While we’ve watched Hands of Steel before, sometimes it’s nice to go back to a film after you’ve experienced more in life. After watching Over the Top and Shocking Dark, a movie like this makes more sense. Of course, not a lot as it’s an Italian ripoff film being made halfway between Arizona and Italy. And Hands of Steel, itself, is ripped off — in both story and artwork — in Top Line and Cy-Warrior.
It’s also sadly the last movie that Claudio Cassinelli would appear in, as he died in a helicopter crash during filming as the rotor blades struck the underside of the bridge and broke off, sending the helicopter into a canyon.
The National Transportation Safety Board would go on to discover that there were prescription drugs in the pilot’s hotel room that may have impaired his judgment. Luckily, because John Saxon was a stickler for Screen Actors Guild rules, he refused to appear in any of the non-union American shot footage, only doing his part in Italy. He believes that the SAG saved his life, as otherwise, he would have been on that helicopter.
Our hero is improbably named Paco Queruak and he’s played by Daniel Greene, who played Dwayne Cooley on TV’s Falcon Crest. He’s gone on to appear in several Farrelly Brothers movies like Kingpin; My, Myself and Irene; There’s Something About Mary; Fever Pitch and Shallow Hal.
While this movie never seems to outrightly state that it’s after the end of the world — obviously, it’s Arizona and everyone still has motorcycles and trucks — it’s all about how Paco was created by evil industrialist Francis Turner (John Saxon) to kill an ecological leader. Our hero fails in his mission and runs away to the American Southwest, where he gets involved in the sport of arm wrestling.
Janet Agren from Fulci’s City of the Living Dead shows up, as does B&S About Movies spiritual avatar George Eastman, whose real voice can be heard in this movie. He plays an evil arm wrestler who tries to kill Paco.
This is what we call a hybrid movie, even if the cocktail doesn’t always add up. Here’s how to make a Hands of Steel:
- 1 part The Terminator
- 1 part Rambo: First Blood Part II
- A splash of Blade Runner
- A future glance at Universal Soldier
Mix ingredients and stir. Add in Italian filmmaking insanity, let breathe.
Martin Dolman, the creator of all this, is really Sergio Martino, who in this writer’s opinion had the best four year run of movies of nearly any director ever, starting with 1971’s The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh and ending with The Suspicious Death of a Minor, with movies like All the Colors of the Dark, Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key and Torso in between.
This is not the most insane Martin Dolman movie that was shot in the United States. It’s strange, but nowhere near as marvelously batshit as American Tiger, a movie that has a gymnast under an astrological curse that drives a rickshaw battling Donald Pleasence as a televangelist who is really a warthog. Yes, this is a real movie.
And since we “never say never” at B&S About Movies, we reviewed the adventures of Paco one more time with its inclusion on Mill Creek’s Sci-Fi Invasion Set in November 2020. You can check out all of the movies on the Mill Creek Pure Terror Box set as part of this recap.