Raven Hawk

Raven Hawk is the story of a young woman's quest to avenge the murder of her parents. Rhiya Shadowfeather is a young Native American girl about to be initiated into womanhood through a coming-of-age ceremony and wears, as does her mother, a tattoo in the image of a raven hawk. Her father is chief of their tribe and is fighting to save the reservation land from the hands of greedy developers who want to profit from a toxic waste disposal plant on this site. The film opens with Rhiya being tutored by her beautiful mother in the meaning of the raven hawk symbol. It is for strength and honor. As they are preparing for her ceremony, three killers arrive, hired by the powerful men who want the Indian land. They break into the house, beat Rhiya's father and start to rape her mother. Rhiya, in an attempt to save her father, goes after the attacker with a knife and in the struggle, the knife plunges into her father, killing him. The criminals force Rhiya to also kill her mother. At the trial, they take the position that it was a ritual gone out of control and Rhiya is sentenced to life imprisonment. She is unable to defend herself since the tragedy has plunged her into a catatonic state of mind.

  • Starring: John Enos, Ed Lanter, Rachel McLeash and Bill Atherton
  • Director(s): Albert Pyem
  • Producer(s): Raven Hawk Productions
  • Screenwriter(s): Kevin Elders
  • Animal Coordinator: Unknown
  • Release Date: Wednesday, September 07, 1994

