A man, his legs bloody stumps, lies dying a slow agonizing death in the desert..

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Suddenly a leather-clad wanderer appears. His boots barely scuffed, the too new looking cowboy hat atop his head slightly dusty, and his shadow the only shade for miles around as he leans over the writhing form of the dying man..

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This may sound like the beginning of a gritty spaghetti western but it's not. For you see this isn't the old west it's the new west, post-apocalypse style. It's. .

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The Story

Basically Steel Frontier takes Clint Eastwood's 'man with no name' character and transports his wanderings from the Wild West badlands to the post-apocalyptic wastelands and, of course, replaces his horse with a motorcycle. .

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But that doesn't keep him from stopping every now and then to do a bit of hunting for mutant prairie rabbits for dinner. .

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Notice the inclusion of a high-tech scope. I'm sure that blink-and-you'll-miss-it "SFX" cut scene probably put a dent in the budget, and all just to establish the fact that high tech widgets exist. Never mind that this is about the only time we see any high tech widgets, we now know they exist, thus this must be the future!

After pausing to fill his belly and do battle with desert mutants, er, whatever our intrepid antihero encounters "New Hope", this being the usual clichéd town full of frightened sheeple that populate these kind of movies. As you've come to expect of these flicks the townsfolk are afraid of their own shadows, a ineffectual sheriff does little to help, and basically Steel Frontier takes the clichéd spaghetti western shtick about the town of spineless cowards in need of help to defend themselves and beats it into the ground like a dead horse.

There is a twist, being the town doesn't need defense against the usual band of random brigands but rather the self anointed General J.W. Quantrell and his rag tag army of "Deathriders" who, apparently, are on some sort of mission to unite the region under Quantrell's rule. That's it. The story has no more depth than a kid's wading pool.

IOW: Steel Frontier is your basic story about a wannabe warlord with delusions of grandeur facing off against the gallant, yet flawed, knight/gunfighter/hero who stands up for the rights of the people to live free and unfettered by unwanted rules and regulations.

Critical Breakdown

Steel Frontier is very similar to Twisted Justice in that it's a low budget production that surprises the audience with familiar faces. The cadre of acting talent includes supporting actors Brion James (The Fifth Element, Blade Runner), Bo Svenson (Curse II: The Bite, Delta Force Commando), and Billy L. Sullivan (Tank Girl, Stephen King's The Stand) in a Road Warrior inspired action flick borrowing it's story from The Postman.

Despite the low budget Steel Frontier really puts forth an effort. For instance the town besieged is, at least, being bothered for a reason. They have a cottage industry that turns tires into fuel. That's right they're turning tires into fuel! Which shows someone at least put some thought into why things were happening, in-story, when they wrote the script. That's rare and refreshing to see.

However there is one minor detail about the film that bugs me to no end. Everyone looks too clean. The clothing, rather than looking lived in, looks like it'd just been bought off the thrift store rack. Anyone who's lifted a dirty old tire knows clean clothes don't stay that way for long. Worse some of the characters look like they're wearing bad Halloween costumes. For instance there's this strutting nut case. .

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This character, played here with the animation of an hyperactive inmate (with ADD) escaped from an asylum, is obviously patterned after actor Max Phipps "The Toadie" character who shadows Lord Humungus in The Road Warrior. However the costuming makes you wonder what they were thinking. My guess is they just took whatever bits and pieces they could find in the local thrift shop and threw them together to create a costume. Oddly, with the actor's over the top antics, it somehow works.

Speaking of over the top if made today the producers would probably have been forced to use horses, as the budget for this probably wouldn't cover the cost of gas. Even if the car chase scenes were all shot in a single day that's a lot of cars and a lot of tanks to fill. However so long as you don't ponder questions like how it is these post-apocalyptic visions of tomorrow, where governments and economies have collapsed, manage to keep their vehicles going when we can barely afford to keep our tanks filled this should be a fun little B-movie to kick back and mock with some friends. Recommended.

Availability & Alternate Versions

This title has been released on VHS, LD, and DVD. However

the only (?) R1 DVD release appears to be from the 'budget' label Madacy, which has a listed run time of 100 minutes and claims to be rated PG-13. This is rather odd considering my print references state Steel Frontier is supposed to be R-rated and have a run time of 94 minutes! To further add fuel to the confusion and mystery there's a UK PAL DVD with a listed run time of 96 minutes that has an 18 certificate. As the 18 certificate is roughly equivalent to an R-rating this raises some questions about the Madacy release.

Taking the PAL speed difference into account it doesn't sound like there is much of a difference between the UK version and the R1 Madacy release yet the UK rating would seem to indicate otherwise. And yet there is the German DVD, which is FSK 16, and has a listed a run time of 100 minutes. There is no direct MPAA equivalent to the FSK 16 rating, though it could be called a "soft R" as it's for audiences 16 or older. Which is very close to the Australian DVD, which is MA 15+ for "infrequent strong violence" with, unbelievably, an approximate run time of 104 minutes! Confused yet? I know I am.

These last two ratings indicate the movie is probably really closer to a PG-13 than an R, which is what my DVD says. Yet the Amazon listing for the VHS says this is an R-rated movie running 100 minutes. I'm guessing someone either made a mistake in data entry somewhere or this movie exists in two edits. Sadly I've been unable to confirm either hypothesis.

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Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

[This is an archived review. Originally posted here.]