What do you get when you take a little bit of Jaws, mix it up with the classic Irwin Allen disaster flicks of the 1970’s, and then throw in a dollop of Mexican style Euro-sleaze? Well, you get the lost disasterpiece Cyclone, of course!
Helmed by the notorious Rene Cardona Jr. (Tintorera/Supervivientes de los Andes), the story of Cyclone is about as simple as these things can get. A small Caribbean island is pounded by a “surprise” Cyclone, leaving the island in a state of disarray, while three disparate groups of survivors face starvation and certain death at sea. As the days go by, the weak and injured pass away, and the remaining survivors put on there feed bags and go to town on the remains. It’s all handled with the utmost respect as the man responsible for carving up the remains is, after all, a doctor, and he makes sure to do so on the roof of the boat so that the children don’t see.
Oh yes, the boat. I forgot to mention that. You see, the cyclone managed to down both a commercial airline and sink a fairly sturdy looking fishing vessel, yet a glass bottomed dingy filled with tourists didn’t so much as take on water, and now serves as survivor central. I should also mention that, while boats and planes have been scouring the oceans for days looking for survivors, these three separate groups seemed to find each other with no problem at all. That doesn’t speak well for the Mexican Coast Guard now, does it?
For me, watching Cyclone was akin to rubbernecking at a car accident on the highway; I just couldn’t look away. I never grew to really care about the characters, but I did find myself hating some of them, which at least means Cyclone evoked some sort of emotion, and that hatred had me hanging in there until the bloody end in hopes that a good chunk of them would get eaten by sharks or each other.
Cardona Jr. employs a hilarious technique for making his shark attacks look “realistic” by apparently dressing up chunks of bloody meat in the same clothes that the actors who’ve been attacked were wearing. The result is footage of a shark dragging a striped shirt across the bottom of the sea, thrashing it about violently in a cloud of blood. This effect is used over and over and over and…well, you get the idea. While the underwater photography is quite gorgeous (the film was shot on and off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico, which features some of the most clear and welcoming azure seas you’ll find just about anywhere), this effect goes from humourous to tedious quite fast, especially during the howlingly funny final frames where it seems as though Cardona Jr. had a surplus of bloody laundry and decided to feed it to every shark in the vicinity.
Forget about the horrible dubbing and wooden performances because those things are par for the course when it comes to exploitation cinema. My real problem with Cyclone is that, with the exception of the numerous crazy shark attacks and a sequence involving a dog, this feels like an exploitation film gone “straight”. The cannibalism here is no more offensive or graphic than it was in Disney’s Alive, and there’s no sex or non-animal initiated violence to speak of. So while the packaging suggests that the viewer is in for two hours of gratuitous and offensive cannibalism and gruesome shark attacks, what we really get is a bunch of people floating around in a boat and looking thirsty for an hour while a hilariously inappropriate synthesizer soundtrack pulsates in the background, and then another hour of people wondering whether or not they should eat the dead guy.
Cyclone isn’t a terrible film; it’s just not a terribly good one, either. It’s too cheap to be an effective “disaster” film, too mild to be an effective exploitation cheapie, and too serious for its own good.