The cast for Savage Dawn reads like a who’s who of people I love in junk cinema: Lance Henriksen, William Forsythe, George Kennedy, Karen Black, Elizabeth Kaitan and Richard Lynch for starters, right? In a biker movie? In the made for VHS rental era? And directed by Simon Nuchtern, the guy who made the epilogue for Snuff and Silent Madness?
At some point in the past, Ben Stryker (Henriksen) and Tick Rand (Kennedy) were soldiers, but today Stryker rides the highway solo on his motorcycle while Tick has retired to the desert town of Aqua Dulce, Texas.
As soon as our hero gets to town, he has to deal wth two members of the Savages biker gang, Spyder (John Lisbon Wood, who was also a mad bomber in Alligator) and Meatrack, as well as Deputy Joe Bob (Lewis Jon Bergen, who played comic hero Jon Sable on the way too short TV series in 1987).
Rand has been living with his daughter Katie (Claudia Udy, Joy) and son Danny (Michael Sharrett, Deadly Friend), who wants to ride like Stryker. Together, the two of them notice the Savages on their way into town, including one of them, Zero (Mickey Jones, who was once in The First Edition with Kenny Rogers before becoming a character actor in things like V, where he was Michael Ironside’s partner) assaulting a woman. Danny wants them to attack the bikers, but Stryker is tired of fighting, like some old gunslinger wanting to hide.
Later that night, as Stryker and Tick drink at the Tomkat Bar, the locals have a tough man contest that usually Deputy Joe Bob wins. He holds his own against Zero until the leader of the Savages, Pigiron (Forsythe), sucker punches him and wins the title and the lust of Rachel (Karen Black) before the bartender disqualifies the bikers. That’s when the sheriff (Leo Gordon, a man whose career goes from The Evil One in Saturday the 14th Strikes Back to the blacksmith in Big Top Pee-Wee, Dr. Warren in Bog, Burt in Nashville Girl and so many other small parts; he also wrote The Wasp Woman, The Cry Baby Killer, The Terror and Attack of the Giant Leeches) tells the Savages to leave town along with the town’s mayor — and reverend — Romano (Lynch). They jail Zero, but Pigiron — who leaves with rachel — says that they’ll be back.
They come back the very next day, attacking a girl who is with Danny, who ends up tied behind a bike, leading Stryker to finally get involved. The Savages end up taking over the whole town, as they’ve taken over an armory and have a tank, and used one of their members, Lipservice (Wendy Barry, who was Linda the maid in Young Lady Chatterly II, as well as one of the girls in Mötley Crüe’s “Looks That Kill” video) to seduce the mayor.
Also, somewhere in here, Zero gets a haircut from Sam Kinison, of all people, playing a religious barber who gets killed when he tries to sing “Amazing Grace.”
Just like Shakespeare, just about everybody dies at the end, but the Bard never wrote something that put George Kennedy into a machine gun firing wheelchair nor did he run over Karen Black with a tank.
Beyond the cast members already discussed, this movie also has Kevin Thompson, who was Ali Gator in The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, Hal Sweesy (whose only other credit is the impossible to find Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel), Solly Mark (who was the samurai in Neon Maniacs), John Stewart (who directed Action U.S.A. and Click:the Calendar Girl Killer) and Bill Milling (who produced 1981’s Nightmare and under plenty of names was an adult director, such as Chiang for the CJ Laing starring The Vixens of Kung Fu (A Tale of Yin Yang); Dexter Eagle — Ecstasy In Blue, Virgin Snow and Blonde Valvet; Luis F. Antonero — Temptations; Philip Drexler Jr. — Satin Suite, Delicious; Craig Ashwood — All American Girls and Jim Hunter — Up Up and Away, Heart Throbs). Plus, you get a Pino Donaggio score and cinematography from Gerald Fiel (He Knows You’re Alone, Friday the 13th Part III, Silent Madness).
So many people I’ve discussed this movie with were disappointed by it. It hit me at the right time, because I’m all about George Kennedy as an ex-military man who has decided to make his own wheelchair of destruction against a biker gang. Plus, you know, I’ll watch anything that Richard Lynch is in. Or, most likely, I have no taste.
You can buy this from Vinegar Syndrome or watch it on Tubi.