The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Steel Dawn (1987)

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I had really wanted to review this one back during our Swayze tribute in September, but Netflix had it set on Very Long Wait, so we replaced it with a suggestion by RepoGenetic, Black Dog, which worked out just as well. Anyway, Very Long Wait then turned into Unavailable, and I put it out of my mind. That was until this week, when I found it on Hulu. Yes!

Steel Dawn is a post-apocalyptic action deal where Patrick Swayze plays a WWIII vet wandering the desert. He comes across a water treatment type farm, run by a woman, her son, and a foreman (Brion James). Swayze is taken on to work for food, and he discovers that one: she is one of many such farms terrorized by a local warlord that they hope to defeat; and two: she has a natural spring underneath her land that could irrigate the entire region, making it invaluable. At the same time, this woman discovers one: Swayze is not just a wandering farmhand, he can really kick ass; and two: she's been too long without the love of a man, and Swayze's visit couldn't be more fortuitous. Things get a little tougher when the local warlord calls in a reject from a hair band making ends meet as an assassin. Can Swayze take this guy down and protect the farm?

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How awesome is this? It's like your classic post-apocalypse desert action flick/Mad Max rip-off, only with Swayze at the helm. And he brings it like he does in everything else he does. Sure, it might not be Road House, but how much is, right? I'm fully convinced his hero in this film was Kevin Costner's inspiration for his role in Waterworld, and comparing the two makes me appreciate even more just how great Swayze was, and how much he'll be missed. Throw in the late great Brion James, and you've got a winner, hands down.

But when you get down to brass tacks, this film would be crap without Swayze. The scenes with no action would be dumb. The retread of a plot would've been less bareable. For instance, there was a low-speed chase on these vehicles that looked like they were stolen in the middle of the night off the Mad Max set, which was definitely still ridiculous, but when you add Swayze into it, it has a level of awesomeness that it wouldn't otherwise have, even with someone as great as Dolph. Should we be surprised though? He made a film about a legendary bouncer into classic. I could add some glib statement here about how we never realize how special these guys are until it's too late, but that's not the case with Swayze. It's more a case of I have trouble watching films like this and reconciling them with the reality that he's no longer with us, and will no longer give performances like this.

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Speaking of no longer with us, there's DTVC favorite Brion James. I can't believe that this August will mark 11 years since he passed away. In Steel Dawn he plays a good guy, which is a change of pace from what we're used to with him. Over the course of his life, he had 200+ acting credits in everything from feature films, DTV fare, and TV shows. A consummate professional, and a character actor of the highest order. If you don't love Brion James, you don't love yourself.

I'm not sure if you've seen Religulous yet, but whether you have or haven't, my referencing it here won't get overly political or be a comment on my own thoughts on religion. What I wanted to bring up was one of the overarching themes of Bill Maher's film, the idea that many religions describe the end of the world, and that people who believe blindly in these religions feel this is an inevitability. What Maher points out is, yes, the end of the world could be inevitable, but not because God wills it, because we humans will it. Steel Dawn is one of many post-apocalyptic films made in the 80s where the end of the world as we knew it came about as a result of nuclear war, which would play into Maher's point. It also plays into the point he was making by showing that we humans are somehow fascinated with the concept of the world ceasing to exist. The problem is, the movies focus on the survivors-- obviously because there'd be no movie otherwise-- and people forget that if a catastrophe struck, odds are good that they'd die a horrible death. Because of the influence of their faith, they somehow feel their devotion will make them "chosen" and protected, which is a scary concept. It means they aren't thinking rationally about what the end of the world could mean.

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I really liked this image above. It's not often that I watch a low-budget film and see a screenshot that's that great. If it were in a film with a much more acclaimed director, people would be all over how amazing it was and how it was just more proof of how great the director is. Well, Steel Dawn's director was Lance Hool, and his other two directing credits were Missing in Action 2, and One Man's Hero. Here's to you, Lance Hool, that was a great shot. (Of course, I probably should be lauding the exploits of the film's cinematographer, George Tirl. His other work includes Left Behind and a bunch of other Christian Armageddon movies--- go figure.)

While this is on Hulu, you need to see it. It'll be your best and cheapest way. Sure, you gotta put up with obnoxious 5-Hour Energy commercials every so often, but it's still free. Anyway, it's worth it.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094033/

4 comments:

  1. All I have to say is that i'm really glad I saw this one before Swayze passed away, because I honestly think this one of his weakest films as it's just really dull and lifeless for the most part IMO, Swayze was great like you said but he wasn't able to redeem this film. There's plenty of post-apocalyptic action films out there that are much better then this one(like the ones directed by Cirio H. Santiago, who passed away a couple of years ago) Though to be fair, most of those don't have a quality actor like Swayze.

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  2. I thought this movie was sort of fun. It had good action and some good scenes of Swayze psychically knowing where to stab the sand, plus there was a chase with Arnold Vosloo on some typ[e of vehicles. I guess it's a guilty pleasure, but I could probably watch post apocalypse movies all day. To show how ridiculous my devotion is to post apocalypse, I actually rented the Left Behind movies despite being an Athiest. (At least of the bible, there could be a creator but I don't believe in afterlife, or that the bible was written by a supreme being, as why would there be so many contradictions? Anyway moving away from my personal believes...)

    I also want to buy Escape From The Bronx (I already have and love Escape From New York) which is a sequel to 1990:Bronx Warriors.

    I don't know what it is, but in terms of science fiction, I love this type of genre. I just love the psychology and commentary of anarchy and imagination it brings to the table.

    I even enjoyed Dune Warriors. There are of course ones from this genre I don't like Future Force, Omega Cop, Karate Cop, Solar Force,Heatseeker, Escape From L.A, Postman,Exterminators Of The Year 3000, Doomsday and The Last Warrior. But overall you give me something like Nemesis,Cold Harvest, Bridge Of Dragons (which does take place in a future wasteland), Cyborg,Waterworld, Steel Dawn and Steel Frontier and I'm happy as a pig in crap. I just love the movies.

    Although Mad Max, Road Warrior (AKA Mad Max 2), Escape From New York and The Terminators 1-2 (3 is good, 4 was mediocre and while some may say it a stretch, I actually consider a Mad Max in reverse in which the apocalypse come to the present hence why I consider such as some of the best.)

    I guess even as an Agnostic/Athiest I love such end of the world films.

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  3. Again, paint-by-numbers post-apocalyptic actioner, but throw in Swayze, and it's gold.

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  4. You so need to do Story Of Ricky sometime. In fact so do I. I'm actually watching it now and should get it written up tomorrow. To answer your question, yes that is the best prison movie of all time.

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