I recently purchased the “4 Action Packed Movie Marathon” dvd released by Shout Factory. A review at dvdtalk peaked my interest and my hunger for b-movies (a term that I’m very much divided over and will address in a future blog post), along with it’s low price, brought me to seek it out.
“Cyclone” directed by the prolific Fred Olen Ray is the first film on the set. The set contains another picture by Mr. Olen Ray: “Alienator: The Real Terminator.” While I haven’t worked my way through that one yet I did make it through “Cyclone.”
I’ll have a hard time recommending the film even though I think it has great entertainment value. You see there’s a lot of padding and a vague plot that seems to be there just to bring it it’s final chase scene (which was excellent). Also, some of the acting is suspect and the soundtrack is lacking.
It stars Heather Thomas (Zapped!, The Fall Guy, The Love Boat) and one of my favourite actors: Jeffery Coombs (Reanimator, From Beyond, Justice League Unlimited, the Frighteners). And Martin Landau (North by Northwest, Crimes and Misdemeanours, Ed Wood, Ready To Rumble, Entourage)slumming it as the government bad guy. Maybe it was this film that convinced Woody Allen to cast Mr. Landau in “Crimes and Misdemeanours."
Mr. Coombs plays the scientist/motorcycle enthusiast boyfriend of Ms. Thomas. I cannot remember the character names and will not be bothered to look them up.
After a dynamite opening credits sequence we learn that the government (of America) has commissioned Mr. Coombs to develop the Cyclone. Essentially, it’s a heavily armed motorcycle covered in cheap plastic (featured on the box art above). After building said motorcycle he takes it for a ride and realises that if the weapon sitting between his legs ever fell into the wrong hands many would die.
Ms. Thomas finally convinces him to accompany her to her favourite punk club The Lava Lounge. It is here where they listen to not-punk music with non-punks, dance awkwardly and Mr. Coombs is murdered.
This ludicrous set up forces Ms. Thomas to put the finishing touches on the Cyclone and then try and get it into the right hands before Mr. Landau’s cronies can get her.
I could rag on the movie for grinding to a halt right here (and it does story wise), but the fun that all the actors and the director are having shines through and carries the movie. Mr. Landau chews the scenery like it was a Christmas goose. He’s a James Bond villain who focused less on world domination and more on motorcycles that blow stuff up.
There’s good g-men, bad g-men, some platinum blonde dude trying to channel Rutger Hauer, double crosses, triple crosses, and Ms. Thomas gets tortured with a car battery (if there’s a Taken 3 she’d break Liam Neeson in half). Which brings us to the big chase.
Cars crash, cars go flying, cars get blown up really good, people get shot in the face, platinum blonde dude gets burned alive, a stunt man clearly catches on fire when he wasn’t supposed to, an evil aerobics instructor rides a dirt bike through a fireball, the Cyclone proves to be the ultimate weapon, and it all ends with a girl vs girl slugfest.
The whole thing is kind of dopey. It (gladly) lacks the sexism and racism of 1970s b-movies. None of the main actress do pointless nudity (or any nudity) and all of the female characters are strong equals to the men in the film.
”Cyclone“ comes from that strange in between era of b-movies: the late 1980s. Fred Olen Ray came into his peak during this time, (as did Jim Wynorski) but as of late has just wound up doing cheap softcore that goes straight to cinemax (as has Jim Wynorski). It’s pretty sad that the late 80s were the last gasp of lower budget action and thriller films.
It’s also sad because Mr. Olen Ray knew what he was doing. While many contemporary directors of b-movies and a-pictures seem to be shooting for a smart phone screen, Mr. Olen Ray shot this for the big screen with well balanced frames and solid screen direction. The budget may have been low, the props may have been cheap, and the script may have read like the menu at a bad Chinese restaurant, but that didn’t stop anyone involved from having fun. Including me watching it 25 years later.
The other films included on the set are:
”The Exterminator 2“ which (judging by the box art) about a vigilante who uses a flame thrower in 1980s New York City.
”Eye of the Tiger“ staring Gary Busey (!). The hit song is now a movie. Will it rise up to the challenge of its rivals? We’ll see.