Sons of Steel [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (18th December 2022).
The Film

"Sons of Steel" (1988)

Taking place in the dictatorial country of Oceana, muscular warrior, metal singer, and member of the protest group The Octogon, Black Alice (played by Rob Hartley) is tricked by the government scientist Specta (played by Jeff Duff) and made prisoner in a hologram. 113 years later, Black Alice is accidentally set free, in which he discovers the world turned into a wasteland after a nuclear apocalypse. In order to restore the world, he must find a way to return to the past, and for that he must turn to an unlikely ally...

Musician and music producer Gary L. Keady discovered Perth based metal band Gypsy, which he would produce their debut album and have them change their name to Black Alice. Unfortunately, their 1983 debut "Endangered Species" would not become a smash as Keady had hoped for, as the band called it quits, leaving th label and Keady to promote it without a tour or an existing band. Keady had some experience with directing music videos, and saw that filmmaking was a progression for music promotion with the rise of MTV, which led to his proposition to Australian cinema chain Hoyts about producing a short film in 1984. Hoyts offered him a chance to make a short film to play as an introduction to theatrical screenings "Dune", though they didn't offer money for the production. Instead the money came from an unlikely source: Esso. He arranged a meeting with Esso promotions yet he had no actual script for the short. Seeing that the representative was into cricket, Keady promised that the short would be about cricket and that led to the start of the financing as long as a script was printed quickly. The story entitled "Knightmare" would feature a barren landscape with savages discovering a hologram of a metal singer, which would be played by former Black Alice vocalist Rob Hartley. Played entirely without dialogue and the only spoken language being the song lyrics, the short featured metal music as well as a cricket match in a post apocalyptic world. The short was to be premiered at the Saint Tropez music festival of 1984, but a mixup led to the print being lost and the screening not being scheduled. With the print being found soonafter, Keady would have to bribe a projectionist to have it screened, which played on a floating screen over water before the premiere of "The Rolling Stones: Video Rewind" documentary directed by Julien Temple. The screening surprised audiences and received positive remarks from musicians attending, and the short would also play at other festivals as well as for executives in America in hopes of receiving funding for an eventual full length feature extension. Keady had an opportunity from Empire Pictures, but they were interested if an established director would be directing and if the setting would be moved from Australia to America.

Keady stuck to his guns and eventually received independent funding of $3 million for "Sons of Steel" which would have some elements of "Knightmare" but developing it into something else entirely. Gone was the cricket playing, and more background was placed on the metal singer character as more than just a singer. There was backstory on how the nuclear holocaust began, elements of time travel, humorous and bizarre dialogue, as well as having a number of unique characters. One of the biggest accomplishments for Keady was having Black Alice reunite, though it would only be Rob Hartley and guitarist Jamie Page to return, as drummer Joe Demasi and bassist Vince Linardi would be replaced by Scott Johnston and Andy Cichon respectively for the new lineup. The band would create the soundtrack and perform in the film as themselves, though in the film, the singer is named Black Alice rather than the full band. Hartley would essentially play the hologram character as seen in the short film but would do much more acting and not just singing in the feature film. Hartley's lead co-star would be Roz Wason, Keady's secretary as the character of Hope, the civil servant who turns her back against her brother Specta. Shot in Sydney at night with a small cast and crew with existing locations dressed as a future world creatively, "Sons of Steel" would be an insane collage of heavy metal, science fiction, and dark humor that fit in quite well with the MTV dominating world as well as feeling perfect alongside cult favorites "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" (1975) and "Heavy Metal" (1984). But things were not entirely smooth sailing for the production.

There was first an issue with the budget, which was planned with $3 million but then shrunk down to $800,000 after much of the money went to investors, lawyers, and other costs. There was also the trouble of Hartley's long black hair from "Knightmare" being gone, Instead it was cut short and dyed blonde, so it was dyed black again and having hair extensions added. The casting of the mad scientist character of Secta was written for and set to be played by Keady's friend British musician The Screaming Bastard. Unfortunately, the equity union wouldn't let him come to work on the film in Australia, as the two leads, Hartley and Wason were non-equity actors. Weeks before shooting, Specta was recast with musician Jeff Duff and the script being rewritten for him. With the budget slashed and casting having problems, there were sacrifices to be made with the near guerilla-like shooting, by using abandoned underground tunnels of the city, using train stations at night while commuter trains were decommissioned, and using building interiors during off hours. There were basically no stages constructed for the production, and the crew relied on existing places, dressing them and lighting them accordingly to create a unique environment and atmosphere without the help of money. In comparison to other post-apocalyptic or dark future features, it does have its weaknesses, as there are no examples of mass crowds or large areas, as well as never having outdoor scenes with daylight being shown. The special effects shots with gunfire and weapons are also choppy and a bit on the cheap, but there are some impressive shots and sights that can be found here and there. One major problem occurred during production when Hartley accidentally punched a stuntperson in the face and the crew walked off in anger due to Harley's regards to safety, which also happened earlier with a blank gunshot stunt. Hartley had to eventually make up for his actions and won the crew back, but it created a strain that should have been avoided. Another accident occurred with Wason's mostorcycle stunt double getting seriously injured after a miscalculation with a motorcycle jump, which the shot was left in the finished film. Pitfalls and all, the film was somehow still able to be completed and pieced together.

