EYE OF THE TIGER, the one-hit-wonder from the group ‘Survivor’, was not only one of the biggest hit songs of the 1980s, thanks to Rocky III, MTV and being a hard-to-resist Oscar-nominated anthem pounder all by its own-self, it served as framing device/inspiration/bald-faced ripoff for this D-for-Doofy 1986 revenge actioner starring Gary Busey. When the credits for a bona fide P.O.S. like this include a spot for “Second 2nd Assistant Director” you know you’ve staggered upon drive-in, Jack D-chuggin’, fill-the-pipe, rev-the-Dodge nirvana.
‘Nam vet and railroaded ex-con ‘Buck Matthews’ (Gary) comes home to his small town (Midwesty, Texi-Calif hybrid vintage) and faster than you can say ‘Death Wish 2’ his wife gets killed and his daughter shocked into the hospital by a local biker drug gang that terrorizes the area. Since the outlaws have the racist dickweed sheriff (Seymour Cassel) on the pad, Buck and his vet pal (Yaphet Kotto) take things into their own justice-sowing hands to exact vengeance on biker messiah ‘Blade’ (William Smith). Bert Remsen is the local priest (God help us Dept).
Successful TV director Richard C. Sarafian had a few okay credits in his feature flick resumé, notably Vanishing Point and Man In The Wilderness, both in 1971, and he’d directed Busey in 1984s sports biopic The Bear, but “Boy, howdy!” did he come up snake-eyed and snaggle-toothed with this woofer. Busey’s all right, considering the ridiculous material; the other actors ham it up somethin’ fierce, because there is no other way to approach this script. Wait ’til you see the rocket-bearing pickup truck Gary uses to attack the biker compound, complete with enough ammo to re-fight Hamburger Hill, while Kotto bombs them from his cropduster. As to the credibility of the howlingly dumb action scenes, which look like they were designed by five-year-olds, they’re about as plausible as staring a tiger in the eye. In the jungle. Without a gun.
Shot around Valencia, California, budgeted at $3,000,000, my due diligence can not uncover payback box-office tallies for the thang, which features Denise Galik, Kimberlin Brown and Timothy Scott. Some 38 stunt-folk are credited for their efforts in falling off motorcycles, getting blown up, decapitated and otherwise mowed down. The bikers are so mean they dig up Buck’s wife’s coffin and drag it past his house! Mercy then is out of the question. Interrogating an injured scumbag who will not cooperate, Buck uses the old lit-dynamite-stick-with-vaseline-placement trick. The 92-minute campout has a following, judging by the adoring raves from fans on the Internet Movie Data Base, including one who basically laid down the law with “Whoever doesn’t like this movie needs some serious help…”
Leaving my bloviating in the biker-blood-soaked dust is the hilarious write-up of this turkey vulture to be found from ‘Matt’ at http://www.ruthlessreviews.com/1938/eye-of-the-tiger/
* For 11 years following his first bit in 1967s The Love-Ins (23, playing ‘hippie with loudspeaker’), Gary Busey paid dues climbing the ladder until breaking big in 1978 with his Oscar-nomination for The Buddy Holly Story. Lead roles over the next decade went from decent ventures Barbarosa and Silver Bullet to 4th-rate clunkers like this slop-jar. Back to dependable supporting roles (Lethal Weapon, Under Siege, Rough Riders), then strict paycheck duty and life as a cult figure. In 2018, at 74, he published an autobiography—“Buseyisms: Gary Busey’s Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth”. Never say die, Gary….