Original Title:

Steel Dawn






Alternative Title(s):

Steel Dawn: Die Fährte des Siegers (Germany - Steel Dawn: The Track of the Winner)

Year of Release:

1987

Duration:

 96 minutes

Country of Origin:

USA/Namibia

Tagline(s):

A new era of war is born - Pal VHS

In this frightening time one man makes a difference - Pal VHS

He is the desert warrior, carving the future with his sword. - US Poster and DVD


Reviewed Version Rating:

UK Pal VHS 18


Review:

      By Michael Petch
7th April 07
It's not very often you see a post-apocalyptic movie starring a household name. Sure, we have lots of genre actors that we recognize (Brion James is here!), but this is the first time (bar Gibson in Mad Max and Costner in Waterworld) where my girlfriend recognized an actor in a PA. Swayze is absolutely the main man in this film and surprisingly I think the film may not have been as watchable without him. There's obviously a reasonable budget behind this, and the camerawork is to a good standard, but without a strong lead the rest of the film simply wouldn't have worked. We don't care about the farmers and their plight but we do want to see Swayze kick some ass. Despite what you might think of Swayze, I would recommend you give him a chance and I think most PA fans can enjoy this movie.



So as long as your prepared for lots of sand, swords and cliched wild west storylines (in fact, I'm going to try and completely avoid mentioning westerns; we all know the connection) you should come through this one just fine.

What better way to start the film than to have Swayze killing a load of sandpeople who attack him? Getting the film off to a quick start the sandpeople, who live under the sand, decide to attack Swayze while he's doing his daily headstands. These guys have weird pink tube things that are obviously some kind of mutation to help them breath under the sand. I was disappointed to find that these were the only mutants in the film, because it's an interesting idea. After a nice little fight the sandpeople are all slain, including one that was hidden under the sand but somehow Swayze knew exactly where to thrust his sword
(Nobody puts baby in the corner...).



Enjoy the mutants at the begining because thats all your getting.

Swayze (he has no name in the film - ooh, how mysterious) heads of to the local bar for some much needed refreshment. On the way there he bumps into some old friend from the war. Not much is explained about the war or how the world became what it is, but we find out that Swayze used to be a some kind of honorable warrior and that there's still some kind of centralized government. The old man works as a Peacemaker and is on the way to a valley of farmers to be their lawman.




Of course, the local criminals don't want this. The drinks are poisoned and Swayze is knocked out. He has just enough time to warn the Peacemaker. In walks Sho (Christopher Neame) a hired killer who was also previously a warrior and has a clear British accent to go with his 80's hair. Sho soon kills the Peacemaker and leaves Swayze behind.



Star Wars style pyre.

After waking up (and giving his friend a Darth Vader-style funeral) Swayze decides to set off for the valley that the Peacemaker was heading to, as he now feels it's his duty to finish his friends work. Just to re-enforce the fact that he's some kind of traveling nomad and a wanderer of the wasteland we get a nice selection of desert hiking. The scenery is actually mighty pretty. Around this time he makes friends with a stray dog (wait, A Boy and His Dog? I think I saw that movie...). We were hoping there was some kind of fight with a pack of wild animals desperate for some fresh meat, but no, unfortunately not. The dog comes and goes throughout the film but is mostly pointless, a nod to Mad Max 2.



Mmm fresh meat.



Finally, Swayze arrives at a farm in the valley. I don't think he really knows why he's there. Apparently, the farm is well run, and there are many other farms in the valley. He gets a job working on Kasha's farm (Swayze's real wife Lisa Niemi)
, a blonde who has a young son and is in charge. Tark (the always enjoyable Brion James) is the foreman who takes his job ultra-serious and obviously fancies Kasha. Swayze works for his food and water and gets busy planting bulbs the wrong way round. He soon bonds with the kid Jux, whose dad died in the war and who Swayze just happened to know (of course), and generally goes around being a good guy while everyone eyes him suspiciously.


It's all very Star Wars throughout.



Ug, Me Tark!



The valley has a meeting one evening to gloat about how good things are and to hear the news that a Peacemaker is on his way to look after them. Swayze obviously knows that the Peacemaker is dead, but he says nothing. Finally we are introduced to the real bad guy, Damnil (Anthony Zerbe). Unfortunately, the character is given very little chance to show his evil side. He gets his henchmen to knock over a little bonfire. Ooo, scary! Damnil knows the Peacemaker has been killed, as Sho is in his service, so he proclaims himself the authority. Then that's it. No attacks or anything. He doesn't even seem so bad.




The next day they visit the local market. It's a pretty cool set, like Star Wars, just without the aliens. A pack of goons decide to pick on Tark. It's all water off a ducks back until one of them insults Kasha, sending Tark into a fit of rage. The sound effects are well over the top but the fight is pretty good, and there's one superb head-butt. Unfortunately for Tark, he's outnumbered and is soon on the ground. Luckily, in comes Swayze to earn his pay check, save the day and get all the glory.





Little Jux is mightily impressed with Swayze's fighting and asks him to teach him. Now I never knew this, but if you can stand on your head without falling over then you will have what it takes to be a warrior. I never could master the art of head standing so will never make a good warrior, and neither will Jux. That night a couple of intruders enter the farm to cause some damage or something. Who knows? Swayze soon has them tied up and goes back to sleep. Kasha is pretty pleased with Swayze's hard work so lets him in on a secret. Hidden underground is a fresh water source, and she plans to irrigate the whole valley. I wonder how long she has been planning this because her charts look like ancient treasure maps.


'Bleugh - what is this shit?'


Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum. It's a pirates life for me.



Time now for that luxury that only those with a lot of water can afford - a bath! Unfortunately, for no reason Swayze decides to have it outside in the desert. Why have it in the nice private cave right next to the fresh spring when you can lug buckets of the stuff out into the desert? Because he wants to be seen. He's such a bloody show-off.

Before he's even had time to condition his hair, in rides Damnil and his goons on horseback. Even from his bath Swayze manages to disarm one goon who points a spear at him. "You shouldn't play with sharp objects." points out Swayze. It turns out Damnil wants him on his team. Of course Swayze refuses, thus pissing off Damnil and triggering a whole load of trouble.

That night Swayze is out in the desert doing his headstands again. Kasha turns up and is so impressed she decides to sleep with him
(seriously? is that all it takes? I wish I would have known that years ago...). When they return to the farm the next day they find the main windmill has been damaged. Damn that Damnil!



Damnil likes to watch men bathing.



So Swayze and Tark head to Damnil's base to get some revenge. They knock out a few of the guards and sneak in. In one of the tents a trio of women are dressing and Swayze has to drag Tark away. Brilliant. They take some kind of generator and somehow end up fighting some more guards on a horse-drawn carriage. When they get back to the farm everybody congratulates Swayze and they all ignore poor Tark. You can't help but feel sorry for the big lug. That night Tark takes one last look at Kasha and the kid then sneaks away, never to return.



Tark mucky. Ug!



Funny thing is, he doesn't go very far. Swayze takes Jux to the market and he soon finds Tark drunk in the bar.
He makes a real fun drunk, going from sad to angry, trying to attack Swayze but falling all over the place in a comical fashion, and then back to sad again when he falls flat on his face. Soon enough they are friends again and Swayze drags him out to sober him up.




Tark Wet Ug!

Unfortunately for Swayze, Damnil hires Sho to kill him. Sho marches into town with some of Damnil's men and a fight begins. Swayze doesn't have his sword and Sho is an honorable warrior so they fight with staves. It's a good fight, but one of the goons steps in and knocks out Swayze with an obviously rubber shovel. Tark comes running in but the poor drunkard is killed straight away by Sho. Sho is really angry with the goon who interfered. He wanted a fair fight, so he heads off, leaving Swayze to recover. With no one left to help him, little Jux is taken.


