Synapse Films // Unrated // $19.95 // November 15, 2005
Review by Adam Tyner | posted November 12, 2005
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Ever since I was a little tyke, I've dreamt that one day, I'd see a terrier killed, cleaned, and dressed, its blood drained into a bucket, and its innards nibbled on by the butler from Hart to Hart. The late René Cardona, Jr., the second of three generations of Mexican exploitation filmmakers, must be smiling down on me from Heaven today 'cause his 1978 disaster film Cyclone delivers just that.

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.

The first
"Oh, and that's me. My name is Max. I take care of dem which ain't easy 'cause when they met, it was cannibalism."
few minutes of Cyclone are abysmal. Awful dialogue, stilted acting, unnecessary, silent close-ups that linger for way too long...but once the meat of the movie gets underway, it's not half-bad. Forty, forty-five percent tops. Don't go in expecting deep characterization. Even half an hour after watching the movie, I can't remember the name of any of the 18 people (or whatever) on the boat, and none of them really extend any further than "hysterical woman who owns dog", "ornery businessman", "priest who's not keen on cannibalism", "gruff fisherman #2", or "sickly guy who's going to be eaten". Don't go in expecting sterling dialogue or...y'know, logic. It's right around the two week mark before any attempt is made at not being stranded in the middle of the ocean. Don't go in expecting multi-million dollar special effects. The plane plummetting into the water looks like someone's dousing the cast with an off-camera water hose, and the drawn-on lightning bolts during the storm look like outtakes from Challenge of the Super Friends. Don't go in expecting much of the sharks promised on the cover art, at least up until the climax. When the tagline trails off with "...the sharks would be the merciless end!", it's not kidding; the vast, vast majority of the shark-chomping is saved for the last couple of minutes of the movie. The DVD's liner notes quip about Cyclone's homoeroticism, but that even extends to the sharks, whose attacks are almost always preceded by a close-up of a guy's ass.

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.

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