It really doesn't get much more 80s than the movie Cyclone, staring Heather Thomas and a high-tech, tactical motorcycle with lasers that could have single-handedly brought down the Berlin Wall. This title was suggested by a commenter on my review of Timerider a few weeks ago, and luckily it is all over YouTube for free; I'll post links at the bottom as well as the awesome trailer.
With Knight Rider a hit on TV, you can understand why a movie about a futuristic motorcycle seemed like a good idea, especially with a the female star of another TV hit (The Fall Guy) in the lead role. In the 1980s the TV landscape was full of hour long action shows, The Fall Guy and Knight Rider being just a drop in the bucket. Cyclone may actually be the failed pilot for another TV mystery/action drama, though I can't find any mention of that online.
The plot is fairly simple: Rick (Jeffrey Combs) is a genius working on weaponized motorcycle, called Cyclone, for the government, and Teri (Heather Thomas) is his girlfriend, who happens to have a secret lab where he can work. When he is stabbed at a bar, it soon becomes apparent that there may be sinister forces out to steal the Cyclone. The next hour is a madcap medley of double crosses and triple crosses, torture, and a couple of rad chase scenes.
They do an okay job of dressing up some plebeian dual sport bike up as the secret weapon, so it is hard to tell exactly what is under there. Looking closely at the exhaust pipes as they wrap around the front of the frame, and considering a bad guy rides a stock one, I am guessing it is a 1980-something Honda XR350/XL350. Of course, according to the film, it has "turbo modifications, talking 60 psi or better, and with this nitrous oxide system, this thing is pushing out at 400 horses", which is pretty impressive. It also uses a device called the transformer to fuel itself with hydrogen out of the air, but it will run on unleaded too, just with less power.
Also impressive are some of the recognizable actors in this flick, like Martin Landau as Mr Bossarian, who has the laziest name short of just calling him "boss". Former Bowery Boy Huntz Hall does a comic relief bit, for one scene, that is completely different in tone from the rest of the film. Also appearing is washed up teen heartthrob Troy Donahue, future L.A. radio fixture Tim Conway Jr, and about a third of the stunt men and women working in Hollywood at the time of filming.
Either to honor them, or because he was cheap, the director casts the stunt performers as thugs onscreen too, so they get lines and face time, before taking a beating. The main thug is actually one of the most famous stunt men of the time, Dar Robinson, who died tragically shortly after making this. In fact, the best thing about this wacky movie, besides that awesome super weaponized motorcycle, is the practical stunts done by actual riders.
Rotten Tomato Rating: None, and just a 16% audience rating, possibly the worst of anything I have reviewed. IMDB folks give it just a 4.4 out of 10 as well.
RideApart Worth Watching: Even more than Timerider, this is a definite 8 out of 10 in my book. Even if you did not have a crush on Heather Thomas from watching The Fall Guy as a kid, there is a cheesy sci-fi enjoy-ability to this and plenty of action.
Redeeming Quality: As a red blooded American male, it is a toss up between the 80s jazzercise chicks kicking ass and the bike that shoots lasers and heat seeking missiles. Both are worth the price of admission here. The chase scenes are also good, especially since they feature what at the time were just cheap used cars, but these days are classics, like a 1968 Chevelle SS. Perhaps my favorite part is the chase scene with the fake wood sided station wagon that gets its top removed via a semi trailer.
Worth Noting: If you enjoy this film for anything other than the motorcycles, there may be something wrong with you, but the director has plenty more. Fred Olen Ray has nearly 150 directing credits on IMDB, including many under aliases, though none under the Fabulious Freddie Valentine name he used to use as a professional wrestler. I believe the poorly defined tone and odd blending of genres is common for him.
Grab some cold brews and order a pizza to enjoy this some night. The movie is on YouTube at least four times, though several are in German, or have German subtitles. You can watch it here, here, or here.
I'm always looking for new movies, books and other motorcycle pop culture to consume, so drop us a line if you have a suggestion.