The extra enjoyment relates to the American Indian beliefs/superstitions. This is not to mention the '70slicious fight scenes.
The bottom line is that they do not make 'em like these anymore. The cast and crew all know their stuff; the premises are entertaining, and the gore is minimally,