Shadow Of The Hawk

I expected Shadow Of The Hawk to be campy, cheesy or at the very least creaky, but this is a genuinely spooky, effective and quite earnest old school ghost story with three good natured lead performances, absolutely gorgeous Vancouver locations and eerie, atmospheric indigenous mythology. The great Chief Dan George plays a Native elder who voyages from his home in the British Columbia mountains to find his halfbreed grandson (the late Jan-Michael Vincent), to get his ancestral help in battling the ghost of an ancient sorceress who has put a deadly curse on their bloodline. Grandson is less than happy to be pulled into a facet of his life that he’s actively distanced himself from, but has no choice really as the dark magician and her evil minions are plaguing his life too. Together with a helpful reporter (Marilyn Hassett) they embark on a road trip into the sacred lands of BC to contend with these powerful dark forces amassing against them and cleanse their family lineage of this voodoo mysticism. Being an obscure 70’s horror flick theres naturally a touch of camp, most notably in Vincent’s doe eyed, slightly androgynous aura, but for the most part this plays it straight and spooky. The spirit of this witch first manifests as a legitimately terrifying masked phantom that haunts the characters wherever they go accompanied by some sound design that truly stood my hairs on end, then later she shows up in dreamy flashbacks as a snake charming witch-doctor played by Vancouver indigenous actress Marianne Jones. There are very well done set pieces here including a white knuckle suspension bridge crossing, an ongoing car chase between our three leads and a mysterious, supernatural black car that tails them all around the BC landscape. Vincent must fight a bear to death and as if that wasn’t strenuous enough then a Wolf as well *and* some masked cultist acolytes of the sorceress high atop a craggy bluff in a confrontation that has some Last Of The Mohicans vibes. It’s a fun film, with some really engaging visual atmosphere, very frightening score and a neat ‘modern world clashing with ancient spiritualism’ feeling as our characters venture from the cement and glass world of 70’s Vancouver out into the lush, elemental Pacific Northwest wonderland of British Columbia.

-Nate Hill

Charlton Heston’s Mother Lode

Charlton Heston’s Mother Lode is one of those neat flicks that not only is filmed in my hometown of Vancouver (like every movie ever) and the surrounding British Columbia region, but is also set there as well. It’s an entertaining, if slight little adventure story that’s perfect to put on for a rainy afternoon on the iPad. Heston, in addition to both writing and directing, plays two roles here, but it’s a bit of a sly trick saying that because he mostly appears as one, and only briefly as the other, but no matter, the old pro works his butt off to steal every scene. He plays loner mountain man Silas McGee, an eccentric prospector whose stairs don’t quite reach the attic, living alone in the wilderness looking for that perfect gold strike. The excellent Nick Mancuso, in a role originally meant for James Brolin, is Jean Dupre, a cocky bush pilot who heads McGee’s way with his high strung girlfriend (Kim Basinger), looking for a fellow pilot who got lost and a little of the gold stuff for himself while he’s at it. As soon as they run into McGee it’s clear the old dog is crazy as shit and not to be trusted, creating a nice atmosphere of isolated paranoia and mystery as the man’s true intentions come to dark light. Mancuso is always terrifically intense and so great at subtle comic moments, this is one of his great early roles and not to be missed for any fan. Poor Basinger suffered a miscarriage while production was underway and as such seems understandably distracted, but she’s a trooper and carries her end well. Heston either does a brilliant Scottish accent, a slipshod one or a bit of both, it’s hard to tell with his rapid fire banter and eloquent, robust verbosity. He’s electric though, and freaky as all hell as the type of dodgy fellow you better pray you don’t run into out there. The action is pretty run of the mill and the film loses the tautness a thriller like this should have in parts, but it’s solid enough to not change the channel. For B.C. residents it’s an absolute treat though, especially as Mancuso’s rickety float plane arcs up over the Vancouver harbour towards the Cassiar mountains and we get to see what our city looked like back in the 80’s. Cool stuff.

-Nate Hill