Reviews | Written by Martin Unsworth 15/03/2021

NIGHTWING (1979) / SHADOW OF THE HAWK (1976)

Eureka's latest release is a pairing of obscure films, linked by dealing with situations affecting Native American characters.

Nightwing is directed by Arthur Miller, who was known for making hugely successful comedies such as Silver Streak and See No Evil, Hear No Evil. This batty eco-horror is quite the anomaly in his filmography. A pair of leaders from rival tribes (Nick Mancuso and Stephen Macht) battle it out over a contract that could see Mancuso’s Maski tribe lose their sacred land to the oil industry. Meanwhile, horses and locals are being found drained of blood and stinking of ammonia. Out of towner David Warner is more clued up than the doctors when he reveals the deaths were caused by vampire bats.

Miller’s film is a mixed bag. It tries to be worthy by raising the plight of the Native American tribes when it comes to the modernisation of everything, not to mention the pursuit of money. But it’s the bats we’ve come here for, and when we see the attacks, Nightwing is a lot of fun. It’s a shame it’s mostly a slog to get to those scenes. Even a score by Henry Mancini can’t help it. A spirited climax almost makes up for it though.

Shadow of the Hawk, meanwhile is a different beast. If you’re hoping for some giant bird-attack action, you’ve come to the wrong place. What director George McCowan brings us is a soul-searching odyssey for Old Man Hawk (Chief Dan George) and Young Hawk ‘Mike’ (Jan-Michael Vincent). Old Hawk wants to pass on his mystical powers to his grandson, Mike before he dies. Now Mike is quite happy in his modern ways but has lately been troubled by visions of a woman in a ghoulish mask. The pair - along with a young woman (Marilyn Hassett) who just happened to help Old Hawk earlier - take a perilous trek across country, encountering the failure of their truck and malevolent spirits in the shape of a bear and a snake. These scenes provide the most action/amusement (delete as applicable) in the drawn-out, pedestrian narrative.

Although there’s not much to love about Shadow of the Hawk, a couple of things do stand out. The masked visions are genuinely haunting - more should have been made of these - and there’s a spectacular effect involving a car smashing into a ‘magical wall’ conjured by Old Man Hawk’s pocket dust. The cod-spiritual dialogue no doubt had Chief Dan George gritting his teeth afterwards.

Both films do, however, boast fantastic, and contrasting, scenery. Nightwing making the most of the stunning desert vistas and Hawk providing a forestry terrain. Eureka’s Blu-ray gives us both films on one disc, with a commentary for each film should you wish to know more about them and a booklet with a decent essay on each film. They are likely movies you’ll only watch once.

Release Date: March 15th

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