We're in for some fun and excitement! Indy takes to the skies on a mission of espionage in the first part of 'Attack of the Hawkmen'. Viewers may like to be aware that this was originally filmed as one of four TV movies to be shown as a proposed third season. The episode as a result of its revised format abandons the 90-year-old Indy segments along with the original opening intro. A third season never materialised but what we have here is entertaining nevertheless.
With a new outlook on life our young hero decides to join the French Secret Service where he meets famous daredevils of the skies, the Lafayette Escadrille, as an air reconnaissance photographer. Shocked to discover the life expectancy in the role is about eight days Indy fights to survive in the air all the while trying to complete his mission. Our hero has no choice. It could mean the end of the First World War. But it's no easy task when the infamous Baron Von Richthofen is trying to shoot you down! The Red Baron has never been stopped. Can Indy succeed in his mission against a skilled and seemingly invincible pilot?
One of the great things about 'The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles' was that it could place Indy in any role or exciting situation however implausible. As long as the stories were grounded in some kind of historical reality it didn't matter that Indy could meet Thomas Edison or Pablo Picasso because you believed it. For instance, here our hero gets a job as an aerial photographer, which of course is just an excuse to have some aerial dogfights with the infamous Baron Von Richthofen played by a not-yet-famous Marc Warren but the viewer buys into the whole concept. Taking seriously the advise Albert Schweitzer gave him on preserving life Indy decides to quit the Belgian army to join the French Secret Service in the hope of stopping the First World War. It is sad to see him and Remy separate after everything they've been through. Regardless of whether you liked Remy or not their friendship felt genuine. Having said that, if memory serves me right something tells me we haven't seen the last of Remy. I think it's safe to say that Indy's introduction into air reconnaissance wasn't something he was ready for. The Lafayette Escadrille unit (a squadron made up of American pilots) are a nice bunch of people but the life expectancy for someone in the role of photographer is about eight days max. Realising this our hero begins to understandably get worried. Trying to take pictures while either hanging for your life out of a plane or being shot at is no easy task. The Red Baron is intent on making Indy's life a misery. Warren's portrayal of the unstoppable Manfred Von Richthofen is actually really good. He presents the Red Baron as both a diva and a spoilt brat. He's someone that always has to get his own way. When preparing to take to the skies to battle the other side Von Richthofen's almost putting on a show. He demands that his plane be painted red to reflect his character's reputation and moans when it isn't. We want him to lose because he deserves to. It's thanks to Warren that the Red Baron is presented as this spoilt brat we love to hate while doing it all with a touch of demented class. The idea of a red painted plane signalling death in the sky is an interesting although scary one. Director Ben Burtt (who also co-wrote this) does a terrific job with the aerial action keeping the camera moving as planes engage in battle and at the same time managing to handle some of the series more crazy stunt work. As noted with Warren the acting all round is absolutely fine and done with great enthusiasm for the period.
If there is a criticism about the handling of aerial battles is that they're somewhat average when compared to the much underrated if cheesy 80s movie 'Biggles'. John Hough's fantasy adventure has many detractors but no one argues that the aerial dogfights in that movie were superb with the camera giving an excellent first-person POV of the action so I was a little disappointed when seeing this story utilise some underwhelming shots of dogfights. In all this first part of 'Attack of the Hawkmen' is a hugely fun adventure that for the most part makes you wish you were there. Although, as you'll see it's the second part that stands out a little bit more…