Thursday, November 1, 2018



Label: Mill Creek Entertainment
Region Code: A
Rating: PG
Duration: 105 Minutes 
Audio: English LPCM 2.0 Stereo 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Arthur Hiller
Cast: Nick Mancuso, David Warner, Kathryn Harrold, Stephen Macht, Strother Martin

Nightwing (1979) is clearly a post-Jaws exploitation film, combining indigenous culture with a swarm of plague carrying vampire bats in the New Mexico desert. Our Chief Brodie here is Maskai Indian Deputy Duran (Nick Manscuso, TV's Stingray) who finds himself at odds with the Tribal Council Chairman Walker Chee (Stephen Macht, The Monste Squad), a stand-in for Mayor Vaughn, who wants to exploit the tribes sacred lands for oil-money. While investigating the bizarre death of a horse on a local ranch that's been drained of blood Duran is confounded by what could have done it, while Walker wants to keep it hush hush so as not to spoil a profitable deal with the oil company.

Enter British scientist Philip Payne (David Warner, Waxwork) who suggests that the horses death is the handy work of vampire bats, declaring himself a vampire bat hunter, sort of the Quint of the film, a man completely obsessed with exterminating the vile winged vermin! He definitely brings some flavor to the film, he's the quint but he also brings a fun Peter Cushing-type vampire (bat) hunter flavor, it's a fun character in a film that certainly needed something to spice things up. 

Also figuring into the plot is Duran's shaman uncle, a medicine man feared by the tribe who has cast a spell meant to end the world, the old man having grown tired of the white man's disregard for the environment. Deputy Duran is a man of both worlds, he believes in the modern world but he also has can appreciate the mysticism of his heritage, attempting to tie the two world's together when he eats hallucinogenic plants intended to open his mind to the ancients -  looking for answers to help end the vampire bat invasion that threatens his people. 

Nightwing is way overlong at one hour and forty-five minutes, there's some interesting ideas floating around here with plenty of tribal and personal melodrama, but it did wear on me a bit. The special effects are decent, lots of furry vampire bats flying around on strings, with the decent swarming effect reminding me a bit of the fish-on-sticks from Piranha (1978), the special effects having been done by Carlo Rambaldi (King Kong). They don't look awful but they can look silly in a few places, there's a nod to jaws with our heroes hanging out in a bat-proof cage, no shit!  

Nightwing has some long stretched but I really dig the ancient native American mysticism of it, the mingling of science and ancient beliefs is cool, but some of the mumbo jumbo from Warner's vampire-bat hunter's mouth is straight-up ridiculous, but entertaining. He gets loads of monologues to espouse his "scientific" beliefs, but when he gets biblical about the origins of vampire bats it stretches credulity.

Let's not forget that the neither Mancuso or Macht are Native America actors, playing the prominent Indiana roles here, they're Jewish and Italian respectively, but if you can put that aside and get down with Duran's Datura-fueled vision quests there's some fun to be had here. The movie goes well beyond the length it needed to tell this story in my opinion though, it's not so much a slow-burns as it is a long slog with some decent moments of bat-terror and mysticism. Also be on the look out for the always awesome Strother Martin (The Brotherhood of Evil) as a man-of-God turned trading post entrepreneur, a colorful performance from Martin decked out in sterling silver and turquoise. 


Label: Mill Creek Entertainment
Region Code: A
Rating: PG
Duration: 92 Minutes 
Audio: English LPCM 2.0 Stereo 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: George McCowan
Cast: Jan-Michael Vincent, Marilyn Hassett, Chief Dan George 

The second half of this mystical Native American double-bill is Shadow of the Hawk (1976),  a made-for-TV slice of PG-rated horror, wherein elderly shaman Old Man Hawk (Chief Dan George, The Outlaw Josey Wales) who reaches out to his half-blood grandson Michael (Jan-Michael Vincent, The Return) to help him battle an evil that has fallen upon his village. Michael has long left behind his Native American heritage, and has become a business man in the city, but he reluctantly joins forces with his grandfather who indoctrinates him into the mystical ways of his ancestral shaman lineage.

The witch sends Michael visions of a a ghostly masked spirit to haunt him, in addition to sending animals and snakes to attack them, hoping to stop them from returning the village. This one offers up some good, creepy visuals, it's the better lensed of the two films in my opinion. The white-masked spirit was fairly cool looking, and Michael even has to wrestles a bear, there's a bit where they mix in a man-in-a-suit with footage of him actually wrestling the bear, it's sort of goofy looking but it works for the most part, it certainly looks better than the burning snake that shows up later! The stuff that really worked for me were some ominous looking dudes following them around in a creepy black car, it kind of reminded me of The Hearse or The Car, all black and vintage, not sure what black cars have to do with Indian mysticism but there you go. Also cool is a scene of Old Man Hawk using his magic to stop that creepy car dead in it's tracks, looking like it's hit an invisible wall in the middle of the road, by far the coolest part of the whole film in my opinion. 

There's a series of scenes in a cave when the ancestral shamans appear to Michael during a ritual, there's some cool hard atmospheric colored-gel lighting and wafts of colored smoke, I dug it. This is one of those film where you have to be able to look past the white-washing of the indigenous character, Jan-Micheal Vincent as a half-blooded Native American is a bit of a stretch to say the least, well-tanned though he may be, lol.  That he has all the charisma of wet napkin doesn't help either,  but I love these Native American tales of mysticism, even of the story is not particularly well fleshed out. I was never really sure why the witch was wanting to kill Old Man Hawk and his grandson, and the way she's taken out happens way too fast, as the credits were rolling I thought I'd missed something the first time around, but I didn't, the way it just comes to an end made it seem like everyone wanted to go home early on the last day of shooting.

Audio/Video: Nightwing (1979) and Shadow of the Hawk (1976) are presented on a dual-layer Blu-ray disc from Mill Creek Entertainment in 1080p HD framed in 1.85:1 widescreen. These were both previously available on burn-on-demand DVD. This Blu-ray is probably struck with the same existing masters provided by Sony for those burn on demand releases. The widescreen image looks good on both movies, grain looks natural and unscrubbed, detail is fair to moderate, and the colors looks accurate, with good looking black levels. The uncompressed LPCM 2.0 stereo audio is clean and well managed,  notably Nightwing features a score from Henry Mancini (The {Pink Panther), plus songs from Kenny Rogers and Crystal Gale, there are no subtitles for either film. 

This is a solid double-feature of 70's Native American horror, I'm always into the mysticism of these sort of films, even if they're a bit over-long and padded for run time, these are both worth a watch for fans of slow-burning 70's horror with a mystic bent. Kudos to Mill Creek Entertainment for debuting both of these on Blu-ray with good looking transfers, I hope they keep coming forward with these cult films, love it. 



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