Cool MODs: Shadow Of the Hawk

Of course, ideally every movie we're interested in will have an loaded, 2-disc blu-ray special edition. But we don't live in that world. In our world, some pretty cool movies are only available on MOD (Made On Demand... official releases put out on invariably single-layer burned DVD-R discs). But hey, at least we have that! After all, plenty of stuff has never been released on any format at all. And so today's cool MOD is Shadow Of the Hawk, a highly entertaining made-for-television American Indian-themed horror film from 1976. It originally aired on ABC, and is being bought to us now on disc by Sony and Columbia Pictures.
Shadow stars Jan Michael Vincent as a half-Indian; and if you can wrap your suspension of disbelief around that, you'll have no problem with the ghost and witch doctor stuff coming up. He lives in the city, but his medicine man grandfather (Chief Dan George) leaves his reservation to come find him, and just in time, because Vincent is getting violent visitations from an evil ghost in a white mask. Apparently an evil sorceress is using her powers to wipe out the two of them and all of their remaining people, and George is to weak to fight her on his own. So somehow a freelance reporter lady gets caught up in all of this, and the three of them set off on a roadtrip back to their village. Vincent has to learn to both accept and master his ancestral powers before the witch becomes too strong.
If you're looking for authentic lore that respects real Native American history and even teaches you a thing or two about another culture, forget it. This just feels like the writers wrote every spooky or wild Indian-themed supernatural concept they could come up with on note-cards, spilled them onto a table, and that was their script. Chief Dan George is the only true Native American involved in this film, but that's okay. This movie isn't trying to teach us anything, just keep us entertained, and that it does. There are genuinely effective ghost moments and campy magic attacks. There's a really impressive effect where a car crashes into an invisible wall, and a pretty fake looking snake that bursts into flames. Jan Michael Vincent wrestles a bear in this movie! Someone turns into a wolf (of course), a black ghost car chases our heroes (which tribe had those in their legends again?), and there's an evil snake dance ritual with lesbians making out... Yeah, this movie does have that made-for-TV feel at times, and that also restricts the amount of sex and blood they can play with, but if you can't find something to enjoy in this picture, you ain't lookin'!
Sony/ Columbia Pictures' 2011 MOD DVD-R
The made-for-TV look is reduced considerably thanks to the fact that this film has been remastered in widescreen and looks great. It's a bit fuzzy and soft, but you're going to get that with the compressed MODs. Shadow was shot on 35mm, and for the first time ever (including, I'm sure, its original broadcast), looks the part. It's nice and anamorphic, with no interlacing issues or anything like that. The picture's in a much nicer state better than I ever expected to see it. They even slightly letterboxed it to 1.85, rather than leaving it at 1.78. Somebody involved cared. And the Dolby 2.0 audio is pretty clear and robust, too.
As is usually the case (though not always!), there are no special features included with this film, not even a trailer. A trailer does exist - it was featured on one of Synapse's 42nd St. Forever compilations - but you don't get anything here, not even a menu screen. And that's disappointing, because I'm sure there are some interesting stories to go along with this movie, from shooting all this wild stuff out on location to selling ABC on a Native American-themed horror film in the first place. And if you look Shadow up on the imdb, they list a second, uncredited director - I'd love to know what the deal is there.
So yeah, I know it's tough to push yourself to pay full price for a DVD-R, I go through the same thing. But I'd definitely recommend it in this case. This is the only release of this film available anywhere, as far as I know, not even one of those crappy grey market VHS-rips overseas. And this is far from a VHS rip; it looks great. It's far from HD, but just the root, restored transfer they used is a great surprise. I like the original poster they used for the cover, too, though they went a bit berserk with the borders... the poster as its original green one, then there's a light blue one around that, and then Sony's standard dark blue MOD border around that. Sheesh. But yeah, I'd love a Scream Factory Collector's Edition of this, too. But until they get over their stupid, irrational distrust of TV horror, this will have to do. And it's actually pretty darn good.

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