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Synapse Films presents
Cyclone (1978)

"Everyday, the chances of us being found become less and less."
- Stewardess (Stefania D'Amario)

Review By: Jeff Wilson   
Published: November 30, 2005

Stars: Andres Garcia, Hugo Stiglitz, Carroll Baker, Arthur Kennedy, Olga Karlatos
Director: Rene Cardona, Jr.

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for gore, violence to animals, adult themes
Run Time: 01h:58m:32s
Release Date: November 15, 2005
UPC: 654930304891
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ B-BB C-

DVD Review

Shark movies? Obviously some potentia there, what with Jaws and, and... okay, I can't think of any others. And cannibal films? Hey, that's a winning idea for grossout fans all the way. While some viewers might think "Hey, you got your sharks in my cannibal film" or "You got your cannibals in my shark movie," director Rene Cardona, Jr. knew that such a pairing would work, and he gave the world Cyclone. To be more serious, I went in expecting something far more exploitation-oriented and gruesome than I got. Cyclone turns out to be a moderately effective, low-key suspense film about three different groups of stranded people brought together by chance after the titular event. Their struggle to survive leads to, shall we say, rather unpleasant dining options, with added danger from roving sharks who show up at the wrong times.

The film begins by showing us the three different groups, taking us through their doings up until the cyclone arrives and everything and everyone is under threat. The first group is from a tour boat, the second a quartet of fishermen, and the other the survivors of a plane crash. Upon their coming together, they wait for rescue, parcelling out the small amount of fresh water they still have, and making do with raw fish caught by some of the men. When the fishing line is lost, desperation sets in, and the death of a member of their party sparks the ultimate question: are they willing to eat him to survive?

While some of the elements of the plot seem nonsensical or useless, the main meat (ha) of the story is effective enough to keep you watching. There are simply too many characters (and too many of them are stock) to make any of them stand out (the tour boat they congregate on must have 25 people or so before they start snuffing it), but the essential hook of the story carries the film. Missteps include scenes set on shore, where authorities deal with the families of those missing; these scenes add little, other than to break up the action on the boat, and should have been dumped. They're also poorly acted, with the worst dub actors assigned to them. The dubbing is one element some may take issue with; it ranges from acceptable to abysmal, but if you've watched enough films like this, it shouldn't prove a detriment.

To its credit, Cyclone doesn't lay on the gore, aside from the unfortunate dog belonging to one passenger (Carrol Baker), which finds itself the main course in a rather gross dinner. Even the carving up of this poor soul who is turned into a one-stop deli is handled, dare I say it, tastefully, with the doctor among the crowd shown in long shot as he begins cutting. The emphasis is more on the psychological gore, so to speak, as the group debates amongst themselves the morality of eating another person versus simple survival. In the end, morality is usually doomed to lose when it comes to staying alive, and it's no different here.

Where the film goes a little overboard is in the added attraction of having the sharks pop up at inopportune moments, including the finale, where they suddenly appear and start chewing through the remaining survivors willy-nilly. Frankly, the gravity of their situation and the looming question of cannibalism provided plenty of dramatic potential without chucking in sharks as well. It does make the final sequence pretty exciting though, wondering who will get gulped down and who will scramble to the rescuers.

The performances are hampered by the dubbing, which rarely seems to engage the onscreen acting at the level it needs to be; for people stuck on a stranded boat, they are the most low-key bunch I could imagine. It really isn't until almost two weeks into their ordeal that the first real fight breaks out, which leads to the finale. Also, story logic is pushed too far when we see the passengers rig up a sail for the fishermen's small boat. All I could think was, why didn't they do this more than a week ago, so they didn't need to eat anybody? For people stuck on a boat, they didn't give much thought to potential escape plans. And let's not even get into the woman who gives birth and keeps a newborn on the boat for several days without adequate hygiene or food.

In the end, though, one can generally forgive these script flaws because of the central story's strength, which generally does carry the film along through its overlong 118-minute length. If you like suspenseful sea tales, and don't mind the more icky aspects of the story, you might enjoy this, despite the low budget trappings. If you want something gory and nasty, you will be disappointed, because that isn't the goal here.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Cyclone looks pretty good for the most part, with the exception of some inserted stock footage, which looks a bit rougher. Colors are occasionally a bit faded, but overall, this is a fine presentation.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby mono track is unexceptional, an undemanding track without a whole lot going on beyond the dubbed dialogue and score.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
7 Other Trailer(s) featuring Tintorera, Danger Girls, God Has a Rap Sheet, Deadly Spawn, Thriller: They Call Her One Eye, Bizarre, Olga's Girls
1 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Insert essay by David Hayes
Extras Review: An alternate opening for the film (01m:37s), under the title Terror Storm, is presented in rough-looking fullscreen. Trailers for two Rene Cardona, Jr. films are included, along with several Synapse releases. The two Cardona trailers are pretty beat up, and make the films they advertise look like total junk, which they might well be, for all I know. Trailers for five Synapse releases are also included. Finally, there is an insert essay by David Hayes; the essay gives no indication who he is, but he provides a suitably hyperbolic take on Cardona's low-rent career and the film at hand.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

An moderately effective if rather flawed suspense-horror movie, Cyclone benefits from a solid idea at its center, but has enough laziness and cheapness to throw some viewers off. Not especially gory for those so inclined. Synapse's DVD presents the film well, with clean picture and sound.


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