Director – Lance Hool (One Man’s Hero, Missing in Action 2: The Beginning)
Starring – Patrick Swayze (Road House, Donnie Darko), Lisa Niemi (Super Force, Max Headroom), and Brion James (Bladerunner, Spawn)
Release Date – 1987
Rating – 3.5/5
Blu Release – 3/5
When I was first getting into movie collecting and spending hours at the video store I became obsessed with Conan the Barbarian and it’s sequel. This started a lifelong love for these fantasy films with swords, creatures, and epic villains. I rented so many of these film from my local video store and since then I’ve acquired as many as I can on DVD, blu, and VHS. However, the 80s was a wild time and a lot of films that made their way to VHS never received widespread disc pressing until recently.
Sometime back Vestron Video announced the release of the 1987 Patrick Swayze film Steel Dawn. This Mad Max meets Conan the Barbarian film was one I had never seen before but I had heard about it over the years. I snagged a copy when I could and while I was having a mini Vestron Video marathon I decided it was time to finally check it out.
**Spoiler Alert** The film follows a mysterious traveler (Swayze) as he walks through the desert wasteland after civilization has crumbled. The world is lacking water and the last few pockets of humanity are in turmoil fighting amongst themselves for the last bit of drinking water available. He arrives at a small settlement where a group of survivors are treating water but they are constantly harassed and attacked by an evil man and his gang of ruthless savages. The traveler is a former soldier and works with the settlement to purify water while fighting off the goons sent by the evil man who wants the land they are on. **Spoiler Alert**
Steel Dawn is painfully generic but it’s not a bad film. It combines the more memorable story elements from post apocalyptic films like Mad Max with the adventure fantasy films like Conan the Barbarian. It’s a middle of the road film that is a lot of fun for a first time watch or to spin every few years but it does not stand out like many of the other films like it that was released years before.
The acting in this one is a lot of fun. I’m all for any film that utilizes Brion James. He’s always fun to watch and I loved that he has such a big role in the film. Swayze doesn’t disappoint as well. His character is not as memorable as his other films but he does deliver that emotionless and stoic performance that he is popular for. The supporting cast is solid as well but all of the characters are fairly generic and forgettable.
The story for this one doesn’t really offer up anything new but I do like the combining of fantasy sword and the sandal elements with the post-apocalyptic elements. It could have been done in a much bigger scope but the way it is delivered to us is still enjoyable but the thought of what it could have been it a travesty. We get a lot of long, drawn out scenes with some roughly choreographed fight scenes with some fairly solid story. The fight scenes had me laughing but it doesn’t take away from the overall film.
Finally, there is a little blood but don’t expect a high body count or carnage. The deaths are quick with no practical effects. Overall, Steel Dawn is a lesser known Patrick Swayze film that is rather unforgettable. It is fun if you give it a chance but it’s not one you can revisit often. I recommend snagging it especially if you are a collector.
Audio Commentary with Director Lance Hool
Interview with Screenwriter Doug Lefler
Interview with Director of Photography George Tirl
Interview with Production Designer Alex Tavoularis and Costume Designer Poppy Cannon-Reese
Archival Featurette: Making of Steel Dawn