Combustible Celluloid
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With: Van Heflin, Julie Adams, Abbe Lane, George Dolenz, Noah Beery Jr., Rodolfo Acosta, Antonio Moreno, Pedro Gonzalez, Paul Fierro, Mario Siletti, Rico Alaniz
Written by: James E. Moser, Kay Lenard, based on a novel by Gerald Drayson Adams
Directed by: Budd Boetticher
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 81
Date: 10/15/1953

Wings of the Hawk (1953)

3 Stars (out of 4)

'Winging' It

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This sturdy, minor effort by the great Budd Boetticher tells the story of a white gold miner, called "Irish" (Van Heflin), in Mexico in 1911. Just as he and his partner Marco (Mario Siletti) strike it rich, they receive a visit from the crooked Col. Paco Ruiz (George Dolenz), who seizes the mine, kills Marco, and runs Irish off. He's discovered and taken in by a band of Mexican rebels, led by the ineffectual, tentative Arturo (Rodolfo Acosta). Arturo's fiancee, Raquel (Julie Adams, credited here as "Julia"), was shot in the scuffle, so Irish removes the bullet and earns the rebels' trust. They eventually team up to launch a sneak attack on Ruiz. Meanwhile, Raquel's sister Elena (Abbe Lane) is engaged to Ruiz, and is reluctant to give up the creature comforts she enjoys, even though she begins to suspect Ruiz's evilness. It all ends very satisfyingly with some shooting and some explosions, people being rescued, revenge being had, and coupling up.

The beautiful Adams — better known for Creature from the Black Lagoon — is unfortunately decked out in dark-skin makeup to make her appear more Mexican. But Boetticher's use of outdoor space and his codes of honor are here, even though his skills were not yet at the high level they would reach in his masterful Randolph Scott series (1956-60). The film was originally released in 3D, and Kino Lorber's restored 2021 Blu-ray release comes with the option to play it both that way or in boring old 2D. (I only have the latter.) It also includes a Woody Woodpecker cartoon, Hypnotic Hick (also available in both formats). Film Historian Jeremy Arnold provides a full-length commentary track on the film, and 3D expert Mike Ballew offers a shorter one. We also get trailers. I still don't know who or what the "wings" or the "hawk" of the title mean.

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