Dangerous hair.







Kasha rushes off to Damnil's place as soon as she hears Jux has been taken. After his mighty fast recovery, Swayze also heads off to the base, this time with his sword and the dog. Somehow Kasha manages to get a knife to Damnil's neck, just long enough to allow Jux to escape in one of the sand buggies. Kasha is soon captured by Sho and the kid is chased by some of the men. Eventually the kid is re-captured, but before they know it, Swayze turns up. The dog chases after some nunchuk guy (turning up again later with the weapon between his teeth) and Swayze races after the remaining goon in one of the buggy's. The kid manages to jump out of his capturer's grasp (although he looks much bigger than a kid in this shot) and a joust takes place. It doesn't seem very fair because it appears like only Swayze has a spear. The remaining goon is speared (Arnold Vosloo who plays the main bad guy high priest in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns), and as it just happens to be the same chap from earlier, Swayze can't resist commenting that "I told you not to play with sharp objects." How droll.






Thats no kid jumping from the buggy - look at the size of him!



So as you probably guessed, it's now time for Swayze to kick ass at the base. Unfortunately for us there are only a couple of goons left. The only real challenge is Sho. Sho wants another fair fight, so it's time for some sword fighting. A nice lengthy battle to the death. When the same idiot who knocked out Swayze earlier tries to interfere again Sho lops his head off. Of course I'm sure you can guess the eventual outcome. Strangely, if you think Swayze is going to win you would be....





Our powers combined...

...completely right. Yeah, Sho was surprised too! Boring old Damnil was never too much trouble and he isn't much trouble now. He holds a knife to Kasha's neck so Swayze lays down his sword. While down there he takes out his hidden knife and as Kasha pulls away he throws the knife into Damnil's neck. Ouch.

So everybody is happy, the valley is safe and the construction of the aqueduct or viaduct or whatever the hell Kasha was planning can go ahead. Swayze, of course, can't stay. He has a hot new girlfriend and a future, but being the wanderer of the wasteland that he is means he has to leave. He heads off into the sunset as is the law in these films. Good luck to him.




Where on Earth is he going? Come back! Fresh water! Hot girlfriend!

Final Thoughts:

I find that a lot of these final thoughts are starting to take a similar structure. So many times does a PA films show lots of promise but just misses one or two little things that would make a great difference. I'm quite easily pleased, that's true, but I'm happy to point out a film's flaws.

As usual, this film is built on a solid foundation but is just missing a couple of elements that could have made it great. It needed a couple more fights with better stunts, more enemies, maybe some more mutants/sandpeople. What it needed most of all was a more evil and despicable enemy. No disrespect to the actor playing Damnil but there was just nothing scary about him. I wanted to root for the good guys but found myself mostly indifferent. Finally, I would like a bit more character from the good guys without the mushy stuff. Basically it needed more of everything.

Swayze is actually good. Really, no joke. Brion James is fun as Tark and the sets and props are pretty good. The camera work is well above average for a PA creating a nice atmosphere and the film has a felling that it cost more to make than it actually did.
When there's a fight it seems well-choreographed and, rather than distracting, I think all the 80's hair styles actually add to the film. Like I said, I'm easily pleased.

Mostly, I would say that this is pretty harmless stuff. It should sit on the shelf alongside Battletruck. One may have a truck, bullets and explosions, and the other may have wind buggies, swords and lots more colour, but they both have the same atmosphere, like twins separated at birth, one brought up on a sheep farm in New Zealand and the other in Nevada reading fantasy novels.

Alternative Versions:

BBFC lists the Pal VHS from 1988 as 95m 50s, where as the recent DVD is listed as 96m 12s, so 22 seconds added? The NY Times article from 1987 lists the film at 102m and IMDb list the Spanish version as 97m and the US version as 100m. Either there are lots of slightly different versions or there are some faulty stopwatches.

