Sons of Steel is a sickeningly bad futurepunk rock musical made in Sydney, Australia in 1989. The blurb on the back of the VHS case (which I have conveniently at hand) claims:
SONS OF STEEL is a futuristic action-packed motion picture set in the gloom of an acid rain beaten Metropolis.
Step into the future...a harsh, emotionless world of humanoids, vicious scientists, life extending drugs, pulsating rock music and the battle for supremacy.
Only our super hero Black Alice can prevent the devastation of being transported back in time to battle the evil forces of Oceania..."
Despite the shocking grammar (hyphens anyone? spare quote marks?) the artwork on the case makes Sons of Steel look fucking awesome. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It's all conjecture, but according to me, the film could only ever have been made for two reasons- 1) arts grants were freely distributed in late-80s Sydney, and 2) heroin.
The film opens with an irritating narration from a computer-animated head ala Lawnmower Man, who tells us that in the dystopic future, the transnational amalgam known as Oceania is ruled by corrupt and inefficient industrial barons, who are very un-hip. We are shown one of these, lounging under a fascist insignia with a motto along the lines of 'E PLURIBUS WANKEM'. There follows an abrupt segue to the first musical item of the film, a bombastic yet unconvincing rock number penned by the songwriter (also the scriptwriter, director and producer) Gary L. Keady (more on him later). It was at this point, when we are first introduced to musical hero Black Alice (played by veteran Aussie steroid abuser/mullet rocker Rob Hartley), that I lost all hope for the film.
Without giving too much away, the plot is an aggravating mashup of disparate scenarios, some of which have latent appeal but are lost in the crassness of the overall melange. There are ruthless scientists who seem bent on (ambiguous) evil; there's a quest across time for a mystical Harley Davidson; an inexhaustible horde of government goons chases Black Alice and his young moll Hope across the futuristic wasteland, which more often than not takes the form of town halls, train station entrances, and public thoroughfares late at night. They even manage a fiery car crash or two.
But, sadly, any interest is crushed as soon as it should arise, for the entire film has been overdubbed with the sound of Black Alice snickering to himself in a very contrived fashion with such inexorable regularity that whatever dramatic rhythms may (may) have been seeded, completely fail to fruit. Even were one to persist (as I did) in watching it, hoping against hope for some B-movie gold to emerge from this tattered anus of a film, there stand, at ten-minute intervals, like guardian sphinxes at Hell's gulag, the hideous songs, pulsating rock arbiters of punishment that disallow any morsel of enjoyment to escape.
It's a very tough watch, not least because it's apparent from the sets and costumes alone that plenty of money was wasted on this thoroughly unentertaining vanity project. The icing on the cake, however, is the 'bonus' music video, which interestingly enough plays after the closing previews on the tape (for by God's mercy there must never be a DVD release). It's the title track, 'Sons of Steel', a tub-thumping stadium rock tune largely set to footage of a gloriously bemulleted Rob Hartley singing it (with eyes closed as if in an ethereal state of bliss- again I say, Heroin) and a panning shot of Roz Wason (Hope) sitting nudely in front of a fan and waving gauze strips in the air. But it's as the song reaches its climax that the truly bizarre strikes- for as Hartley gruffly croons 'Ooooah I'm fighting for you' we are treated to a totally uncontextualised closeup of a baby's penis.
As an interesting sidenote, I present writer/director/general ingenue Gary L. Keady's writeup, from IMDB.com
It was a had film to make. I had to rewrite the original script only six weeks prior to principal photography due to budgetary changes. In a lot of ways the film paid the price for being a first in Australia. It was the first film to be shot employing digital live sync sound and thus pathed the way for others. Sons of Steel was shot at night, at times a mile or more underground Sydney in World War II bunkers (Gen. McArthur's). It was a tough eight week shoot and in retrospect an difficult task for a first time director. I'm proud of what we tried to do with as little funding as we had. We put a lot of quality up on the screen. Those who I was fortunate enough to work with gave the film a first class look and me first class experience. Some find the story hard to follow and that would be because so much of it wasn't shot because of bad scheduling and plenty ended up on the edit floor for one reason or another. I'm sure that's generally taken as a directors excuse for a flawed film, perhaps so, but then again maybe I'm right. I did live through the experience of not only writing it a number of times but raising the finance, writing much of the music, directing it and selling it around the world. And for that experience I am eternally thankful.. I hope I can improve with the next picture and I hope those who see Sons of Steel are entertained enough to appreciate it and perhaps look out for my next film.
Sadly, Keady has never made another film.