Steel Dawn (1987)

Steel Dawn has a pretty great post-apocalyptic pedigree. Brian May — not the Queen guitarist — who did the music for the first two Mad Max films wrote the score. Anthony Zerbe, who was Matthias in The Omega Man, shows up as does Brion James, who was Leon Kowalski in Blade Runner, and Christopher Neame, who was in No Blade Of Grass.

And then we have Patrick Swayze as the hero, Nomad. Yes. Swayze.

Nomad was once a soldier, but his family was tortured and killed. Now, he wanders the desert, seeking the killer of his mentor and seeking revenge for his family. This brings him to the town of Meridian, where he learns how to be a farmer as he works alongside Kasha (Swayze’s real life wife Lisa Niemi), her son  Jux (Brett Hool — trust me, between the producer, director and one of the stars, this was a Hool family project) and her foreman Tark (James).

Damnil (Zerbe), a local landowner and his gang — which coincidentally includes the man that Nomad wants revenge on, Sho (Neame), want a monopoly on the water supply. It just so happens that Kasha has a source of pure water that she plans to give to the entire valley. Hijinks ensue — Tark is killed, Jux is kidnapped and Nomad kills everyone before walking off alone.

Like all the smart post-apocalyptic films, this movie realizes that it shouldn’t be ripping off Mad Max, but should instead rip off Westerns like Shane. The scenery makes up for a lot of the plot’s shortcomings, particularly the desert scenes. There’s one astounding visual where Nomad walks past a shipwreck partially buried in the desert. That ship is supposedly the Eduard Bohlen, a cargo ship that wrecked off Namibia’s Skeleton Coast in 1909.

You can watch this on Tubi and Vudu for free.

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