Click here to return to the main site.

Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Nightwing (1979) / Shadow of the Hawk (1976)


Starring: Nick Mancuso, David Warner, Kathryn Harrold, Jan-Michael Vincent, Marilyn Hassett and Chief Dan George
Distributor: Eureka Entertainment
RRP: £24.99


Certificate: 15
Release Date: 15 March 2021

In Nightwing (1979) – directed by Arthur Hiller – Youngman Duran (Nick Mancuso) is the lawman on a Native American reservation on old Indian land. He Investigates cattle deaths which soon escalates to people. But this isn’t the only problem he has to contend with. Prospectors want to buy the land for mining rights in the caves. An ancient medicine man, feared for his powers explains to Duran that all things are coming to an end. The old man is later found dead. After Duran buries him, the body disappears. An expert chiropterologist convinces Duran that vampire bats (not normally found in the area) are responsible for the deaths. It turns out they are within the caves in question. When the spirit of the medicine man is seen on more than one occasion, Duran suspects that the old man has planned to lure the prospectors to their deaths. He has the double-edged sword of having to deal with the bats to save unscrupulous lives, but also to prevent mining being a viable option to maintain their sacred lands...

In recent years to the film’s release vampire bats were discovered in a cave in Val Verde County, near Del Rio, Texas. This inspires Nightwing, which is just as much about keeping sacred Red Indian land free of ruthless investors as it is about countless blood-sucking killer vampire bats. The mysticism is kept to the fore with spiritual appearances by the medicine man, and the use of old, traditional beliefs in the climatic scene. The film explores the age-old conflict between birth-right and so-called industrial progress. There is a love interest in the form of Anne Dillon (Kathryn Harrold), but she’s simply there for eye candy, as she does little except act concerned and tell him she has been offered a job elsewhere. It’s a watchable enough film, but it is rather talky compared with the film it has been paired with.

In Shadow of the Hawk (1976) – directed by George McCowan – a Red Indian Chief known as Old Man Hawk travels from his home on a reservation to the big city to see his grandson who lives a very different life. En route, he is attacked supernaturally in a voodoo-like doll ceremony from a hut on the reservation and ends up in hospital. Simultaneously, his grandson suffers an attempted strangulation by a frightening masked figure in his swimming pool and later hovering outside his window. This is the curse of a sorceress who wants to kill the old man whose ancestors put her to death for her evil deeds 200 years ago. Old Man Hawk means to pass on his magic to his grandson (nicknamed Little Hawk). His informal trials include fighting a wild bear, negotiating a mystically wind-blown disintegrating rope-bridge, confronting an evil spirit warrior, and an inevitable ultimate clash with the sorceress herself...

Although Jan-Michael Vincent (most known for the Airwolf TV series) carries a blasé expression throughout, nevertheless Shadow of the Hawk is an enjoyable little film, and the better of the two. The love interest character of Maureen (Marilyn Hasset) is pretty good, except for one over-the-top scene wherein she trips and rolls down a hill, shrieking like a silent movie damsel in distress. She also forgets the fact she is a journalist – or at least the writer does. Academy Award nominee Chief Dan George (The Outlaw Josey Wales) easily steals the show as the ageing Red Indian medicine man Old Man Hawk. He is totally believable, and a great central character from which to launch the spiritual attack set-pieces, filmed in the forests of British Columbia. There is also a very nice stunt wherein, after being forced off the road by a mysterious black Chrysler, the old man sprinkles powder in a straight line across the road causing the car to crash as if into an invisible wall. Very impressive.

It makes total sense for Eureka Classics to package these releases together, as they are centred around a similar culture and theme – although, I should point out they are very different films. Also, it is their debut outing on Blu-ray in the UK. The first print run of 2000 copies includes a Slipcase featuring New Artwork by Darren Wheeling, and a Limited Edition Collector’s Booklet featuring Essays by Film Historian Lee Gambin and Film Scholar and Author Craig Ian Mann. The Nightwing disc has a New Audio Commentary by Film Historians Lee Gambin and Amanda Reyes, and Oil and the (Geo)politics of Blood – An Audio Essay by John Edgar Browning. Shadow of the Hawk has a New Audio Commentary with Film Writer Mike McPadden and Ben Reiser.


Ty Power

Buy this item online