This weeks nostalgic rental look back is the science fiction Mad Max like Steel Dawn (1987)
Tagline – He is the desert warrior, carving the future with his sword. (“Now that’s a tagline!“)
Who’s our hero today?
That sexy hip shaking Dirty Dancing finger popping Patrick Swayze jumps into action showing off his killer bangs.
Had I seen this one on VHS back in the day?
Yes but truthfully I couldn’t remember much if I’m being completely honest. It’s possible I had rented two or three titles from the video store and either not got round to seeing it all or just forgot it. I did recall him running around the desert sets and Brion James being in the cast. More on him down the page.
Quick plot run down.
It’s the usual Mad Max style, post-apocalyptic, marauding murderous hordes causing havoc and mayhem in a future world. This time with a bunch of farmers and settlers getting attacked by some tyrant and his band of rogue ruffians. Luckily a wandering nomadic stranger turns up with his curly locks and shiny swords.
Does the hero have a day job?
Our hero is only know as the Nomad (Patrick Swayze). A skilled swordsman and combat fighter. We later find out he was a soldier of the elite guard during World War Three. A war that brought us to this grim and bleak dystopian wasteland of a world.
What’s our heroes special skills?
Handstands! I kid you not! Plus of course various combat skills from his days in the army. He’d also been trained by his good friend and mentor, Cord (John Fujioka), in many fighting disciplines including his masterful swordsmanship.
Heroes weapon of choice?
His trusty fancy looking steel blade.
Heroes drink of choice?
WATER! No lip balm on hand though! Where’s Dusty Bottoms when you need him?
Does hero have a sidekick?
He has two. One that looks at him like a father figure. Jux (Brett Hool) is dress like that annoying Anakin kid from The Phantom Menace (1999). Where Anakin builds high speed pod-racers our Jux works on cool looking desert kite go-carts that shamefully speed along at walking pace. The whole relationship with the Nomad and Jux seemed to me like a twist on the classic western Shane (1953) with Alan Ladd and the equally annoying Joey kid. “Shane. Shane! Come back! Shane! Shane! Shane!” Jux is, to be fair, not as annoying.
The Nomad’s best side kick times are with Tark (Brion James) the towns security and muscle. He proudly wears his name on his uniform and likes to knock back the moonshine. They both get to bond over raids and generally get caught up in a fight of some sort everywhere they go. What’s great about Brion James character is the fact he is a good guy. You really don’t see him in that role. The only one off hand I can recall is General Munro in The Fifth Element (1997) though you could argue that Leon Kowalski had good reason to be bad in Blade Runner (1982). Let me know of any Brion’s goodie roles you recall.
Hot girl? Damsel in distress or ass kicker?
Kasha (Lisa Niemi) hits all three. Tough and always ready to sexy up her hair with some 80s crimping. Maybe a damsel in distress but really this headstrong lady can sort herself out. She’s the leader and brains of the little village and has a master plan to channel a secret underground reservoir through to all the village farms.
Lisa Niemi was Mrs Swayze. Married to Patrick from 1975 right through to his unfortunate death to cancer in 2009. Both having a passion for dancing and choreography. They had starred together in a few films with One Last Dance (2003) directed by Lisa pairing the two love birds up to get footloose. It’s sweet to read Patrick says his hit song “She’s Like The Wind” was inspired by Lisa.
Who’s the main baddie?
There’s two really. The main buddy is Damnil (Anthony Zerbe) who runs one of the sectors, the wild side of town. The other is a hired assassin called Sho (Christopher Neame) an experience fighter who loves a good challenge when he does his killing.
Baddies special skills?
Sho has two swords and a secret blade that shoots out of his knee when he’s had enough of playing fair. He’s a guy with a “breakable” code of honour.
Psycho baddies rating out of ten? 8/10
Damnil is maybe 5 out of ten but Sho is a strong 8
Heroes balls of steel and anger ratings out of ten? 8/10
He’s an all round tough guy but he still needs a helping hand from time to time from his new friends.
Surely it features a training montage scene?
Not really. I was expecting the classic “train the weak villagers up to some kind of battle readiness knowing most will be cannon fodder” but it didn’t come. I guess you could say the building of an irrigation water system could be a training montage but who the hell wants to see that!!
Does it feature an impossible mission?
Not really. You never don’t think the Nomadic Swayze isn’t gonna save the day.
Does the hero get a chance to show off their muscles?
Yep ladies this bits for you. Patrick manages to squeeze into a tiny tin bath tub in the middle of the desert as he whistles to himself with a bar of soap. “What you never seen a grown man naked before?“!
