Probably the most serious and darkest of all the classic ‘man and machine’ TV shows of the eighties, Airwolf follows the exploits of Strinfellow Hawke and co. as he fights evil with his lethal and supercool chopper which is armed to the teeth and incredibly fast. The pilot introduces us to the main themes and characters of the series- Hawke, a Vietnam vet, and awesome pilot whose past has been full of tragedy, losing his parents at an early age, and his brother in ‘Nam. However, his brother’s body was never found and he never gives up looking. His only surviving friend is Dominic Santini, a friend of his parents and together they run Santini Air a pilot school. Often String is called in for dull jobs like being a stunt man for movies, but when they hear from the Firm, a
mysterious government group that Airwolf has been stolen, they try to get Hawke involved-he is the only man to have flown it, aside from Moffet, the sociopath who has stolen it. Moffet, creator of the helicopter plans to reign terror on the World from Libya. He is psychotic with a penchant for murderous games. Hawke will only agree to the mission if the Firm agree to locate his brother. Archangel, the Firm’s spokesperson accepts and Hawke begins his search. Undercover agent Gabrielle has also been sent in, though against his wishes Hawke has fallen for her. As everyone he loves dies, he begins a race to save her and Airwolf, after she had promised she would not die on him.
The dark tones of the film and the series by the master Bellisario are largely covered by the intense action and bursts of humour. Jan-Michael Vincent, the world at his knees shows his considerable acting abilities here before crumbling into himself in later days. His portrayal of Hawke is strong, a man eternally haunted by the past, but who will always do the right thing. Veteran Borginine adds much of the humour and is the perfect co-worker for Vincent. The late Hemmings is clearly evil as Moffet, giving one of his best performances and we are genuinely pleased when he gets what he deserves. Cord has a small role here which would grow over the series, and he fits the role perfectly. Bauer as Gabrielle is both sultry and strong, but vulnerable, and she gives a strong performance. The film has a few exciting moments, but it is mainly just a pilot setting up the main elements of the series. The music is god throughout, not only the main theme, heightening the emotional scenes, and the action is well crafted. Of course Airwolf itself looks cool and all kids watching would want one of their own, firing sunbursts and missiles all over the place. One of the best shows of the eighties, and a strong movie to start it off.
Even better now is the fact that all 4 series have been released on decent boxsets so you can snap up the entire collection. This DVD doesn’t have any real special features which is criminal in this day and age- how about a retrospective documentary from cast, crew, fans even? And at least a commentary from Donald- Jan MV is crying out for work, but how much of making this he would remember is
*Originally written in 2004