Friday, April 27, 2018

Blackhawk - Freedom's Champion!

The Blackhawks are a great idea and for a very long time they were an idea and a comic book which found a respectable audience. Launched by Quality Comics, the squadron of heroes were aviators who took it to villains overseas and elsewhere, led by Blackhawk. Eventually the team was brought to the big screen in a Columbia serial with Superman himself, Kirk Alyn in the starring role of "Blackhawk".

To be honest, Alyn looks more fitting as Blackhawk than as Superman. His posing seems more rugged and his acting less particular. Being one of many in their well designed fighting togs, the heroes here look good, even if the stories often fall a bit short. But even there, it's a small complaint.

All the Blackhawks are in evidence, even if the older Henderson (Frank Ellis) only ever gets a tiny role, never leaving the hangar where he works on plane continually. The other Blackhawks get screen time with Olaf (Don Harvey) and Andre (Larry Stewart) getting the least. Stan (Rick Vallin) is featured in the first few chapters because he has a double role as his treacherous twin brother Boris. The majority of the action though is seen by Blackhawk and Chuck (John Crawford). There is though one great scene for Chop-Chop (Weaver Levy) who gets to whip up on a guy attempting to hold him hostage.

The villain of the piece is really the Commies, particularly in the form of Laska, a seductive spy played by Carol Forman (who had also been the Spider Lady opposite Alyn's Superman in the first of those serials). She is outstanding as the nefarious and unscrupulous femme fatale, much better here than as the Spider Lady. She looked like a real-life version of Natasha from the Bullwinkle cartoons but much more deadly.

The serial hums along pretty well, with little maguffins showing up all the time to lead the team into some pretty decent fisticuffs. But alas the serial falls off the rails a bit at the end when Blackhawk and Chuck end up in Mexico for several chapters, which separate them form their Blackhawk comrades and also make the show feel like a western in an odd way. It's a shift in tone which hurts the eventual finale which does bring everyone back together.

But all in all this is a fun one and worth the time. Recommended.

P.S. After I wrote up this review, I discovered that I had written much the same thing many years ago when I first saw this movie on VHS. Now I've seen it on a better DVD transfer and maybe that helped me to like it a bit better than I did then, or maybe I had adjusted my expectations remembering how unlike what I expected at Blackhawk adventure it turned out to be. Whatever, I find I agree with my former self, but maybe have warmed over the years.

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