Will I be needing to pause the video player? AKA are there any boobies?
The time stamp for those smutty video diaries you keep under your pillows is 54 mins and 31 secs. “What do we get Mikey?” I hear you ask? Well that would be telling! But as you are my loyal readers, how about a……… naughty slave girls party changing room. Our Tark looks on with a face of pure delight.
All very above board. Unseen but implied passionate, under the radiated starry night sky, rumble in the sand dunes kind of thing. Yeah the Nomad and Tark had a wonderful night………. “Say whaaaaaaaaaaat!? TARK!” Haha whoops! No I meant to say Kasha.
Any good totally random surprise scenes?
The whole beginning set piece, which is pretty great to be honest, features a mutant human form created by the nookie off spring between Tusken Raiders and Tremors. Sand people like beings that live under the sand. Attacking out of the ground and burying themselves in. It’s a wonderful little set up that you think will be used throughout the film but randomly we never see them again.
Films body count? Low/Medium/High?
It’s pretty big but I’d have to say the high end of medium. Certainly not in the realms of Commando (1985) sky high stack of bodies!
Best death scene?
All I’ll say is the end fight is pretty epic.
Explosion ratio? Low/Medium/High?
Honestly I can’t really remember. Definitely a few explosions but nothing outrageous.
How many stuntmen probably really died making this film?
I’d say they were safe but whoever played the sand dune people were for sure, one hundred percent, picking sand grains out of their cracks for days!
Cord – “I saw you rolling with the half men again!“
Nomad – “A man needs his exercise“
Any other familiar faces and actors pop up?
Anthony Zerbe is face we all know. He’s been prolific for decades. Too many films to list, I’ll go for four. He starred alongside Charlton Heston and Rosalind Cash in the sci-fi horror The Omega Man (1971). Was imprisoned with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman in Papillon (1973). Got called Breed in Rooster Cogburn (1975) with John Wayne and Katharine Hepburn and even journeyed through space in Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)
John Fujioka was the go to American for any Asian role. Such a recognisable face from many decades of TV and film. Though he may of wanted to forget American Ninja (1985) but it was a fun one to review.
Arnold Vosloo pops up a few times. He will be instantly remembered as Imhotep from Stephen Sommers brilliant fun action adventure The Mummy (1999) and The Mummy Returns (2001)
Directed by Lance Hool who had written Missing In Action (1984) and directed Missing In Action 2: The Beginning (1985) before Steel Dawn. He’s also been a producer of a few Charles Bronson films like 10 to Midnight (1983) and The Evil That Men Do (1984). I would guess that Jux (Brett Hool) is his son with that surname?
The landscapes are stunning. Which gave the camera crew a chance to do some artful shots. It was filmed in Namibia within the Namib-Naukluft Park. It’s well worth a google as it looks, drop to your knees, stunning. There’s an amazing shot of a derelict cargo ship buried in the sand. Looking it up I found it was a German cargo ship called the Eduard Bohlen that had run a ground during thick fog in 1909 on the Skeleton Coast. It’s a spectacular sight.
The soundtrack score was composed by Brian May an Australian and not to be confused with the floppy haired one from Queen. He had a flare for futuristic science fiction sounds and wrote the soundtracks for Mad Max (1979) Mad Max 2 (1981) and the telekinesis cult film Patrick (1978).
You can’t really escape the cheese. Cheese balls of differing magnitudes are bound to form in such a genre as post-apocalyptic science fiction folly. I’ll be fair and say the arrow hoovers just into the high sector zone. The hair styles don’t help the cheese levels!
IMDB score rating – 5.2/10
Wolfman ACTION & FUN rating – 8.5/10
Wolfman over all film rating – 6.5/10
I gotta say I really enjoyed this. Lots going on. The landscapes were stunning and mister Swayze did his thing. I liked him all bearded up and wild for his action role. Of course it has it’s big cheesy moments but as an 80’s Mad Max rip off it holds up pretty well in my eyes. The British baddie (Christopher Neame) with his silly hair and costume had more going for him than the usual grunting thug. And like I say above it was nice to have Brion James as a good guy. He had some really fun moments and pulled a few funny faces. Nice product design on the sand dune wind go-carts just a shame they looked rubbish when they got moving hehe. Over all a good time was had at Mikey Wolfman’s movie night.
Feel free to let me know your thoughts on the film if you want. But most importantly have fun with the movies.
Keep it filmy…. Mikey Wolf.