The Kitschies: Children's Crusade by Scott Andrews
Underground Reading: The Goldfish Murders by Will Mitchell

Monsters & Mullets: Steel Dawn (1987)

Steel Dawn Never heard of this Patrick Swayze-headlining, post-apocalyptic re-feudal-futurisitc samurai gladiatorial western?  Neither had we.  In what would prove to be a prophetic bit of cinematic recussitation, we dug Steel Dawn up out of the bargain bin at a cut rate DVD store.  Turns out, everything about Steel Dawn is bargain bin and/or cut rate.  Just about the only part of Steel Dawn that isn't cut rate or bargain bin is The Swayze himself, gamely swirling around in a whirlpool of bad extensions and Vaseline-smeared lenses. (Steel Dawn was released the same year as Dirty Dancing, which might go a long way towards explaining why you missed it the first time 'round.)

Steel Dawn does boast one thing that sets it apart from every other Patrick Swayze-headlining, samurai-futuro-gladiatorial-feudal-western out there: the worst kissing scene ever committed to celluloid.

The movie opens, and I swear I'm not making this up, with the Swayze standing on his head. Images   He's attacked by a bunch of bargain bin Tusken Raiders, guys in jumpsuits and gas-masks who live under the sand and want nothing more than to steal the Swayze's knapsack.  The Swayze rights himself and fights them off with a shiny sword of the finest aluminum, so we know he's a WARRIOR.  Despite being in the middle of the empty, post-apocalyptic-samurai-future-desert, the Swayze then runs across his old mentor, who teases him about being kind of a shitty fighter and then promptly dies, thanks to a spiked knee in the gut from a super-mulleted English baddie with the face of Colin Firth.  (Alas, Sho the Effete English Knife-Kneed Villain is not played by Colin Firth.)  Colin and his gang clear out, improbably leaving the Swayze alive.  The Swayze squints in sadness for a while and then wanders off into the desert again.

  90422_512x288_generated__t26maiwOGEyEEdt7U1gJGQ While wandering, the Swayze befriends a dog, who disappears until it is Cinematically Appropriate and Meaningful for him to reappear. The dog may be the best part of the film.

After adopting the mutt, the Swayze blunders into some sort of desert farm.  It is the property of cut rate Daryl Hannah, a skinny blonde with a serious addiction to her crimping iron, and her Adorable Moppet son, bargain bin Annakin Skywalker.  (Daryl is played by Swayze's real-life wife; Annakin is the son of the film's writer/director.  You may draw your own conclusions.)

Anyway, the Swayze sets up as a hired hand on the farm, where he butts heads with the farm's Vlcsnap-2009-08-02-00h25m18s164 foreman, a cut rate Hulk Hogan knock-off played by the late, lamented character actor Brion James.  (Surprise, the Swayze earns cut rate Hulk Hogan's grudging respect!)  The Swayze also father-figures up for the Adorable Moppet and develops a tepid kind of love-thing with not-Daryl Hannah.  In the least sexy, most awkwardly choreographed scene ever, Daryl and the Swayze make out a bit then do sex.  Seriously, the kissing is painfully awful; it's like no one ever taught the actress how to fake a convincing kiss on-screen.  With her own husband.

Steel-dawn-2b And then, boom, the plot kicks into action.  Colin Firth's villainous boss wants Daryl Hannah's land!  He sends his heavies, including Colin Firth and Arnold Vosloo (The Mummy, seen steaming things up over there on the left), out to engage in some quality intimidating.  Things amp up from there:  the Moppet is kidnapped, not-Hulk Hogan takes a knife-knee to the chest and croaks, and not-Daryl Hannah winds up being held hostage.  The Swayze is forced into a squint-tastic, no-holds-barred, ten-against-one sword-fight at the OK Samurai-Gladiator Corral.  He wins, of course, and goodness and rightousness are restored.  He shares one last horribly awkward kiss with not-Daryl, noodles the Moppet on the head, then buggers off into the desert, faithful mutt we haven't seen in 90 minutes at his heels, the Moppet silently screaming "Shane!" in the background.  Roll credits.

There are no traditional monsters in Steel Dawn (which my fingers insist on typing as "Red Steel" Steelmullet or "Red Dawn"), but there are some epic - dare I say monstrous? -  mullets. The thing Colin Firth sports on his head is like a cross between shag carpeting and an angry raccoon (see right), and it looks like someone Scotch-taped the Swayze's extensions to the back of his neck. They don't even match his real hair.  

We can also check off: the wandering hero with no name, the murdered mentor, the effete villain with an English accent, the charisma-sucking love-interest, "adorable" moppet, and just about every "Hey! It's that guy!" character actor the '80s could throw at us.  Also, Arnold Vosloo.

Should you watch Steel Dawn?  Probably not, unless you're a compulsive Swayze fan or dig medicore future-samurai-gladiator-western-post-apocalyptic '80s films.   If you find you can't contain yourself, however, it is imperative that you stick around for the making-of documentary that comes with the DVD.  Apparently production was ten weeks in the hottest, most isolated desert on god's green earth; as a result, everyone is very orange and kind of punchy.  The director, Lance Hool, lounges around in a fedora with a leopard-print band and giggles about his Romano-samurai-futurey-western, using those words over and over again in new and exciting combinations.  The Swayze, meanwhile, gives his interview while shirtless - probably to compensate for the fact that he comes off about as dumb as your average box of rocks.

A Google search for Steel Dawn reveals multiple bad-movie fanblogs, many touting the film as an undiscovered gem. "If it had a more famous director," a typical review hyperbolizes, "it'd be considered a classic alongside Roadhouse." (I paraphrase.)  You may have figured out by now that I don't agree.

Images-1 Monsters:  None!  And I really miss me some monster action. (Included for your delectation:  Arnold Vosloo in a nakeder, more monstrous role.)

Mullets:  The hair in this movie is epic.  The Swayze has a mullet, Colin Firth has a mullet, not-Daryl Hannah has hair bleached and crimped within an inch of its life, and even not-Hulk Hogan has some lemon yellow scraggles. 

Hookers, Victims & Doormats:  There's exactly one woman with any lines in this movie, and she exists to kiss awkwardly, fall in love, be held hostage and then be left behind as our Man With No Name strides purposefully off into the sunset.  Sigh.

Doesn't Anyone Think This Shit Through?  Steel Dawn is about as progressive as you might expect a 1980s-era futureo-samurai-Roman-deserty film to be.  At least the baddies aren't Indians, I guess.

Comprehensive Monsters & Mullets Awesomeness Spectrum Placement:  Pornokitsch is pretty divided on this one.  Jared thinks Steel Dawn is better, if only a teensy bit, than many of the films we've reviewed because it has a reasonably coherent plot.  I found it boring and predictable, though I have to grant it an Arnold Vosloo bump.  Also, "Hool" is really fun to say.  I'm forced to place Steel Dawn  somewhere north of Fire & Ice and south of Hawk the Slayer

Monsters and Mullets