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Shadow Of The Hawk
(1976)

Director: George McCowan
Cast:
Jan-Michael Vincent, Marilyn Hassett, Chief Dan George


It can be really interesting to look at mankind, and how his thoughts and beliefs have evolved for the past few thousands of years. And in this high-tech age of ours, it's easy to see how something new can originate in one culture but soon spread to other cultures. But whether it may be modern times or a period in the past, some beliefs eventually die out or are simply pushed aside. When I was a child, I did a lot of reading on primitive man, and during my readings I learned some interesting facts about what they worshipped and what they thought that was simply good karma. For example, I learned that some cavemen in what is now Europe believed in some sort of god that looked remarkably like what we today would consider to be a unicorn. Also, some cavemen would carve out of rock figures of women who were plus size, apparently in the belief that it would bring great fertility to their tribes. When I read about such things like that, I certainly wondered how in the first place they got to believing such things. And I also wondered how eventually their descendants were moved to not believe in those things anymore. Certainly, I eventually learned that Christianity moved into Europe, and that swayed many people's minds. But at the same time, I wondered just how Christianity changed an old and firmly believed system. What did the spreaders of Christianity do to convince thousands of people to see things in a new way? Surely some Europeans who were first taught about Christianity would wonder some of the same questions I had, like why the Bible and God's actions in it seemed to be confined to one specific part of the world instead of happening all over the world.

What happened in Europe isn't the only occurence where the Christian way of life changed a culture dramatically. There is also what happened in the Americas when Europeans came to settle there. Before getting into that, I want to start earlier in time, when the first settlers came to the Americas, people that are known in various ways, from Native Americans to First Nations people. No doubt you have some idea of the belief systems they had when they came across the land bridge from what is now Russia into North America. I've always wondered how in the first place they got into their belief system. What influenced them during their journey to believe in The Great Spirit, the power of animals, and other things? We'll probably never find out those answers. It would be interesting to know those answers, as well as know what they felt when Europeans came to North America with things such as huge sailing galleons, guns, and horses. How many of them were instantly shaken in their beliefs? Probably some were, but it's interesting that despite being exposed to so much technology, so many of them were determined to cling to their old beliefs. Sure, many of the tribes in America did eventually start adapt some of the new things they were exposed to, from guns to horses, but their traditions did manage to survive to some degree, at least with the tribes that weren't completely wiped out by disease or genocide. Even today, while many of the descendants of these original tribes might live in modern dwellings and use modern technology, there is still a push within them to keep up the beliefs of their ancestors.

I would personally find it interesting to have the opportunity to talk to the First Nations people in my country to find out exactly why they cling to their traditions. I trust the doctors that I see for my ailments, but many First Nations people apparently see something in medicine men on occasion. Shadow Of The HawkAlso, their belief in animal spirits and other supernatural forces in their culture makes me wonder if they have formed a connection that science hasn't seen or can't comprehend. When I came across the movie Shadow Of The Hawk, it instantly interested me, because it promised to have modern day civilization and its beliefs clash with traditional beliefs of First Nations people. Possibly I would get some insight into how First Nations people have kept their beliefs for so long in this modern day of ours. Chief Dan George (Little Big Man) plays Old Man Hawk, a shaman in an isolated First Nations community. There is trouble in the village from one of the inhabitants, a woman named Dsonoqua (Marianne Jones) who has strange powers that threaten the community. Hawk in short notice decides that the key to defeating Dsonoqua is to enlist the aid of his grandson Mike (Jan-Michael Vincent, Bite The Bullet), who lives in an unidentified North American metropolis (can you guess which country made this movie?) and works in a large office with no time to reflect on his roots. Hawk makes the long hike to the big city, though just before reaching Mike, he is struck by Dsonoqua's evil powers and ends up in a hospital. There, he meets reporter Maureen (Marilyn Hassett, Messenger Of Death), who sensing a story helps Hawk to contact Mike. Mike, as you might expect, doesn't buy stories of evil spirits despite strange things happening to him personally around this time. But with the aid of Maureen, Hawk eventually convinces Mike to accompany him back to the village with Maureen in tow. Though it doesn't take long during the journey for Mike to fully comprehend that his grandfather's claims are true... and that all three of them are in serious danger.

