Tax returns are a magical thing, readers, especially if, like me, you go through a website (which shall remain nameless as they’re not paying me for a plug) and are offered the option of getting a portion of your refund as an Amazon gift card, with every $100 you put on the card netting you a bonus $10. So having received such a gift card from filing my taxes, I of course promptly put it to good use by getting a bunch of cheesy movies from a variety of genres. As I’ve been kind of running around like a headless chicken today, I don’t have as much time as I would have liked for reviewing and so I picked today’s movie based solely on its running-time. But I gotta tell you, it looks promising. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Rick (Jeffrey Combs, of RE-ANIMATOR and CELLAR DWELLER) has built the ultimate motorcycle, “Cyclone,” a computerized ride that incorporates rocket launchers and laser cannons into its innovative design. He also has an iron-pumping blonde bombshell of a girlfriend, Teri (Heather Thomas, of ZAPPED!). As the owner of the chopshop puts it, she’s got “a bit of Bruce Lee in her,” as demonstrated when she whips the crap out of a trio of chauvinist pigs haranguing her outside the chopshop. After a visit to a punk club at Teri’s request (the band is Haunted Garage, whose frontman, Dukey Flyswatter, is best known to me as the voice of Uncle Impy in SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA), Rick is murdered.
Now, it falls to Teri to keep “Cyclone” from falling into the hands of Rick’s killers. Along the way, she encounters FBI agents (Martine Beswick of THUNDERBALL and, surprisingly, her voice appears in CRITTERS 4, and Robert Quarry, of COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE) and a small army of thieving goons at the beck and call of a crimelord (Martin Landau, of WITHOUT WARNING and ALONE IN THE DARK) who wants to get his hands on Cyclone’s clean energy fuel source.
It’s kind of amazing the sheer volume of “names” Fred Olen Ray assembled for this cast. Above and beyond the people named in the synopsis, we also get appearances from Troy Donahue, Huntz Hall (whose career stretches back to doing James Cagney pictures in the ’30s) and astonishing, Tim Conway Jr. and Michael Reagan (son of Ronald) as a pair of bumbling cops. Dawn Wildsmith, Ray’s wife at the time (last seen around these parts in EVIL SPAWN) likewise appears with one of the most incredible manes of hair I’ve ever seen.
For the most part, CYCLONE is a pretty standard sci-fi action movie of its era, blending crime/espionage elements with the more outrageous aspects of a motorcycle that shoots rockets. Unfortunately, it gets bogged down by extended driving sequences and overlong blocks of expository dialogue that slow the action to a crawl and dissipate the tension called for by the genre. It’s disappointing, but it’s also to be expected – long talky sequences cost a whole hell of a lot less to film then sequences of rocket launchers being fired, and for a filmmaker on a budget, it’s not a hard decision to make as to which to film.
To Ray’s credit, he does a fantastic job of varying the action sequences – car chasing motorcycle, car chasing car, shoot out, one-on-one catfight, three-on-one fistfight – keeping them interesting and engaging.
Heather Thomas is a beautiful woman, and does a fantastic job carrying the majority of the film on her trim shoulders. Her first introduction in the film involving the camera in a series of tight close-ups on her spandex-clad body as she lifts weights, and with that sort of intro I was expecting her to be a mere fleshpot, here more for eye-candy then anything else but she puts in a damn fine performance whether she’s dancing at the club or being tortured with a car battery and set of jumper cables.
The only time she’s not outperforming the rest of the cast is when Martin Landau’s on screen — here he hams up the sleaze factor in his performance and comes across perfectly as a lounge-lizard sociopath who doesn’t care whose nipples get hooked to a car battery as long as he gets what he wants. To his credit, however, car battery is his plan B after attempts to bribe Teri to assist him and betray Rick’s memory fall short. I feel like if this movie was made today the car battery would be Plan A.
Final Analysis: A fun little flick to pop in on a Sunday afternoon, it doesn’t call for a lot of brain power on the viewer’s part but it entertains well enough. As I said, the scenes between the action sequences tend to drag on longer than necessary and while we hear a lot about the capabilities of the Cyclone, we don’t really get to see them in action. However, Heather Thomas made a great lead and Martin Landau a stellar villain, and overall I don’t have anything I can really complain about with this film.
Overall, I give CYCLONE (1987)…
THREE BARRELS OF TOXIC WASTE.