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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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