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WINGS OF THE HAWK Blu-ray review by David Rosler


Wings of the Hawk is a genuinely action-packed and enjoyable (and surprisingly fast-moving) 1953 color actioner beautifully restored in 2-D HD and current-tech 3D by the always -excellent 3D Archive company and distributed by a sublime name in Blu-ray releases, Kino Lorber.

The story concerns an American, Irish Gallager (played by then-popular action leading man Van Heflin) who owns a Mexican gold mine and gets caught up in the 1910 Mexican Revolution when he saves the life of Rebel leader Raquel Noriega, played by Julia (Julie) Adams. There is certainly no spoiler to be found in this review when it is noted that a romance brews between the two, and it works.

Fans of Universal's Creature From The Black Lagoon made the following year and also in 3D get two for the price of one in WINGS with female lead Adams and supporting character actor Antonio Moreno, who plays a leading scientist in Lagoon and here a Mexican Catholic Father. For people who really know their Golden Age movies, character actor Noah Beery does a positively amazing vanishing act as he completely disappears into the role of a Mexican arms dealer; we see only the actor's skillful illusion and barely the man.

Dispensing with the slow-build conventions of movies of the era, WINGS starts fast, runs fast, rumbling along at an exciting clip and ends big and fast-moving, chewing through stunt men and gunpowder like a hungry threshing machine on steroids. Tough-guy Heflin appears to be doing all his own fighting and most of his own riding stunts which gives many scenes a solid sense of suspense as we await the impossible moment when the camera captures Helfin breaking his neck. Some of the other stunts really scream "Insurance Waiver", too, such as a bit of business of a horse-drawn wagon teetering alarmingly as it tears down a dusty incline plainly much too steep for the wagon's balance; one can easily imagine sitting in the theater back in the day and hearing the collective gasp of the audience.

This movie has a very odd similarity to another Universal movie of the same time, also in color, also in 3D, also about revolutions and also reviewed here on FIR: Taza, Son Of Cochise, a "cowboys and Indians" movie with Barbara Rush and Rock Hudson. In that film Rush also played something other than a Caucasian, in that case an American Indian and also, like Adams, did not attempt to imbue her character with the appropriate ethnic accent, speaking, instead, in a strong American accent. In both films the leading ladies lend an air of surrealism to the proceedings, as though we are trapped in an alternate universe where ethnicities are never what they seem. Adams fares better than more-beautiful Rush in the "other-than-American-Caucasian" category in this film and we rapidly accept her as her character, perhaps because Adams is always more robust and tomboyish as an actress than dainty Rush and so Adams wears the attitude of her gun-slinging female Rebel leader character reasonably well.

For fans of 3D, 3D Archive has done its usual outstanding job of restoration though a few shots are a bit soft and one shot has subtle color shifts which may not be noticeable to most of the casual-viewing audience, a far-more-than-acceptable statistical average given the age of the film. It should be noted that as with all Universal 3D movies from the 1950's, the divergence between left and right needs to be toned down on your 3D TV slightly, because when it came to 3D, Universal tended to go for the gusto - and the eye strain, which audiences back in the day could not control, but you can. The camera in WINGS takes good advantage of the creative uses of 3D without going to absurd extremes, however, drawing us well-into the occasionally unsettlingly seemingly dangerous stunts (this issue with stunts is also to be seen in TAZA, so one assumes there was plainly an edict sent down from the top of the studio to break as many human collar-bones as possible)

In the extras, the commentary track is excellent and the disc also includes a 2D and 3D version of a Woody Woodpecker cartoon. Personally, I was always a Bugs Bunny man, myself, and as usual, when Bugs says, "Ain't I a stinker" we laugh, but when nasty and malicious little Woody says the exact same line, we don't laugh but we do agree. The 3D in this cartoon is remarkable, however, and for 3D fans is really worth the very reasonable price of the disc because as Woody has at his mad, alarming schemes with an aggressive dog high above the city along the top girders of a high-rise under construction, in some extremely convincing but also utterly perplexing way this *hand-drawn cartoon* manages to elicit a sense of dizzying spatial height which is really something to behold. As good as the 3D in WINGS can be at times, watch that first, because Woody's 3D cartoon is nothing short of occasionally jaw-dropping and an impossible 3D act to follow. It is without any question whatsoever the most astonishing 3D hand-drawn cartoon this reviewer has ever seen in terms of convincing us of extreme height and distance, bar none, by far, ever. It is at points really just completely amazing.

Final analysis: An extremely reasonable price for a rewarding full evening's worth of 2D HD or 3D entertainment you may very well watch repeatedly, because WINGS never bores. This reviewer already knows a few scenes he will watch again, probably as soon as tomorrow.

FIR reviews of similar movies that might interest you: SON OF COCHISE




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