Theme Song: There’s a lot of misused music going on in Savage Dawn. The hot guitar licks during the fight scenes are pitch shifted up and sound like slapstick comedy riffs.
The ending credits, which clearly needed some type of motivational/triumphant song about a dawn that is savage, are totally silent.
Interesting Dated References: Any type of organized fighting competition being called a “Tough Guy Contest.”
Best Line: Said by a very stern and sweaty Lance Henriksen — “Don’t touch me unless you love me.”
Social Context: Savage Dawn is a vigilante justice/revenge film with no real social context. It was written by Bill Milling, who wrote and directed porno in the 70s under the name Dexter Eagle, but that doesn’t mean we’re in for any type of exciting ride.
Savage Dawn was directed by Simon Nuchtern who is also credited with directing the extra “snuff” footage attached to the end of the Michael and Roberta Findlay movie Snuff. Long a hallmark here at The Betamax Rundown, Snuff was one of the first Betas I ever bought.
None of this counts as social context, but it does add to Savage Dawn‘s pedigree. I’m sure this will be a good amount of biker sleaze. Milling was deep in 70s New York softcore/hardcore (as were the Findlay’s), plus the Nuchtern/Snuff-connection.
Summary: This is what the savage dawn at the beginning of Savage Dawn looks like. It’s not that savage looking and it’s actually probably evening or dusk.
Lance Henriksen stars as Stryker, a nomadic, leather-clad biker in search of an old friend. Taking into account the blonde dye-job and angular leather clothing, Henriksen looks almost exactly like Rob Halford during Judas Priest’s Fuel For Life tour.
So Stryker is riding his bike through a desert wasteland and immediately runs afoul of some type of post-apocalyptic-looking biker gang. Well, they look post-apocalyptic, but this is not a post-apocalyptic movie: Water is not scarce, gas is available, and money is exchanged for goods and services. But there does seem to be a general feeling of run-down lawlessness. Whatever.
After beating up the bikers as comical guitar licks wail, Stryker goes looking for his friend Tick Rand. Tick Rand is an incredible name. First he finds Tick’s daughter, Katy. He squeezes her body in various places and declares he can see she is very grown up. This statement makes her excited and not at all creeped out like when friend of my father would declare the same thing to me.
After completing his body inspection on his best friend’s daughter, Stryker finally tracks down Tick (played by George Kennedy). They reminisce about building bombs and doing Counter Ops for the government.
Elsewhere, the gang of bikers continue to terrorize various townspeople. These bikers all look like they should be in some type of Priest cover band. It gets the point across that they are miscreants, but wearing a mesh shirt is not the toughest look in the world, especially if you are a man with large, fleshy areola.
Later that night, Stryker and Tick go to hang out at the bar run by Karen Black. She antagonizes Stryker into joining their “Tough Man” pit fighting competition, but before that can happen, the biker gang (now demanding they be called “The Savages”) roll into the bar.
Headed up by William Forsythe, The Savages proceed to challenge the local sheriff to a pit fighting match, and after kicking sheriff-ass, Forsythe claims his prize, which is ownership of Karen Black. I still can’t figure out if this movie is post-apocalyptic or not. If Karen Black passes as a “prize,” it’s possible the movie is set in an alternate reality.
The next day, Tick’s son, Danny, meets and successfully applies a French kiss to a girl, despite the fact he is wearing a Doors t-shirt. He is then immediately attacked by The Savages (possibly because he is wearing a Doors t-shirt; this point is not really made clear in the film). Actually, most people who own motorcycles have miserable taste in music, so they would probably praise Danny’s choice of t-shirt and make him their new leader.
Later, the gang goes to harass Tick, whom I neglected to mention is in a wheelchair. After all of this rabble-rousing, the gang has a party where women whip out their giant boobs and wave them all over the place, which judging by the smiles on their faces, they think is a total blast.
And somehow The Savages get a giant tank and rocket launchers and attempt to take over and terrorize the town. This terrorizing entails doing doughnuts on motorcycles, hooting and hollering, breaking bottles, and forcing the barber to give them haircuts.
The barber is played by Sam Kinison (listed in the credits as Sam Kennison). I think technically that would make Savage Dawn his first movie appearance.
To combat all this chaos, Tick and crew set up all sorts of booby traps, one of which consists of a garbage bag full of gas hanging from a rope above an open flame. This causes an explosion, followed by a bunch of other things exploding.
Stryker shows up and has a final pit fight with Forsythe. Then all the yokels chase the three remaining gang members out of town.
Not content with letting anyone live, Stryker chases them down during a savage dawn or savage mid-morning and kills them in an abandoned factory.
Poster and Box Art: The box art for Savage Dawn is excellent. A well painted, well executed treatment, with nice type work, as well. No complaints here. Similar variations exist:
This one is better than the box art I have. I think this is for the German VHS home video release. You could put this artwork on an album and I would buy it without even having to hear it first.
This other art is very misleading. There’s not a single fucking motorcycle-riding cyborg/robot in this whole movie.
Availability: Available on a rotten triple-pack DVD. As per usual these are poor quality VHS rip’s compressed to hell on a DVD-R.