The German VHS version was cut to get a lower rating, despite the TV version airing uncut and at the same rating.

  Interesting Facts:

  Lisa Niemi (Kasha) wrote, directed and starred in One Last Dance in 2003
 
(IMDb) which teamed her up with Swayze again. They have both been married
since 1975.

Quotes:


No exceptional quotes.


Connections With Other PA's:

The super Brion James (best known for Blade Runner) also starred in: Cherry 2000 (IMBd), Frogtown 2 (IMDb), Nemesis (IMDb) and, of course, Steel Frontier (IMDb).

Editor
Mark Conte also worked on Nemesis.


Patrick Swayze's younger brother Don stars in Driving Force (IMDb).

Brian May (not the one from Queen) composed the music. He was also the conductor for the score on Mad Max 2! In 1982, he composed for a film called Turkey Shoot (IMDb) which is kind of apocalyptic (and stars
Steve Railsback who was in The Survivalist.

3rd Assistance Director
Christa Shamberger was the Casting Director on Lunarcop (IMDb), Dirk Buchmann worked on the props for this and Lunarcop.


Sound Editor Virginia S. Ellsworth was the Music Editor on Cyborg (IMDb).

Sound re-recording mixer Jeffrey J. Haboush had the same role on The Postman (IMDb).

Sound Mixer
David E. Stone was previously the sound effects editor on Solorbabies (IMDb).


Critic's reactions:

"...you can't help but enjoy watching as Swayze continually whips six villains at a time." - L.A. Weekly

Regular Movie Goers Scores:

Interesting enough and entertaining but quite forgettable. Your friends won't hate you for showing them this, but there won't be any congratulations either.

For the PA Collector:

Essential. About as solid a PA as you will find, just don't expect anything special.

Purchase Point:

  Click Here to shop at eBay.co.uk
You probably won't find this anywhere else.

Links / External Reviews:

http://genericmugwump.blogspot.com/2006/07/steel-dawn.html

"Steel Dawn packs in so much sand as to be positively engulfed in the substance, there’s barely any space to fit all the necessary steel and dawn into its 96 minutes of life. Luckily Swayze excelled in the sandpit whilst a youth, and is therefore able to balance the trinity of sand, steel and dawn with little arduousness. This metallic morning puts Jake Lloyd’s loitering about waiting for that menacing phantom to supreme shame. It even includes a precursor to pod-racing, and a young blonde male who proves himself to be a hefty iota or two less annoying than that bowl-haired centrepiece. George Lucas is a vengeful plagiariser."

New York Times

"Damnil hires the formidable warrior Sho (Christopher Neame), who also has a British accent, and by George, the two bruisers go at it with slashing swords and karate chops and whatever. There are no six-guns, but there is a chariot race and a supply of lightly clad women at the big Damnil place."

http://wasteland.ag.ru/films/Steeldawn/Steeldawn.shtml

Some large screenshots.

Countries Released:

Worldwide.

DVD Release Info:

Released on DVD by the excellent Anchor Bay with some extras. It's now quite hard to track down and is going for at least £6 on eBay.

Actual Budget/Guessed Budget:

IMDB estimates $3.5 million which sounds about right. I wonder how much went to Swayze?

Our Score:

 6 out of 10

Media:

 

Box Cover(s):
Pal VHS (click to enlarge)


Pal VHS re-release (click to enlarge)


Turkish VHS (click to enlarge)


Pal Rental VHS


Pal Anchor Bay DVD


Unknown DVD


US VHS


US DVD


Russian DVD 1


Russian DVD 2


Pal 2-in-1 VHS


Swedish DVD cover

Advertisement Poster(s):





Unknown Poster


German Poster


US Poster

Spanish Advert

Press Cuttings etc:

Wanted

Trailer(s): Wanted
  Comments:   Comments can be found here  - Steel Dawn
  Factsheet:   Check out the - Fact Sheet.
        

  Click Here to shop at eBay.co.uk