Nightwing & Shadow Of The Hawk - Nightwing & Shadow Of The Hawk( Blu Ray) [Eureka Entertainment - 2021]From Eureka Entertainment here is a double bill of Native American/Canadian Indian focused horror films from the 1970s. We have Nightwing- which finds a New Mexico desert-based reservation been attacked by a group of bubonic plague infected bats. And Shadow Of Hawk- which sees a shaman enlisting the help of his big-city grandson to help fight evil spirits that are attacking his tribe. The release appears in the form of a Blu Ray release, with great new scans of each film, and a nice selection of extras.
Both films are presented on a single Blu Ray disc, which is, of course, fine- though the menu set up that takes in both titles is a little on the small side. Both films have been given a new scan, and both look well defined & lush in their 70ís colour pallet.
Released in 1979 Nightwing is very much a drama fed creature feature, with moody and mystical touches. It features some impressive bat special effects/ footage, and one or two more tense horror fed moments- but largely the film is focused on dramatic, at points US soap fired side of things, having quite a TV film vibe. The film was helmed by Canadian born producer and director Arthur Miller, who between the mid-í50s and í60s did a fair bit of US TV series directing. In the mid 60ís he started to step more into feature film work- taking on the likes of Natalie Woods fronted crime comedy Penelope(1966), musical fantasy drama Man Of La Mancha(1972), and war crime drama The Man In The Glass Booth(1975). Nightwing was based on a 1977 pulp horror book of the same name, which was written by half Pueblo American Indian Martin Cruz Smith.
At the centre of the film is Youngman Duran( Nick Mancuso)- who is Deputy on New Mexico based Indian reservations, which has seen a spate of farm animal attacks, where all the blood has been sucked from them via multiple bites. Youngman is very much between two worlds with his respect of the traditional Indian ways, and carrying on a relationship with his white American girlfriend. Added into this we have rich Indian born tycoon Walker Chee(Stephen Macht), who is trying to muscle in on the reservation, as there is mining interesting on one of the reservations sacred places. Just after the death of medicine man/youngmanís father figure Abner Tasupi(George Clutesi), up pops twitchy and intense bat catcher Phillip Payne(David Warner).
The film is very much of a 70ís pace, and this starts from the protracted -if-moody enough opening credits. As we move into the film we get a lot of driving up and down dusty desert roads in pick-up trucks, dialogue-heavy drama & dramatics, and Americain Indian mysticism. Nothing too tense or horror fed occurs until around the forty five minute mark, and even when it does itís fleeting, before dropping back down into more drama focused fare.
Warner is the film's highlight as the obsessive bat catcher, and whenever heís on-screen things do improve-even in a dialogue focused scene. Mancuso is ok as the largely stern-if-caring lawman. The rest of the cast is largely made up of American Indian actors, and are passable. Peppered through-out the later part of the film we get some impressive & quite intense bat attacks and some quite tense horror/ action moments- but it never ups the tension/pace enough to fully pull you in. Iíd say if you go into this expecting an American Indian fed 70ís drama, with largely subdued creature feature elements- youíll enjoy what we have here, for me the horror elements were a little too diluted, and at points, the film did drag at its one hour & forty-five-minute runtime.
So on the extras side for Nightwing we get a commentary track from film historians Lee Gambin and Amanda Reyes- and as expected this is very well researched & detailed. They move from discussing when they both first saw the film, talking about the film's soundtrack, itís use of ethnic instrumentation, and Henry Mancini other soundtrack work. They discuss how Nightwing is at the junction of eco-horror, when creatures attack, and Indian exploitation. They move onto talk about each key actor as they turn up, and talk about similar films. They discuss character motivations, and how Arthur Miller wanted to make a horror film with more depth. At points, they do swing close to been a little scholarly in their observations, but thankful these donít last long- on the whole, itís a very well done & pro commentary track, that could easily been played more than a few times.
Next, we get Oil and the (Geo)Politics of Blood, this is an audio essay by film academic John Edgar Browning. It runs at thirty-seven minutes, and this was very scholarly- there are a few moments of interesting observations, but sadly these quickly pass, so this wasnít for me. Lastly, we get an original trailer.
The other film we have here is 1976's Shadow Of Hawk, which is an enjoyable blend of adventure and horror tropes. It finds a westernized & big city dwelling grandson of a shaman, returning to the wilderness to reconnect with his Native American heritage & hopefully save his grandfather's tribe. The film was jointly directed by Canadians George McCowan & Daryl Duke, both had feature-length & TV credits to their names, McCowan had seventy-two and Daryl Duke thirty-six.
On the whole Shadow Of Hawk is a more even & pacey film than Nightwing, with little or no lulls. Sure we once again get some slight TV movie tropes, with some of the music cues & the few scene setups, but on the whole, it feels a lot more cinematic.
The film focuses in on sleek businessman Mike(Jan-Michael Vincent). One night when heís holding a house party- his grandfather Old Man Hawk (Chief Dan George) turns up with journalist Maureen(Marilyn Hassett) who heís just met. Granson & grandfather havenít seen each other in eleven years, and Hawk asks Mike to drive him back home, some 300 miles away. Initially, Mike turns him down dropping him at the bus station, but his conscience gets the better of him, and he, Maureen, and old man hawk start off on their trip back to his tribe. Fairly soon it becomes clear that the tribe is somehow cursed- with the three been first followed by a suddenly appearing white-masked entity, and later shadowy figures. They manage to drive most of the distance but come short some miles due to their van breaking down. Here we kick into the forest bound adventure side of the film, with fights with bears & wolves, crossing long rickety bridges, flights with spirit entities in human form, and shambling zombie figures. Weaved through all this we get a keen feeling of eerieness/ creepiness, which ever so often comes to the surface in a most effective manner. The action & horror tropes are well balanced making the whole thing a great crossbreed. Jan-Michael Vincent is really good in the role as Mike, nicely shifting from sleek playboy to caring nature-man, Hassett works well as the caring journalist, George is a little understated, but really thatís what you need for this type of role. Of the two films, Iíd say Shadow Of Hawk my favourite of the two, been more wholly consistent in it's unfold.
For the extras side on Shadow Of Hawk we another commentary track- this is from film writers/ podcasters Mike McPadden and Ben Reiser. This is much more chatty & laid back affair compared with the fact/ observation packed commentary track for Nightwing, though itís once again a good listen. They move from discussing the groovy opening credits graphics, going onto discuss Jan-Michael Vincent as an actor, and his career. As they move on they comment on onscreen action, talk about other casts career, they discuss the effects of work & who created it. They talk about similar films, and more. We once again get an original trailer for the film.
Iíve always enjoyed double feature horror formate, and this is a very well put together & thought out example of this type release. If you enjoy largely more atmospheric focused 70ís horror, this really is a release youíve got to pick up!.