Review Date: December 5, 2005
Released by: Synapse Films
Release date: 11/15/2005
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.78:1 | 16x9: Yes
In the 1970’s, the disaster film became big. Starting in the U.S., Irwin Allen produced or directed movies like The Towering Inferno
, The Poseidon Adventure
and When Time Ran Out
. That he wasn’t very good in either capacity – even the most highly regarded of his films are still only fair – didn’t really matter, his movies made money. Lots of money, in some cases. Their success was an obvious influence on Cyclone
, a south-of-the-border disaster film that copies the major elements of Allen’s disaster (of a movie) movies – in the cast there’s a major presence of notable American performers, even if they weren’t major stars by this point, a sensational disaster and lots of drama – not to mention a gratuitously long running time. The question of whether or not Cyclone
copies the formula too closely will be settled soon. Keep reading for details.
Somewhere along the beautiful southern coast of Mexico, where tourists flock and poor fishermen toil, there is trouble brewing. We are introduced to three separate groups of conveniently ill-assorted people. The first group is on a tour boat named the Moby Dick(!). Onboard is a snobby, rich tourist named Sheila (Carroll Baker
) and her dog Christmas, a devout minister (Arthur Kennedy
) and a very pregnant woman named Monica (Olga Karlatos
), as well as various other assorted personalities. Group two is on a plane headed towards a nearby rural airport, chartered by obnoxious American businessman Mr. Taylor (Lionel Stander
), while group three is made up of locals on a fishing boat.
The trouble that’s brewing is a massive cyclone that is gathering speed offshore and heading for the coastline. The plane receives instructions that the local airport is closed and that they are to turn around, but before they can land at another destination they get caught by the winds and crash into the ocean. Only some make it out alive, and the survivors find themselves floating in the ocean with nothing but their life vests to keep them up. Meanwhile, the crew of the fishing boat is forced to abandon ship in a lifeboat when their vessel starts to sink. The only group that manages to survive relatively intact is the tour boat, which stays afloat but uses up all of its fuel trying to prevent being washed out to sea completely.
The storm ends and calm returns to the area. The devastation on land is significant, and at sea there are scores of missing vessels. The Mexican Navy begins a search, but they discover nothing of any of the three groups. Days pass and the search is eventually called off. As far as the officers on shore are concerned, the ordeal is over with and everybody has been lost. However, for the people still at sea the ordeal is actually just beginning. The lifeboat with the fishermen runs across the plane passengers floating in the water and rescues them, and then they in turn are picked up by the tour boat. But food and water are scarce and conflicts quickly develop between everyone. Dehydration, starvation and malnutrition start to take their toll. The blaring sun starts to bake people alive, while anyone who goes in the water is threatened by the marauding sharks lurking below. As people begin to fall ill and die, the survivors begin to think the once unthinkable - after all, human bodies are a source of food too!
is a Mexican-Italian co-production with plenty of familiar Eurocult faces on display. Fans will remember Hugo Stiglitz (here playing a pilot) from his wooden performance in Nightmare City
, while both Olga Karlatos and Stefania D’Amario (here playing the plane’s stewardess) had supporting roles in Lucio Fulci’s Zombie
. Carroll Baker, after spending much of the 50’s and 60’s in respectable Hollywood movies like Giant
, eventually wound up in movies like Umberto Lenzi’s Paranoid
, while Arthur Kennedy appeared in European productions like Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
and The Antichrist
. Just as recognizable is the writer of the film’s score, Riz Ortolani, who is, of course, most famous for his score for Cannibal Holocaust
. However, its writer/director – the late Rene Cardona Jr. – and most of his crew were indeed Mexican, and the film certainly feels more like a Mexican production than an Italian one.
Other reviews and commentators have repeatedly referred to Cyclone
as an “exploitation” film, a label that’s questionable. It’s neither sensationalistic nor gruesome. Two words tend to get bandied about when the film is commented on – sharks and cannibalism. But, although both are present in the film, the script spends most of its time on other matters. Until the climax – which features a reasonably exciting tiger shark feeding frenzy – there is exactly one shark attack. The cannibalism is even less notable. The humans eating humans aspect doesn’t even come into play until near the very end, and when it does come it is presented in the most straightforward manner possible – somebody dies and his body is cut up and the flesh left to dry in the sun. Though this not unrealistic, it’s also not very exciting, or even very disgusting for that matter.
