Shadow of the Hawk (1976)


USA. 1976.


Director – George McCowan, Screenplay – Norman Thaddeus Vane & Herbert J. Wright, Story – Norman Thaddeus Vane, Lynnette Cahill & Peter Jensen, Producer – John Kemeny, Photography – John Holbrook & Reginald Morris, Music – Robert McMullin, Special Effects – Dick Albion & John Thomas, Art Direction – Keith Pepper. Production Company – International Cinemedia Center/Rising Road


Jan-Michael Vincent (Mike Little Hawk), Chief Dan George (Old Man Hawk), Marilyn Hassett (Maureen), Marianne Jones (Dsonqua)


The aging Indian medicine man Old Man Hawk arrives in the city to request help of his grandson Mike, a successful business executive. Old Man Hawk is fighting a sorcerous war with the witch Dsonqua who was executed two hundred years before and is now seeking revenge. Mike, who has no interest in the Indian ways, is reluctantly drawn in to helping. Joined by a woman journalist, Mike agrees to drive his grandfather three hundred miles home. Along the way, Dsonqua increases her efforts and summons magical forces to destroy them.

There is a potentially good film somewhere inside Shadow of the Hawk. The theme of the whitebread Indian rediscovering his heritage – one that was revived to some success in the 1990s in efforts like The Dark Wind (1991) and Thunderheart (1992) – is always a worthwhile one. The plot sets itself up as a variant on The Devil Rides Out (1968) using American Indian mythology – it is a plagiarism that seems quite conscious, even down to a climax featuring the hero inside a magic circle being tempted from outside by the forces of evil.

However, Shadow of the Hawk fails to ignite any of the ideas it touches on. George McCowan directs with an almost total disinterest in proceedings. Although these occasionally rise to the interesting, Shadow of the Hawk seems to take place at far too removed a regard for one to care about one way or another. Chief Dan George offers a certain implacable dignity and at least Jan-Michael Vincent has found a part where his wooden impassiveness is appropriate to the role he is playing. Shadow of the Hawk could have been quite good – The Manitou (1978) achieves some of what this tries for – but it is too dully delivered to be much more than a failed curiosity.

Canadian director George McCowan made a couple of other genre entries – the Nature’s Revenge film Frogs (1976) and The Shape of Things to Come (1979), one of the worst films seeking to exploit the late 1970s science-fiction boom, as well as the earlier tv movie The Love War (1970) about aliens warring on Earth. He spent most of his career working in US television.

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