While watching Shadow Of The Hawk, seeing actor Jan-Michael Vincent onscreen was a little sad, when I remembered how his health and fortune started to decline in the next decade and eventually made him a wreck when he passed away. Here he seems to be in pretty good shape, and shows willingness to professionally do anything given to him. Unfortunately, he can only do so much with the weak material given to him. His character of Mike is written pretty weakly. His introduction is kind of abrupt, and he doesn't seem to question the bad visions he's been having just before his grandfather arrives. We learn almost nothing about his past, such as his long passed away (I think) parents, and why he's had no contact with his grandfather or his tribe for over ten years. When the grave reality of the situation finally dawns on Mike, it apparently never occurs to him to have any in-depth conversations with his grandfather, despite his grandfather obviously knowing more about the evil forces than he does. He just simply tags along and blindly accepts any commands, which is really unconvincing. But things are just as badly handled with the Old Man Hawk character. Chief Dan George does bring a little of the charisma he had in movies like Little Big Man and The Outlaw Josey Wales, but for the most part he acts extremely tired, often mumbling his lines in a manner that makes it very hard to understand his words. Possibly he was ill and/or his advancing age was starting to wear him down during production, but whatever the reason or reasons might be for his low energy, he's missing the big spark he had in those aforementioned movies, which included a sense of humor. Though even a more spirited performance would not hide the fact that his character doesn't have any more dimension than Vincent's character, so little that quite frankly he's kind of boring.

As for the character of the journalist Maureen, while actress Marilyn Hassett does put in some energy, there doesn't seem to be any point for this character being in this story except to try and generate some romantic chemistry with Mike, despite the fact he already has a woman back in the city. Making matters worse is that we don't have any idea of where the relationship is at the end of the movie. The biggest character disappointment, however, has to be with the antagonistic spirit Dsonoqua. The spirit appears in several forms (male as well as female) throughout, so it's hard to get a sense of her. Making matters worse is that there are a lot of unanswered questions about this spirit. Why did she start making trouble over two hundred years ago? Why did she abruptly come back to modern times? Why do the other residents in Hawk's tribe seem to acknowledge her, especially since she apparently is shacked up in a house in the village? And just what are her ultimate plans? These are more questions that are extremely glaring but are simply not answered at all, such as why Mike doesn't immediately pull out his vehicle stuck on a side of a bridge and continue his journey instead of camping out for the night in the creepy woods. The plot elements in Shadow Of The Hawk are extremely vague and illogical at times, but what makes them even worse than it sounds is just how slowly the story unfolds. If the movie had been at a speedier pace, with things happening at a constant rate, maybe the momentum would have somewhat compensated for the lack of plot. But instead, just about each scene that goes by is extended far beyond its means, and it won't take long for any viewer to realize that there is little to nothing happening.

I guess that a lot of the slow pacing of Shadow Of The Hawk has to fall on the shoulders of director George McCowan (The Shape Of Things To Come), though taking over the movie midway through the shoot from original director Daryl Duke (The Silent Partner) probably added unavoidable complications. McCowan was also working with a low budget, resulting in some cheap touches such as one of the worst looking bear costumes ever to be used in any motion picture in history. I will admit that the scenery is often nice, some camera angles are well chosen, the musical score and sound effects do sound a little eerie at times, and one "shock" sequence - a car running into an invisible barrier - is well done enough to burn into your brain and subsequently make you deeply wonder how on earth the effect was pulled off. But for the most part, the element of horror in the movie comes across as pretty feeble. It's not very explicit, for one thing - the movie only got a PG rating due to a few drops of blood and brief profanity. But as I alluded to earlier, the movie is so lacking in energy that even children in the audience won't be shaken up. When the protagonists get on a rope bridge battered by high winds, the endless and repetitive nature of the scene drains out any possible excitement. When Mike battles evil spirit Dsonoqua through hand-to-hand combat (!) the choreography is so by the numbers predictable you won't sense the characters' supposed struggle. The slow style does change in the climactic sequence, but not in a good way, since the ultimate struggle is dealt with so quickly it will have you exclaim out loud, "That it?" In short, Shadow Of The Hawk is a movie that despite its promising premise simply fails to deliver the supernatural goods. Unless the fact that it somehow got a Blu-ray release makes you wonder what mysterious supernatural powers made that so - and especially wonder why, as of the publication of this review, that North American Blu-ray is now out of print.

(Posted April 3, 2024)

Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)
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Check for availability on Amazon for the best of Chief Dan George's writings (Book)
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Check for availability on Amazon for biography of Jan-Michael Vincent (Book)

See also: Cheyenne Warrior, I Will Fight No More Forever, The Shape Of Things To Come

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