Monday, January 2, 2017

Nighthawks Makes Me a Winner!

I recently participated in a Facebook contest in which actress Catherine Mary Stewart gave away an autographed Blu-ray disc of Nighthawks (1981). I never win contests--so imagine my surprise when I was informed of my victory! The "collector's edition" of Nighthawks features lots of bonus material, including new interviews with Ms. Stewart and co-star Lindsay Wagner. But what about the movie?

Well, it starts off with Sylvester Stallone in drag. To be precise, he's dressed like a woman so he and fellow police detective Billy Dee Williams can nab a couple of street thugs. Meanwhile a terrorist-for-hire called Wulfgar (Rutger Hauer) is forced to flee Europe and relocate to New York City.

Stallone looking like Serpico.
Stallone's character, Deke DaSilva, is one of those tough cops that irritates his superiors. So, it's no surprise when he and his partner are reassigned to an anti-terrorist task force. Deke doesn't like sitting in a classroom learning about terrorists...he just wants to get out there and stop them. He gets his chance when Wulfgar starts blowing things up again. Pretty soon, it's a cat-and-mouse game between Deke and Wulfgar and the stakes are high for the denizens of NYC. (How high? In one scene, Deke recognizes Wulfgar in a crowded disco and inexplicably calls out his name--resulting in the deaths of several innocent bystanders.)

Rutger Hauer as the bad guy.
Plagued with production problems, it's almost impressive that Nighthawks is a reasonably entertaining movie. Much of the credit belongs to Rutger Hauer, who makes a strong impression in his U.S. film debut. Hauer is so good that I thought another actor was playing Wulfgar until the character had plastic surgery and transformed into a more recognizable Rutger Hauer. He also manages to make his villain charming in a creepy kind of way.

In contrast, Sylvester Stallone--decked out in Serpico-style facial hair--comes across as a one-dimensional hero. Some of his co-stars, to include Lindsay Wagner, insist that Stallone gave one of his best performances--but that his best dramatic scenes were left on the cutting room floor.

There may be some truth in that. Nighthawks was started by one director (who was fired) and finished by another. It was also heavily re-edited from 140 minutes to focus on the action elements and then trimmed to a crisp 109 minutes. The casualties include Wagner and Billy Dee Williams, who are introduced as major characters and then all but disappear. The music score by Keith Emerson of Emerson Lake & Palmer was also truncated.

Catherine Mary Stewart.
As for Catherine Mary Stewart, the 22-year-old actress appears as a sales clerk in a very brief scene with Hauer. In the interview on the Blu-ray, she reveals that her voice was dubbed, apparently because the producers didn't like her British accent. While Nighthawks may not have furthered her career, she kept auditioning for parts and became a favorite of sci fi movie fans two years later when she starred in Night of the Comet and The Last Starfighter.


  1. A solid piece of early 80s action film-making that I've always enjoyed. A shame that much of it ended up on the cutting room floor; sounds like it was a missed opportunity, and could have been even better. The film also features Persis Khambatta of Star Trek:The Motion picture in a minor role. Also dug the score by Keith Emerson.

  2. It must be hard to work on a film, knowing what did and didn't survive the editing room decisions.