Featured Animal Action

Twelve years later Rhiya is being transferred from the asylum where her sentence began, to a maximum security prison. The van transporting her crashes to avoid hitting a cow in the road. This enables Rhiya to escape. As she stands overlooking the panorama of the plains and freedom we see a close up of the head of a raven hawk. For the scene with the cow, all traffic was stopped in both directions on the road while filming. There were wranglers on horseback just off camera on either side of the road to attend to the cow should it wander. The camera angle was from behind the cow as the van veers off the road more than forty feet from the animal. For the close up shots of the hawk, a Swensen Hawk was used. The trainers placed the bird on a perch and stood in front of the bird tossing a piece of food which the bird particularly liked back and forth to each other. The bird merely looked side to side following the movement of the food. Since the van was burned in the accident, Rhiya is presumed dead. This allows her the element of surprise as she begins to avenge her parent's deaths. We see her stealing a horse from a corral. The scene opens with a wrangler trying to hold the reins of the horse while he beats it. The horse knocks him out and Rhiya saddles the horse and rides out to the reservation. We see her jumping the horse over a fence and onto the Northgate property, once her peoples' reservation and now a toxic waste disposal plant. For the scene in which the horse is being beaten, there was no contact visible between the actor and the horse. Sound effects of a beating were heard as the actor held the reins of the horse and the horse reared up at him. Also, we never see the horse actually kicking the man, only the sound effect and the actor falling. For this scene, a trained rearing horse was used and sound effects were used to create the impression that the man was beating the animal. A second jumping horse was used for the segment of the scene where Rhiya jumps the fence. The guards at the plant, in a jeep and on motorcycle, chase her off the Northgate property, but Rhiya rides hard out into the hills. During the chase, the jeep loses her and the motorcycle overturns as she rides off over the hills. She rides up to her former home which has fallen into disrepair and reminisces about her parents. For the hard riding, the horse galloped for approximately 500 yards and was photographed from a helicopter. The motorcycle followed at a safe distance. The terrain was checked so that the horse only ran through sand and small sage brush. Rhiya goes to the cave which holds the ceremonial garments she was to wear twelve years earlier before the tragedy occurred. During her years at the asylum she was obsessed with physical training and grew exceptionally strong. As she lights a fire in a ceremony of her own and meditates for strength, we realize that she is a woman warrior. During this sequence, we see flashes of memories and a vision of a hawk's head moving in slow motion and in close up. The bird action in this scene was shot in the same way as the earlier sequence. She first locates Gordy Fowler, one of the men who attempted to rape her mother. He is now a diving instructor and she lures him off to go diving with her. Once out at sea, she identifies herself to him. He is both guilty and panicked. He tries to throw her off the boat, but she fights with him causing them both to be thrown overboard. Now unmanned, the boat is out of control and, while Rhiya dives out of the way, it runs Fowler down and kills him. Because of the accident, the Department of Indian Affairs sends an investigator. He finds that Fowler was not only run over by the boat, but also scalped. Fowler is found to have been independently wealthy due to his stock in the new disposal plant. Rhiya next finds the second attacker, Rice, who is inspecting a bridge and plans to cover up it's faulty construction. She cuts his harness rope as he hangs from the bridge and he plunges to his death. The local sheriff, who was part of the initial plan to frame Rhiya for her parents' murders, is told by the powerful boss, Thorne, to keep these deaths quiet. The deaths make them realize that Rhiya did not die in the car crash. Deputies are sent out to track her, but she alludes them. Thorne, who masterminded the attack on her family and the framing of Rhiya, returns to the area with three hired killers. Watching his arrival is a man on horseback, Hudson, who proves to be an old friend of Rhiya's family and married to a Native American woman. He goes to look for Rhiya in the hills and she ambushes him, knocking him off his horse. She is angry that he never fought back to save the reservation. For this scene a trained falling horse was used. The three hired killers track Rhiya on horseback. They find the home of her family and burn it down. Rhiya sees it burning from the ridge and rides to the house. Flames are never seen, only smoke, and nowhere near horses. They track her to Hudson's cabin and while they are torturing him, she rides in. They ride out after her as she leads them through the woods and does a running dismount, letting the horse continue on to mislead them. She swings out of a tree, knocking one of the killers off his horse and knocking the horse down. The horse is seen lying on its side as she fights her attacker on the ground, killing him. For this stunt a trained falling horse was used. A stunt person jumped from the tree giving the appearance that the attacker knocked the horse down with the rider. Prior to filming the ground was raked and prepared to be soft for the fall. The other two chase her and one of them knocks her off her horse. The horse runs off camera. Professional wranglers were just off camera to retrieve the horse and a professional stunt woman was used in place of the actress. Rhiya is able to kill this hired gun as well. The last killer is seen riding slowly around the rocks tracking her. He finally ropes her and drags her behind his horse. With her incredible strength, she is able to use the rope and the momentum of the horse to pull herself up behind him, knock him off the horse and have the horse drag him instead. The scene was shot in cuts with both a trained stunt woman and fake light weight dummy being used. The route of the drag was walked and cleared of all stones and other impediments prior to filming. The horse was cued to begin running and pulled the dummy if the camera was at a distance. The stunt woman is seen in the close up shots. When Rhiya finds that the murderers have killed Hudson and his wife, she goes to Thorne and threatens him. She rides to Thorne's mansion, but as she nears, her horse senses trouble, whinnying and nervously stepping. She is wounded by the last of Thorne's thugs who then chases her by motorcycle. She rides to the edge of a cliff and dismounts. After a chase across the rock ledges and cliffs, she kills him as well. Returning to Thorne's mansion, we see through a doorway, a bird in his kitchen flying across the room. There are also shots of the bird perching in several places in the house, as if to taunt him. You are to assume that this is Rhiya, shape shifting into her raven hawk totem. For this scene, the hawk was placed by the trainer and flew A to B in the kitchen towards its own perch which was behind the kitchen door out of camera range. The bird was controlled by the trainers with a "jess", which is a leg harness usually made of leather. For the purpose of filming, the jess is made of vinyl covered cable attached to a length of monofilament held by the trainer to prevent the bird from flying into the camera. When the bird is seen perched in different places, the trainer was always present holding the jess and placing the bird prior to filming. Finally, the Marshall from the Department of Indian Affairs arrives to save Rhiya and bring justice to Thorne. In a final scene, we see Rhiya riding over the hills into the sunset. In general, the animal action on this film was mild. For the many scenes where mild riding was done, the horses cantered or galloped for short distances of about 100 feet in front of the camera. Pick up wranglers were present at all times, especially during the chase scenes. Whenever gunfire was present in the same scene with horses, the horses' ears were protected with cotton and quarter loads were used. The majority of the horses were local to the shooting location and acclimatized to the terrain.