Blu-ray Review: NIGHTWING and SHADOW OF THE HAWK Double Feature

A pair of strange 1970’s dark fantasy films come to Blu-ray from Millcreek Entertainment

Director Arthur Hiller’s NIGHTWING is one of a handful of films that trade in the terror of killer, disease-ridden bats, a loose, unofficial subgenre that seemingly doesn’t command much fan enthusiasm.  And while 1974’s future-shock chiller CHOSEN SURVIVORS remains my winged-rodent romp of choice, NIGHTWING flies not too far behind. Millcreek Entertainment’s pairing of this bat-attack non-classic on Blu-ray with the ultra-obscure, similarly Native American-steeped creeper SHADOW OF THE HAWK has been labeled a bummer by some collectors who are sneering at the lack of special features (not even a trailer is present), but this writer is indifferent. The important thing is that NIGHTWING looks fantastic here – better than I’ve ever seen it, anyway – and as it’s the movie that matters most, I’m rather stoked by this release.

Based on the intelligent novel by Martin Cruz Smith (who also co-wrote the screenplay), NIGHTWING casts Canadian actor Nick Mancuso (DEATH SHIP) as Youngman Duran, the Deputy of a New Mexico Indian reservation who is investigating a spate of animal deaths, the beasts’ corpses savaged and drained of blood. As the attacks continue, Duran soon realizes that a horde of vampire bats have descended on the community and have now targeted human beings as their next food source. Enter the great David Warner (THE OMEN and so many other classic films), who plays a manic Van Helsing-esque biologist named Payne who has devoted his life to combing the earth and annihilating vampire bats for no other reason save that he firmly believes they are evil incarnate. He’s especially disturbed by the idea of them shitting out the excess blood they drink, a noxious notion hammered home by Payne’s operatic monologues and Warner’s wild-eyed readings of them. It’s hard to nail down a definitive eccentric performance by Warner but this one comes close. It’s truly….bat-shit!

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Blu-ray Review: BERSERK and STRAIT-JACKET Psycho Biddy Double Feature

A Pair of Joan Crawford Shockers Come to Blu-ray

Anyone who saw the recent FX series FEUD, knows the story of Hollywood legends and career-long “frenemies” Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. That remarkable and wildly entertaining show saw Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange as Davis and Crawford, respectively, who lay down their never-ending professional rivalries long enough to co-star in director Robert Aldrich’s hyper-melodramatic Gothic shocker WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE in 1962. As both glamorous leading ladies were well-into middle age at this point, with decent roles drying up (as they often did and sadly still do for women in cinema), the chance to essay such intelligently written and scenery chewing characters was a gift and with the critical and commercial success of the film, an unofficial sub-genre of horror film often called”Hagsploitation” was born. Both Davis and Crawford would lead the pack in these sorts of films (along with others like Shelley Winters, Olivia de Havilland et al), which always saw women past their youthful primes driven to madness and often committing murder or just so far gone into psychosis that they become easy marks for the plots of others. Watching “earth mothers” and noted aging screen beauties go bonkers translated into boffo box office…

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