After the success of Knight Rider the 1980s and into the 90s were filled with high-tech vehicles. The only other ones that talked came from Pole Position unless they turned into a robot, but you had helicopters like the movie Blue Thunder, which inspired the series Airwolf, which inspired the series Blue Thunder, thus coming full circle. Then you had the TV series Viper which was part of the larger trend of ground vehicles. You also had shows like MASK and it’s 90s knockoff Vor-Tech. They even put a supernatural spin on it with The Wraith, a movie that was either the debut or first starring role for Charlie Sheen. However, we aren’t talking about those shows tonight.
You may remember way back in my Video Review of Hard Time On Planet Earth I mentioned a show called Street Hawk. The show starred Rex Smith as Jessie Mach (subtle, creators) and Joe Regalbuto (you may remember him from Murphy Brown) as Normal Tuttle, the man who recruits him for the government test program Project: Street Hawk. Street Hawk is a super high-tech motorcycle that may be the next tool of crimefighting, but they have to work out the bugs. Injured by guest villain Christopher Lloyd, Jessie ends up with a second chance to ride, but as a superhero.
The show was created by Paul M. Belous and Robert “Bob” Wolterstorff, with Bruce Landsbury creating the format. It aired for one season on ABC and got a series of novels and toys overseas, but nothing in the US. In 2010 Shout Factory released the series on DVD. To promote the show on their streaming channel they posted the pilot movie on their YouTube channel, which how I can bring it to you tonight. Enjoy the ride!
The motorcycle in the pilot episode was based on a 1983 Honda XL500 trailbike. The motorcycles used in the series were based on 1984 Honda XR500s. The motorcycles used for the stunt shots were based on Honda CR250s. The pilot motorcycle was designed by Andrew Probert and the series motorcycles were redesigned by Ron Cobb. During filming, the fiberglass bike parts constantly flew off the bike during the course of stunt work. The film stunt second unit crew always had six bikes standing by to replace the hero bike’s jump or maneuver. When first unit was on stage at Universal Studios, the second stunt crew were on location filming with a stunt biker performing with the bike. The stunt bikes were always in Universal Studios’ effects shop being repaired or replaced with parts. A motorcycle shop, not far from the studio, three miles on Lankershim Boulevard, always supplied new frames and wheels for the stunt bikes. Winfield Special Projects in Canoga Park made all body panels and special effects. Eric Thaler from Austria was in charge of the project at Winfield’s.
This show was perfect for the 80s. From the smooth yet energetic theme to the concept of a motorcycle-riding crimefighter. I’m kind of surprised the government would choose someone like Jessie rather than writing him off as a loose cannon, but he ends up doing a good job. Smith and Regalbuto have some good chemistry together, and work well as a team. I’m also curious why the bike roars when it jumps instead of screeches like it’s namesake. (The hawk, not the street.) Overall though it’s a good series.
Shout Factory released the show on DVD, including a making of featurette and an early pilot that I would love to see. Apparently it had different gear, too. But if you don’t care about behind-the-scenes history you can just go to their free streaming site and see the show there.