• Savage Dawn (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: November 29th, 2019.
    Director: Simon Nuchtern
    Cast: George Kennedy, Richard Lynch, Karen Black, Lance Henriksen, Claudia Udy, Wiliam Forsythe
    Year: 1985
    Purchase From Vinegar Syndrome

    Savage Dawn – Movie Review:

    Savage Dawn, directed by Simon Nuchtern and released in 1985, got a VHS release via Media (with some pretty bad ass cover art) but never did make it to DVD – which is kind of surprising given the pedigree of popular B-movie actors that appear in the film’s cast. Wait, no… that’s not right. It did get a DVD via Image Entertainment but it was tape sourced and it looked like ass. Regardless, there’s no use crying over spilt motorcycle oil as Vinegar Syndrome have now decided to bring it out on Blu-ray.

    As to the movie itself? Stryker (a blonde Lance Henriksen) is a loner, a rebel baby, and a former soldier who spent time overseas in The ‘Nam. He and his fancy motorcycle roll on into the dusty small Texas border town of Agua Dulce hoping to reconnect with his old pal Tick Rand (George Kennedy). Before he can do that, however, he has to save a senorita from a trio of motorcycle toughs, members of a gang called The Savages. He does this by punching some of them and then driving his bike over the car that one of the bikers drives (which means he’s probably not really a biker at all, but he looks like one at least). At any rate, after he does that, he asks the local cops, Sheriff (Leo Gordon) and Deputy Joe Bob (Lewis Van Bergen), where Tick is. Before he can get much of an answer a cute blonde named Katie Rand (Claudia Udy) lays a big ol’ smooch on him. Stryker notes that he hasn’t seen her since she was a little girl and that, wow, she’s all grown up now.

    Soon enough, he reconnects with his pal Tick and a guy named Danny Rand (Michael Sharrett) who, like Katie, we assume is one of Tick’s kids. It seems that since the last time Stryker was here, the Savages - led by guys named Pigiron (William Forsythe), Zero (Mickey Jones), Spyder (John Lisbon Wood) and Meatrack (Charles Hyman) - have essentially taken over the town. Pigiron and his lady friend, Rachel (Karen Black) in particular raise a bit of a ruckus, leaving the cops powerless and local Reverend Romano (Richard Lync) spiritually perplexed. When it gets to the point where enough is enough, Tick, with some help from local slow kid Willard (Hal Sweesy), and his family decide to fight back, with Stryker at the lead… but will it be enough when The Savages get their hands on some tanks?

    This one starts off rad, slows down for a bit in the middle stretch, and then gets super rad again in the last half hour or so. It could have been trimmed down by a good 15-20 minutes and been a tighter film for it, particularly as the vast majority of the film takes place in the small town, but the good still more than outweighs the bad here if you can look past that and a big part of the reason for that is the cast.

    Lance Henriksen is legitimately awesome as Stryker. While it’s clear in a few scenes that it’s a stunt double and not Lance himself handling some of the action scene, his effortlessly cool persona makes him the right man for the job. If, in real life, Stryker tried to recruit you to fight The Savages, you’d join his quest and then afterwards, he’d buy you a beer and tell you some war stories before fucking your girlfriend. He’s that kind of guy, he’s better than you. When Henriksen is riding around fighting bad guys and just being Henriksen, the movie is pretty much gold. There are, however, some lengthy scenes where he isn’t involved that might have you wanting to hit that fast forward button just for a few minutes.

    Still, the rest of the cast is pretty great too. If you’ve ever wanted to see a wheelchair-bound George Kennedy fire a rocket launcher, this is the movie for you. Karen Black, who looks rather insane here with her garish makeup, gets into a cat-fight with Claudia Udy. Forsyth, who would act with Henriksen again in Stone Cold, is pretty awesome as the main leader, and he’s got a great moustache. Richard Lynch is creepy, which is what Richard Lynch does, and who wouldn’t want to see Sam Kinison of all people play a barber who gets his throat slit? Super cute Elizabeth Kaitan also has a small role in the film, and Mickey Jones, who has made a career out of playing biker-types, chews a good amount of scenery to nice effect.

    The stunts are pretty great. The fights are nice and violent and the action scenes nicely choreographed. Pino Donaggio contributes a nice score and the cinematography from Gerald Feil, who also shot Friday The 13th: Part III, is pretty solid. Had this been tighter in the editing department it would have been a pretty great movie. As it stands, it offers some solid entertainment value and an amazing cast without quite ever maximizing its potential.

    Savage Dawn – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings Savage Dawn to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. Picture quality here is great. The daylight scenes show excellent colors with nice, bright hues evident throughout, while the dark sequences boast good shadow detail and clarity. The opening scenes with Stryker driving through the desert look really nice. Skin tones look just fine, nice and lifelike, while there’s very strong detail and texture noticeable throughout the film, particularly, though not only, in the close-up shots. There isn’t much in the way of print damage here at all save for a couple of random shots where you might notice a vertical line for a few seconds, while the natural film grain you’d hope to see is retained. No problems with any compression artifacts, edge enhancement of noise reduction to complain about – the transfer is a very good one indeed.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track on the disc is also of very good quality. The dialogue is crystal clear and the track is properly balanced. The score from Donaggio has a good amount of depth to it and there are no problems with any hiss, distortion or sibilance. When those motorcycle engines rev up or George Kennedy fires those rockets, there’s an appropriate amount of punch behind it all. Optional subtitles are provided in English only and an alternate Dolby Digital 2.0 track is also included on the disc.

    Extra features start out with and audio commentary track with director Simon Nuchtern moderated by Vinegar Syndrome’s Joe Rubin. Nuchtern comes across as a pretty friendly guy, talking about how he moved from his native Columbia at the age of 14 to New Jersey, how he studied engineering and didn’t like it and eventually wound up working as a filmmaker. He covers some of the other pictures he was involved with (he has an interesting filmography) but focuses more on Savage Dawn, talking about how he came to make the film, what it was like on location, working with some of the more recognizable actors seen in the film, and plenty more. Rubin asks smart questions and gets good answers in return, this is an interesting track.

    Aside from that, we also get a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection.

    Menus and chapter selection finish things off. The packaging for this is also pretty slick – not only do we get a great double-sided cover sleeve but we also get a poster featuring the same art on both sides, and a slipcover that loads from the bottom, just like an old VHS sleeve would.

    NOTE: This release is part of the new Vinegar Syndrome Archive line, and it comes packaged with a hand numbered slipcase that opens from the bottom, VHS style. A double-sided poster is also included inside the keepcase alongside the two discs and we get some cool reversible cover sleeve art as well. Like all VSA releases, this one is ONLY be available on the Vinegar Syndrome website and at participating brick and mortar retailers. This release is limited to 3,000 copies.

    Savage Dawn – The Final Word:

    Savage Dawn is longer than it needs to be but if you can look past that it’s got some pretty solid action scenes and a truly great cast. Vinegar Syndrome’s disc looks and sounds great and the commentary with the director is a good listen.

    Click on the images below for full sized Savage Dawn Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      Blond Lance Henriksen!