cast: Rex Smith, Joe Regalbuto, Richard Venture, and Jeannie Wilson
creators: Paul M. Belous, Bruce Lansbury, and Robert Wolterstorff
690 minutes (PG) 1985
Fabulous DVD Region 2 retail
review by Christopher Geary
Street Hawk – The Complete Series
The 1980s was, undoubtedly, the premier decade for TV action shows. As cops – in Miami Vice (1984-9), Hunter (1984-91), T.J. Hooker (1982-6), or vigilantes – in The A-Team (1983-7), and The Equalizer (1985-9), ruled our home screens, while heroes with hi-tech gadgets or super-weapons in such popular sci-fi orientated hit series as Airwolf (1984-6) had superiority in the skies, and Knight Rider (1982-6) won many fans among aficionados of cars – despite Hardcastle And McCormick (1983-6) having much better characters and plots. Although it was comparatively short-lived, with just one season of 13 episodes, Street Hawk tried to do for bikes what Airwolf did for helicopters, showcasing an “all terrain attack motorcycle designed to fight urban crime” with a 300 mph ‘hyper-thrust’ engine, a laser gun and other built-in weapons of ‘immense’ firepower, plus air-foils and boosters that enable the super-bike to jump obstacles and to almost fly.
Injured cop Jesse Mach (rather bland leading man, Rex Smith, who went on to play defence lawyer Matt Murdock, alias Daredevil, in Bill Bixby’s TV movie, The Trial Of The Incredible Hulk, 1989), is recruited by geeky federal agent Norman Tuttle (Joe Regalbuto), for a secret project using the Street Hawk super-bike and black jumpsuit for special missions and crime-fighting adventures. Jesse’s boss, Lieutenant Leo Altobelli (Richard Venture), in command of the police station where our hero still works, remains unaware that Jesse is the Street Hawk ‘vigilante’. We could make an excuse for Smith’s portrayal of Jesse as wooden by assuming that his ‘police officer’ is like a Clark Kent role in contrast to ‘biker superhero’ of his Street Hawk guise, but the truth is that Jesse is simply too much of a ‘nice guy’ suit-and-tie cop to be considered really capable of having a darker side as a maverick lawman.
And, sadly, there are precious few sci-fi or comic-book superhero plot-lines, or many original hi-tech elements (except for video telemetry beamed from the biker’s helmet onto control room screen at the secret base), and Street Hawk scriptwriters focus on standard cop show clichés and TV ‘private detective’ stories, enlivened only by a few guest stars. Street Hawk was also distinguished by its theme music, composed by Tangerine Dream. In episode A Second Self, there’s an impossibly young George Clooney, complete with a big 1980s’ style hairdo, playing an expert driver involved with car thieves. In Vegas Run, Sybil Danning plays blonde showgirl Linda, in trouble with a bunch of mobsters that have kidnapped her sister.
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Fire On The Wing concerns arson committed by an ultra-light pilot hired by a corrupt property developer. Chinatown Memories sees Jesse tackle some Chinese gangsters to help an old girlfriend. The Unsinkable 453 guest stars Bianca Jagger in an unlikely prison breakout. Murder Is A Novel Idea features Belinda Montgomery as a writer in jeopardy, while Ann Turkel plays an ex-con terrorist posing as reporter, and Dennis Franz appears as a tetchy federal agent in Female Of The Species. The final episode, Follow The Yellow Gold Road, concerns a bullion robbery that prompts Street Hawk to disable a helicopter used by the gang of thieves.
Michael Mann directed a movie remake of Miami Vice (2006), Knight Rider earned a supercharged TV revamp with a transforming vehicle in 2008, and there’s a cinema version of The A-Team out now. It seems unlikely, though, that anyone would be very keen on re-imagining Street Hawk.