In '76, Cardona Jr. wrote and his father directed Supervivientes de los Andes (a.k.a. Survive!), a clumsy account of the Uruguayan Old Christians rugby team's crash in the Andes. That tale of survival through sheer will and reluctant cannibalism raked in enough money for Cardona Jr. to essentially transplant the same story to a different setting. Cyclone features...surprise!...a cyclone that sneaks up on a small Caribbean island. The violent storm sinks a fishing boat and a small commercial plane, and the handful of survivors gradually make their way to a tour group stranded in the middle of the ocean. They don't have any food or supplies, and the only drinkable water on-hand is the melted ice at the bottom of a cooler. As the days drag on with no hope in sight, the situation gets more and more desperate. The wounded take a turn for the worse, and the survivors are forced to resort to reprehensible measures to cling to life.
I know that reads like a long laundry list of complaints, but I didn't hate Cyclone. Honest. Even though this is a two-hour movie with long, long stretches of people sitting listlessly on a boat, neither doing nor saying much of anything, I really didn't ever feel bored. Its characters may be cardboard cutouts, but the movie shows enough restraint to sell that idea that these people are in agony without being overly cartoony, tossing in just enough exploitation (butchering a badly-dubbed terrier, drying a willing victim's carcass on the roof of the tour boat) to keep viewers uneasy. "Not that bad" isn't exactly a ringing endorsement, though. Anyone who'd thought about picking up Cyclone and sought out reviews in the hopes of being pushed over the fence should probably go for it, but the movie's not really memorable enough to recommend forking over fifteen bucks to buy.
Video: Another expectedly nice 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation from Synapse Films, Cyclone is clean, decently detailed, and as colorful as a movie set primarily on a bland boat against a light blue sky can possibly be. The quality of the warmed-over stock footage doesn't quite match up, and there are some stretches that are considerably grainier than the rest of the movie, but none of that's particularly unexpected. Synapse's usual first-rate job.
Audio: Cyclone sports a flat, unremarkable, but entirely listenable English Dolby Digital mono track. Some of the dialogue gets a little overwhelmed during the cyclone scenes, but there's nothing much else to gripe about, even if it does sound like I'm listening through my TV's built-in speakers instead of an overpriced home theater. No subtitles or closed captions.
Supplements: The DVD includes an alternate opening credits sequence from the Alpha Video VHS release under the title "Terror Storm". Full-frame trailers for Tintorera and Danger Girls, two of René Cardona, Jr.'s other films, are also provided, along with trailers for a few other Synapse releases (The Deadly Spawn, Thriller: They Call Her One Eye, Bizarre, Olga's Girls, and God Has a Rap Sheet).
Wes Benscoter delivers his usual I'd-buy-a-poster-if-they-sold-one-worthy cover art, and David Hayes contributes a set of hysterical yet informative liner notes that cover Cardona's career in general and Cyclone in particular. The DVD's twenty chapter stops are listed on the flipside of the liner notes, and the disc features a set of 16x9 animated menus.
Conclusion: Cyclone is an okay late-'70s disaster flick that'd be completely forgettable if not for its cannibalistic (and canine-ibalistic) tendencies. Synapse Films has done a solid job bringing Cyclone to DVD, but the movie's not good enough to make it a point to recommend or bad enough to make it a point to avoid, so less rabid cult collectors might be better off sticking with a rental.
Additional Comments: There's a budget release of Cyclone floating around on DVD, and although it's a fraction of the price, the quality isn't nearly in the same league as Synapse's DVD. So, if you're thinking about picking up this disc, take a moment and make sure you're grabbing the right one.