The Desert Hawk (1950) (Blu-ray Review)


The Film
The Video
The Audio
The Suppements


Dazzling escapist Technicolor adventure about a desert guerrilla warrior who battles a tyrannical caliph and woos a beautiful princess.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

1950’s The Desert Hawk continued Universal’s production line of B-level “Orientalist” adventure films that began with their very first Technicolor production, 1942’s Arabian Nights. No more believable or historically accurate and just as hindered by its own historical issues such as brownface (a relatively slender Jackie Gleason of all people appears in brownface as the character Aladdin), the film is nonetheless well worth watching for its stunning Technicolor, wonderful cast, and far better that its budget cinematography.

The incredibly beautiful Yvonne De Carlo helped stir lots of publicity for her famous oasis swimming scene, which reportedly was the most expensive swimming scene ever filmed at the time. She plays the Princess Scheherazade and Richard Greene stars as Omar, aka the Desert Hawk. By day he is “a humble blacksmith,” but the rest of his time he leads a guerrilla war against the tyrannical of Prince Murad (George Macready). The Desert Hawk tricks the beautiful Princess into marrying him to gain control over her father’s soldiers in his fight against Murad.

Set “2000 years ago” in Persia, The Desert Hawk’s time and place may as well be disregarded. This is meant solely as exotic escapism for Western audiences who mostly at the time (and unfortunately, even today) had no concept of the histories or cultures of any of the places or people being discussed. Onthe escapism front, the film certainly works. It places itself somewhere in the mix as low budget Cleopatra (1963) mixed with Lawrence of Arabia (1962).

  • Tales of Adventure: Collection 1 – Imprint Collection #214 – #217
  • Yvonne De Carlo, Lois Andrews, Lucille Barkley, and Joe Besser in The Desert Hawk (1950)
Yvonne De Carlo and Richard Greene in The Desert Hawk (1950)

The Video

The Desert Hawk arrives on Blu-ray from a 2023 2K scan of the original camera negative. This original three-strip Technicolor production form Universal has been beautifully restored. The color really ‘pops’ on this release and absolutely cries out for a 4K HDR release. The early scene of the dancing girl by the campfire “at night” is mesmerizing with its amber glow and royal blue painted sky background. The reds, like that in Yvonne De Carlo’s veil, the golden accents in the lavish costumes, and the magentas – they all having that stunning vibrancy removed from absolute reality that classic Technicolor was known for. There is also more than enough detail in this transfer to pick out the seam in the painted backgrounds. Grain looks natural and the image is about as clean as one could expect for a 1950 B-movie.

The Audio

The original mono for The Desert Hawk is presented in LPCM 2.0. It does not have a very full sound, but the dialogue is intelligible and free from many very loud pops and clicks but there is some audible hiss, which is unavoidable.

The Supplements

The two audio commentaries are enjoyable and easy to listen to. They give both insight into the Technicolor format and some amusing details on the cast and crew.

  • Audio Commentary by Film Historians Phoeff Sutton and Mark Jordan Legan (NEW)
  • Audio Commentary by Authors Jonathan Rigby and Kevin Lyons (NEW)
  • “Man in the Shadows: Jeff Chandler at Universal” – Featurette (1080p; 00:19:44) (NEW)

The Final Assessment

Imprint has provided an exceptional restoration of this gorgeous Technicolor film available for the first time on Blu-ray worldwide. This is no any sort of arthouse or historically accurate film, but the cast of Yvonne De Carlo, Richard Greene, and even Rock Hudson, and popcorn escapism make it well worth seeing and owning.

The Desert Hawk is out on Blu-ray for the first time worldwide in Australia as part of the Tales of Adventure: Collection 1 – Imprint Collection #214 – #217 on May 10, 2023. It is available for purchase on the Via Vision/Imprint website.

  • Studios & Distributors: Universal International Pictures (UI) | Via Vision Entertainment | Imprint Films
  • Director: Frederick De Cordova
  • Written By: Aubrey Wisberg | Gerald Drayson Adams | Jack Pollexfen
  • Run Time: 77 Mins.
  • Street Date: 10 May 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: English LPCM 2.0 Mono
  • Subtitles: English HOH

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Dazzling escapist Technicolor adventure about a desert guerrilla warrior who battles a tyrannical caliph and woos a beautiful princess.The Desert Hawk (1950) (Blu-ray Review)