• Nightwing/Shadow Of The Hawk (Mill Creek Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment
    Released on: October 23rd, 2018.
    Director: Arthur Hiller, George McCowan
    Cast: Nick Mancuso, David Warner, Kathryn Harrold, Jan-Michael Vincent, Marilyn Hassett, Chief Dan George
    Year: 1979/1976
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    Nightwing/Shadow Of The Hawk – Movie Reviews:

    Mill Creek brings together two seventies B-movies on one fun double feature release.


    First up, we travel to what was, in 1979, modern day New Mexico. Here we meet Deputy Youngman Duran (Nick Manscuso), a Native American Indian who takes pride in serving both his community and his people. For this reason, he and Walker Chee (Stephen Macht of Galaxina), the leader of his tribe, disagree on a plan to allow their sacred land to be desecrated by an oil company. Duran is against it, while Chee is more than a little intrigued by the paycheck that could land in his lap should he let it go through.

    Things get interesting when Duran is sent out to investigate a crime scene where a horse has been found dead, completely drained of its blood. Duran wants to get to the bottom of this while Chee wants to keep things quiet, fearing that if word got back to the oil company that something strange was afoot, they might back out of the deal. Duran winds up talking to Philip Payne (David Warner of In The Mouth Of Madness and Cross Of Iron), a scientist who suggests that the horse may have been killed by giant vampire bats! Since Payne is an expert on bats and has plenty of knowledge in how to deal with them and get rid of them, he and Duran eventually team up to stop the winged, nocturnal evil from ravaging the town in hopes of saving the day.

    Clearly inspired by Jaws (you could actually go so far as to argue that this is a bit of a rip-off), Nightwing has some pacing issues (the middle stretch is a little dull) but, if you can look past those, proves to be a pretty entertaining piece of ‘nature run amuck’ style seventies horror. The movie does differentiate itself from Jaws and that film’s countless knock offs by throwing some Native American mysticism into the mix – an interesting element that actually works quite well in the context of the story being told. We get an interesting contrast between the old and the new, the supernatural and the scientific. There’s even a scene where Duran trips out on some hallucinogenic drugs in an attempt to connect with his people’s spiritual side (you never saw Chief Brody or Quint do that).

    Carlo Rimbaldi, who worked on E.T., Alien and Dino De Laurentiis’ 1976 remake of King Kong, handles the effects work for the picture. While many times the fake bats are clearly just that, there’s some nice creativity on display here and a few tense sequences where the effects really do work quite nicely. The cast is solid here as well. Nick Mancuso makes for a likeable leading man and the back and forth between he and Stephen Macht is well-handled. David Warner, not surprisingly, steals pretty much every scene that he’s in, really going for it and giving the movie an appreciated shot in the arm a few times. Supporting work from Kathryn Harris and Strother Martin is also noteworthy.

    Shadow Of The Hawk:

    The second feature is a shot in Canada production from 1976. Here we meet an aged Native American mystic named Old Man Hawk (Chief Dan George who Canadian TV fans will remember from The Beachcombers and everyone else will remember from The Outlaw Josey Wales), a shaman of sorts. When he needs help in his mystical war against a witch named Dsonoqua (Marianne Jones, another carryover from The Beachcombers) he calls in Michael (Jan-Michael Vincent of Defiance and The Mechanic), his half-Indian/half-Caucasian grandson. Michael has left his past behind for a fancy life in the big city where he works as a businessman but when Hawk shows up asking for his help, he can’t turn the old guy away.

    Michael winds up heading back to his tribe’s land and soon starts being plagued by strange visions. Shortly after that, it seems like nature itself is turning against him when some suspect animal attacks occur. It’s then that Michael realizes Hawk’s war against Dsonoqua is real, so with some help from the old man and a foxy lady named Maureen (Marilyn Hassett of Messenger Of Death) he gets back in touch with his native roots and prepares to do battle with Dsonoqua and help to set things right.

    This one is pretty quirky but no less entertaining for it. There are some neat scenes where Dsonoqua is clearly working her evil mojo against Michael and Hawk that are surprisingly tense and effective given that this is, if not quite, family friendly fare reasonably close to it. There’s good atmosphere here and some nice visuals as well. Prolific TV director George McCowan (whose resume includes a trove of classic shows from the sixties through the eighties including S.W.A.T., Starsky And Hutch and The Littlest Hobo) paces the movie well and there’s some good cinematography here as well from John Holrook (who shot First Blood and… Air Bud 3).

    Performances are quite decent. Jan-Michael Vincent is plenty lucid here, playing his part with a bit of energy and enthusiasm and an ever-important sense of cool. Marianne Jones is quite good as the evil witch while Marilyn Hassett as Michael’s pretty lady friend is also just fine in her part. The real scene stealer here, however, is Chief Dan George. He’s great in his role, playing the part appropriately grounded but bringing an authentic sense of mysticism to the role that really helps to make it work.

    Nightwing/Shadow Of The Hawk – Blu-ray Review:

    Mill Creek brings these two films to Blu-ray on a 50GB disc, giving each picture plenty of breathing room. The AVC encoded widescreen transfers for both films look quite good. There’s mild print damage here and there but it’s small stuff, just occasional white specks and nothing more serious than that. There’s pretty solid detail here and good depth and texture. Compression artifacts aren’t really ever a problem and the transfers are free of obvious noise reduction and edge enhancement issues.

    The LPCM 2.0 Mono soundtracks on the disc are also fine. There are no alternate language options or subtitles of any kind provided. Audio is, thankfully, quite clear throughout. The limitations of the source material are noticeable in that sometimes things do sound a bit flat, but otherwise there are no issues here.

    There are no extras on the disc outside of feature selection.

    Nightwing/Shadow Of The Hawk – The Final Word:

    Mill Creek Entertainment’s Blu-ray double feature release of Nightwing/Shadow Of The Hawk might be devoid of any extra features but it offers up two entertaining seventies obscurities in very nice shape and at a very fair price. Recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Nightwing/Shadow Of The Hawk Blu-ray screen caps!