Street Hawk DVD review
Rob revisits an 80s legend, as Street Hawk speeds onto DVD...
Back in the mid 1980s it was all the rage for television executives to produce action adventure shows with people like Donald S Bellisario, Glen Larson and others, giving viewing public with a whole range of shows such as Manimal, Airwolf, Blue Thunder, Automan and, of course, The A-Team and Knight Rider.
Some have spawned legends (the Hoff and Mr T come to mind) but there was, as you can see, a long list of those ‘also rans’ and amongst this mixed bag of shows was Street Hawk, which can easily be summed up as Knight Rider, but with a motorbike.
I remember watching Street Hawk as a kid, enthralled by the bike and 80s soundtrack (which, oddly, was produced by Tangerine Dream) and the fact that the main character looked a bit like the bloke from Tron. And after settling down to work my way through the discs, it was surprising how much I remembered from the show, which really only ran for 13 episodes, all of which are contained in this collection.
While Airwolf and Knight Rider went on to have multiple seasons, this show essentially had only a mid-, or half season’s worth of material. So it’s very strange that, for an obscure and short running show, the adventures of Jessie Mach had stayed so embedded in my memory for so long.
For a television show that was only shown once in the UK way back in 1985, why do I remember it so well? Was it, for some reason, a lot better show than it intended to be? Or the acting or effects must have stood out for my nine-year-old brain to have recalled so much.
But, nope. On second viewing, it’s just a generic show with a nifty looking motorbike. However, I must admit, I still enjoyed it and chuckled to myself from time to time as actors such as George Clooney and Robert Beltram (Chakotay from Star Trek: Voyager) cut their acting teeth on the clichéd dialogue. Plus how can you not love Christopher Lloyd happily slumming it and chewing scenery as the main bad guy (with evil truck) in the pilot episode
So, onto the show itself… Kicking off the series we have the obligatory hour and a half pilot, two-part origin story in which we meet Jesse Mach, a police motorcyclist with a addiction to all things bike-related and especially stunts. A sort of police-styled Eddie Kidd, if you will.
Amiable and all American, his life and career is carefree and happy, patrolling the streets of what, I guess, is LA (but looks a lot like Robocop‘s Detroit, full of abandoned warehouses and industrial sprawl) with his buddy. He also used his ‘skills’ to make a bit of money on the side dressed up as campy stunt motorcyclist, much to the anger of his shouting angry, stressing, sweaty police boss (yay for stereotypes).
His skills, passion and police training make him the ideal candidate for a secret government organisation, to become the test pilot for a new form of patrolling the streets, namely, to be the rider for the new Street Hawk prototype motorcycle.
Spied on by the government’s engineer, Norman Tuttle, who has all the stealth of a football mascot, Jesse is approached to become the new line in urban crime-fighting, which, of course, he at first turns down. It’s not until after his best friend is murdered by drug dealers and he himself is run off the road and injured that he takes up Norman’s offer to drive Street Hawk, which can ‘reach incredible speeds of up to 300 miles an hour’ (well, they speed up the film).
So, armed with his new toy, Jesse by day keeps his new desk jockey job, which comes with new love interest, and at night prowls the streets dressed all in black with a 1980s futuristic motorbike with lasers, super-powered hydraulics and airbrakes that allow him to jump over stuff. All of which are useful when tacking crime and doing an implausible 360 degree jump at the climax of the episode.
Really, what’s not to love? All the clichés are here and if you take it for what it is, Street Hawk is a bit of fun, with all the episodes being exactly the same format. There is a bad guy the police can’t get, for some reason, Norman and Jesse chatting in the funky black and 1980s secret hideout, some more talking and plot development which is not interesting (as the motorbike isn’t in it), then onto some stock footage of the Street Hawk going really fast. All leading to a final showdown, the bad guy, and comedy freeze frame moment at the end. Queue 1980s end credits, and while this is endearing and nostalgic for a few episodes, seeing a whole season or even half it does, sadly, get dull very quickly. That’s not so say that Street Hawk is rubbish. It’s just most shows at the time were like this. Replace the bike for a helicopter and the secret base for a cave and it’s just the same as Airwolf – something fondly remembered, but maybe best left in the past.
While the show might be generic, there’s a huge (well, small) cult following for this show and that same dedication and passion is evident in the extras. The main attraction is a ‘special features’ documentary called ‘The Making Of A Legend’ which includes nearly 50 minutes worth of behind the scenes footage and interviews with those involved with the show. Added to this there are also some fun bits and pieces which include great FX shots of Street Hawk, how they built the bike and the overall arsenal they put into it.
All the disc menus, both on the episodes and the special features are all lovingly put together with a retro 1980s feel, with the focus being on the black, chrome and neon that was the epitome of 1980s design. With futuristic digital displays (which bear a similarity to pocket calculators of old) the buttons and menus are all chromed up, with that great effect of a blue grid falling off back into the horizon set as a background, with clips from the digitized soundtrack pumping away. This retro feel applied to everything shows they have embracied the designs of the time perfectly.
Additionally, if you have a few pounds left over and are still looking for that 1980s action adventure show goodness, then have a look at this.
Street Hawk: The Complete Series will be released on March 22 and can be pre-ordered from the Den Of Geek Store.