The story and its handling are realistic in some respects while ludicrous in others. There is some careful attention to detail, such as the beards of the men onboard the boat, which grow progressively thicker as time goes on. The production gets some extra credibility from having several brief scenes which appear to have been filmed aboard actual Mexican Navy vessels. The cannibalism and shark attacks are presented in a more realistic manner than in other films, but other details are wrong. Case in point is the birth of Monica’s baby. At the beginning we are informed that she is only six months pregnant, but then she goes into delivery midway through the film and produces an apparently healthy child who survives, even though premature children stand a low chance of survival if not hospitalized. But Cardona obviously felt the need for that plot element when he wrote the script so here it is, believable or not.
Unfortunately, these are not the only problems with the story. The audience comes to identify with the monotony of being trapped on a boat, but not in a good way, because for long stretches the movie itself is incredibly monotonous. Cyclone
is nearly two hours long, but feels longer. The version that is presented here is the original, uncut international version that is longer than the version that originally appeared in the U.S. under the title Terror Storm
. Though I’m not aware of what exactly was cut from that version, I can certainly empathize if the original American distributors felt the need to cut it for pacing reasons, even if it did mean the hacking up of someone else’s creative work. At least twenty minutes could have easily been lost with no harm done. In fact, even with the longer running time the film fails to provide adequate characterization for anybody in the story. There are so many characters that even the ones with distinctive personalities are often lost in the shuffle.
really is in the mold of an Irwin Allen disaster film, in all the wrong ways. The liner notes on this release bemoan that Rene Cardona Jr. isn’t better known amongst cult movie fans. Yet, at least in the case of this film, there’s not much reason to for him to be notable. Even if the production values were better (like many of Allen’s films) it would still (also like many of Allen’s films) just not be much fun.
is presented in a 1.78:1 transfer that is enhanced for 16x9 displays. Apparently down-converted from a newly minted high-definition master, the film at least looks like the polished epic Cardona was apparently trying to create. Colors are absolutely beautiful and the level of detail and clarity is startling. Black levels are true and there is little in the way of grain or compression artifacts. On display here is the type of work ethic that had made Synapse Films so well respected by fans – they put a commendable amount of time and effort into making even this garbage look like gold. It really does make the movie itself seem more polished and respectable than it really is.
The only notable problem with the video transfer is the moderate number of specks and scratches that appear. The “original vault materials” that this transfer apparently was taken from must have been a little beat up. There are a small number of shots where there is damage on both the left and right sides of the frame, and other parts where there is noticeable speckling. Slightly distracting, but not surprising for a foreign movie that’s almost thirty years old.
We are given the film’s original English-language dub in Dolby 2.0 Mono. Though the dubbing itself isn’t good, the quality of the track is decent, with little or no popping and hissing, or any other type of background noise. There is some problem with some of the voices sounding muffled, but this could very well be a fault in the original recording.
There’s very little in the way of supplements here. We get an alternate opening credits sequence for the film’s Terror Storm
release on home video. Remember back in the days of VHS how you’d sometimes run across a film that had been re-titled by the video company by adding badly-done video generated credits? Yep, this was one of them. Though there’s no trailer for Cyclone
, there are also trailers for two other Cardona films, his Jaws
and Danger Girls
, an apparent James Bond imitation. There are also liner notes by David Hayes giving background on Cardona.
Lastly, Synapse also throws in trailers for some of its other DVD releases – The Deadly Spawn
, Olga’s Girls
, Thriller: A Cruel Picture
and God Has a Rap Sheet
The old lipstick-on-a-pig analogy might be useful here. Synapse has given Cyclone
a beautiful restoration. But, whether you’re looking at it as a drama, a disaster film, an action film or an exploitation one, it doesn’t work. This is a movie that belongs on the shelves of collectors with an affection for this type of film. For someone that appreciates the movie this DVD a really good deal. But “appreciate” is not something I imagine many fans will do.
is also available in Region 1 from VCI. Though it’s reportedly the uncut version as well, everything I’ve read indicates it’s of inferior quality. Make sure you know which version it is you’re renting/buying.
Movie – C-
Image Quality – A-
Sound – B
Supplements – C+
- Running Time – 1 hour 59 minutes
- Not rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English 2.0 Mono
- Alternate credits sequence
- Liner notes