Filmed a few months before and playing in theatres when Wiley Post and Will Rogers were killed in a plane crash in Point Barrow, Alaska in August, 1935: Barry Eldon is the owner of an airline company that is competing with a rival company for a lucrative air-mail contract with the government. While the other company is bigger and more profitable than Barry's line, the rival owner has hired a scientist that has perfected a ray-machine that will cause airplanes that its ray is directed at to lose their engine power and crash. Thed government and the public are losing faith in Eldon's line before he, aided by Renee Dupont, can find out what is causing his airplanes to crash. (Wiley Post flys through on a cross-country stratosphere flight.) Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Suggestions Of A Secret Weapon Make "Air Hawks" A Lively Fiction
There is no doubt that "Air Hawks" moves at a rather quick pace, and I suppose it could be classified as a "B" movie by the standards of its day, but the rather formulaic pioneering-aviator plot is enlivened considerably. That's done by the engagement -- by the bad hombres in the competition to Ralph Bellamy's ITL transport company -- of a German accented scientist who has developed an invisible ray to set aircraft engines on fire. What could have been a really dim-witted "mad scientist" movie was short-circuited -- no pun intended -- by keeping the science-fiction element restrained, and by a focus on the personality of Bellamy's character. He's a "Tom Swift" kind of go-getter, but not a goody-goody, and this hero-type had no small appeal to the audiences of the mid-1930s. Love interest Tala Birell ( Natalie Bierl, also known as Talusha ), is also excellent.
Even as the Great Depression was continuing, people in this country continued to hunger for the heroics of air pioneers and other men ( and some women ), who seemed to stand for "can do" as an answer to any question or problem. In that regard, "Air Hawks" gains a large measure of Q or "likability", both for Bellamy and for his erstwhile ally in the newspaper business. In many ways this is more of "a yarn" than a really deep motion picture story, but that's OK, and it works well even now. Seventy-three years have passed since this film was released but the concept wrapped into this movie, that of there being a secret weapon which can bring down an aircraft from a distance without using a rocket or a missile, and without leaving any traces of its use, is an important and intriguing notion. One only has to look back at the destruction of TWA 800, and the controversy surrounding it, or the crash of Swissair 111, to know that the secret weapon concept is not something purely out of the realm of Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers.
Fast-paced, well-edited, and with lively performances by all concerned, this "Air Hawks" action / adventure production gets a vote of eight and would have notched a nine if Wiley Post had been given a little something more to do than to say "hello".
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