Monday, October 5, 2009


'Monday Morning Movie Madness' has lain dormant for awhile, and for a couple good reasons. After the last '4M', a retrospective/contest of sorts, failed to produce a clear winner, I decided to scrap the idea and strike out in a new direction. I had several ideas about what the next '4M' would entail, but nothing was really working out. And then Patrick Swayze died.
Patrick has always been a personal hero of mine. He is adored by all here at Illogical Contraption Branch HQ, and his death deeply saddened us all. But I choose to honor the man rather than grieve his passing. It took me awhile to get my head together, but after a period of introspection and contemplation, I'm ready to pay tribute to Mr. Swayze the only way I know how: By featuring his obscure 1987 classic, Steel Dawn*, here on the blog this sunny Monday morning. So buckle up, it's going to be a long ride.

The trailer (in German, as the English version is non-embeddable):

Update: I found one in English, but Lion's Gate Films will probably have it removed soon:

Below: SKINNY HEADBANDS: Not just for hipsters anymore!

Steel Dawn was released in 1987, the same year that Dirty Dancing catapulted Patrick Swayze to international superstardom. It's no Road House, for sure, but for a sci-fi nerd/B-movie junkie/Vestron Video completist like myself, it's the proverbial Holy Grail of Swayze's catalog. Like The New Barbarians, Steel Dawn is little more than a Mad Max ripoff, with water substituted for gasoline (the Dune similarities are rather striking, too) and something of a revenge-odyssey subplot tacked on for good measure.
Swayze plays Nomad, a mysterious swordsman roaming the post-apocalyptic landscape "carving the future with his sword" (quoted from the film's tagline). An assassin named Sho has murdered Nomad's mentor, Cord, and he spends his days wandering the desert in a never-ending quest to exact retribution. But along the way, he is sidetracked by the denizens of a small village called Meridian, who are being besieged by a nefarious landowner seeking to steal their water supply. Nomad agrees to act as the town's "peacekeeper", grudgingly accepting the task of defending them, single-handedly, from a group of malicious punk rock thugs. Luckily, the plot eventually comes full circle, with Nomad extracting his revenge and defending the villagers all in one fell swoop. Case closed.

Sound familiar?
Of course. But Mad Max ripoffs (for the most part) make for some pretty goddamn interesting cinema, plot holes and bad acting be damned. Throw Swayze into the mix, and you've got a solid 100 minutes of pure ass-kicking brilliance.
But the Mad Max similarities don't stop there. Brian May (NOT the Brian May from Queen), an Australian film composer who scored the first two Mad Max films, also hopped on board for Steel Dawn, lending a sweeping, epic soundtrack to a movie that would usually be more at home with the sort of Casio-keyboard stuff prevalent in this genre.
But even without Swayze, Steel Dawn would still be far ahead of the pack of Mad Max clones. The haircuts rule (above right), the fight scenes are plentiful, the costumes are desert-samurai-punker-biker chic at its finest, and the cinematography is suprisingly powerful. But that's not the point. We're here for SWAYZE.

Swayze "suit up scene" (courtesy of

*Not to be confused with the German power metal band Steel Dawn (below).

Also of note is the co-starring role of Swayze's real life wife, Lisa Niemi, as Meridian resident (and Nomad's love interest) Kasha. Lisa and Patrick have appeared in very few movies together (I'm pretty sure Next of Kin and One Last Dance were the only others), and while I personally prefer the concept of "romance" kept as far away as possible from my action movies, it is kind of sweet to witness their onscreen chemistry, knowing that they remained happily married for 22 more years. But that's enough about that.

Oh yeah, Brion James (Blade Runner, The Fifth Element, Cyberjack, Scanner Cop, Pterodactyl Woman From Beverly Hills) is in this movie, too. Bonus.

Right: Steel Dawn T-Shirt. DO WANT.

All in all, Steel Dawn is a fun ride, with plenty of eye candy and vicious beatings to make it a worthy addition to any movie nerd's collection. If you're planning a Patrick Swayze movie marathon this weekend (and you certainly SHOULD be), this one serves as the perfect palate cleanser between Road House and Point Break. A perfect little oddity, and a brief snapshot of one of the world's greatest leading men, immediately before his rise to fame.

Lucky you! Steel Dawn can be seen IN ITS ENTIRETY at both YouTube AND Hulu (although you need to have an account). You can also get it on Netflix (where it is "enjoyed most by viewers who also enjoyed... Turner & Hooch" -- ???) or just fucking buy it.


No comments: