Airwolf: Season 1 DVD Review

Airwolf is one of those 80's shows that simply wouldn't work today. It has nothing to do with the quality, and everything to do with the way it was filmed. There's no model work, no CG, and everything was done the way it should be: live. That's not to say corners were not cut to save on the budget (said to be around $1 million per episode), it's just refreshing to go back 20 years and see stunts like this pulled off without the assistance of computers.

The show is based around Jan Michael Vincent who plays Stringfellow Hawk, a loner pilot recruited by The Firm to fly various missions that threaten national security. He of course flies Airwolf, which he took from them and is holding until they can bring his brother back from Vietnam. He is close to only one person, Dominic Santini, played by Ernest Borginine, who couldn't have been cast better.

Season 1, much like the rest of the series during it's four season run, is hit or miss. The pilot, repackaged as Airwolf: The Movie later, is a necessary disaster that sets up each character, provides their backstory, and gives little of the action the series is known for. It's dull and monotonous, and nearly misses the two-hour mark.

Things pick up with the third episode, which is more in line with the rest of series. It stays on par, picking up a few times, especially with Mind of the Machine with special guest star David Carridine. It features two Airwolf's (Airwolves?) going one-on-one, and even though it's a "simulation," it's well edited and put together.

The shows biggest problem is stock footage, culled from a variety of sources, whether it's military video or feature films (the movie version of Michael Crichton's Andromeda Strain is ripped for one episode). They even use footage from other episodes. At times, it's handled well; other times, whether it is the lower quality video or quick editing, it's painful.

Almost saving it completely, even with the occasional reliance on stock footage, is the show's theme song. Not only should it go down as one of the best every created for a TV show, it always manages to hit at the right moments to draw you into the action regardless of how you feel about the episode. That's more than enough to recommend the show, though if you're part of the die-hard fan base, you already know that. (*** out of *****)

Airwolf looks far better than it should on DVD. The biggest problems are grain, print damage, and fading colors. This all varies shot to shot, and some are pristine. Obviously, footage nabbed from elsewhere is going to look worse, and at times it's unwatchable. It's probably easier to pick out now than it was during the initial run. The scenes actually produced for the show, for the most part, do look better than they ever have and it's certainly an improvement over any VHS copies. (***)

Not particularly surprising, Airwolf is presented in 2.0 mono. It's not impressive, just serviceable. Dialogue is clean, and the unforgettable sound of Airwolf's engine going into Mach speed is captured perfectly. Fans can wish for a 5.1 mix (the show would be perfect for one), but given the short run and ratings, that's probably not going to happen. (**)

Extras are non-existent. As such, the menus are barren, though nicely designed around the opening credits of the show. The packaging is an odd one, slapping together pictures from other seasons with actors and actresses not featured in any of the episodes. It's also annoying to be forced to fast-forward through the Universal logo before EVERY episode. (No stars)

The series would meet its demise for a few reasons, including Jan Michael Vincent's increasing dependency on drugs and alcohol, the budget, and ratings that weren't high enough to make that budget seem worthwhile. It would be picked up by the USA network that tried to keep it alive without any of the same actors or characters. It didn't fare well rather obviously.

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