So how does the film hold together? Plotwise the story is the weakest element, with the time travel aspect and the overall structure not making a whole lot of sense. The acting is led high with Hartley as Black Alice being a delight on screen with his larger than life persona, as well as Duff as Specta with his theatrically wacky ways. In addition, Hartley's vocal performances are quite strong, and so is Duff's on his single singing performance. The biggest and best point of the feature is the overall look, taking cues from music videos and experimental films with its uses of quick editing, colorful lights and locations, DIY costume and set designs, Cinematographer Joseph Pickering's ability to capture the dark future world, the crafted world by production designer Graham Walker and the many other technicians working on a tiny budget were able to put a great deal of creativity on screen, and it's absolutely astonishing that the film was produced for less than $1 million.

The film had its premiere at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival, then eventually having a theatrical release in Australia by Virgin Vision, the Virgin company's theatrical and home video distribution subsidiary. Unfortunately the film only had a small release in its home country theatrically, and was non-existant on home video as Virgin Vision was in a financial crisis and sold to Management Company Entertainment Group. That group's ownership was shortlived as it would filed for bankruptcy soonafter, and the Australian home video rights would be left in legal limbo. The film also didn't get a formal release in the United Kingdom or America, yet it did receive theatrical releases in a number of countries around Europe and Asia, and eventually released on home video on VHS in countries such as Poland, Germany, Japan (where it was renamed "Steel Runner", to tie it in with "Blade Runner" (1982) and "Running Man" (1987) which in Japan was retitled "Battle Runner") and more. Over the years, the film has had a cult audience in non-English speaking countries and metal fans, with screenings at various film and music festivals over the years, though it has barely made a dent in comparison to other Ozploitation films of the period. Keady did not direct any more feature films after "Sons of Steel" though he is continuing the story in printed form through illustrated books available through the official website with his son Brandon J Evans-Keady, staring this year. As for Black Alice, their reunion would be short lived. While promoting the film in Australia where Keady and Hartley were supposed to appear on TV show "The Movie Show" with an interview with host Margaret Pomeranz, Hartley said he wouldn't do it unless he was paid. For the demand, Keady brought a check to where Hartley was staying, but he had already packed up and left, never to be seen again. Keady had heard that Hartley had become a monk and there were rumors of his sightings in various places over the years, though nothing concrete has come about of his whereabouts since the film was released. Even at revival screenings where other former band members reunited, the vocalist would never appear. Rob Hartley has become an almost mythical character, though his performance has been immortalized for better or worse in his single feature film to show off his vocal skills brightly.

Never having an official commercial home video release in its home country, Umbrella Entertainment has graciously given the film a much needed Blu-ray release, which has the remastered film as well as a trove of extras that wonderfully compliment the film. It should have been a worldwide cult hit from the start, but as the film shows, it's never too late for Black Alice's voice to suddenly take future audiences by storm.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray


Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in two aspect ratios, the theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the open matte 1.33:1 aspect ratio, both in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. The transfers were remastered from original film elements and supervised by director Gary Keady. The film was shot on 16mm and then blown up to 35mm for theatrical screenings. A theatrical 35mm print stored at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia was used for the digital restoration. As it is not the original element, which is considered lost, there are some weaknesses to be found with the extremely heavy grain structure with the blown up image, yet it also gives it a distinct and gritty look that suits the visual aesthetic, from the dark subterranean atmosphere to the the boldly lit interiors which are striking. Colors are bold and dark hues are dark. Sharpness is as issue due to the element used, though it should not be a major issue with enjoyment. There are some damage marks such as dust and scratches that can be found at moments, though they have been mostly removed for a clean looking image for the most part. While the image may have imperfections, it's certainly a visual delight and the imperfections addd to the flavor and the independent nature perfectly. The opening and ending credits of white text on a black background seem to be newly made, as there is no grain at all on the text, so these seem to be recreated more recently. As stated, there are two aspect ratios available, and both are restored from the same element so there is no difference in picture quality. A great job on the restoration by Umbrella Entertainment.

The film's runtime on the Blu-ray is 96:35, but there is some confusion regarding the runtime. IMDB lists the film's runtime as 104 minutes. In the vintage MTV extra on the disc at the premiere, they reference a runtime of 104 minutes, There is also a separate IMDB entry for a "2010 director's cut" for some reason and gives its runtime as 91 minutes. Supposedly the director's cut removed the "Head" narrator, so that may account for the shorter runtime, but the runtime would suggest a lot more was removed. In a 2010 interview with Keady (linked below), he states that after the digitization of the film by NFSA, he was able to digitally re-edit some things and "extend" the film, which then supposedly should have a longer runtime. So is this 96 minute version on the Blu-ray the original theatrical version or not? It's not exactly clear on what was different or changed, so if anyone knows the answer, please let us know and we will update the entry and review.


English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo
English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo

The film was mixed in Ultra Stereo and both lossless stereo and lossy stereo audio tracks are presented on the disc, for both 1.85:1 and 1.33:1 versions of the film. As with any feature that has music as the main star, the stereo separation is excellent with the various music cues. There is quite a lot of stereo activity with the effects as well, and the remastered audio track balances dialogue, music, and effects very well, while also removing any unnecessary noise such as hiss or pops for a clean and crisp track. The lossless track has more depth and clarity, though the lossy Dolby Digital track is quite serviceable.

There are optional English HoH subtitles in a white font for the feature for both aspect ratios, in a white font. Song lyrics are also captioned, and are well timed, and while they are mostly free of errors, there was one point when "Sydney" was spelled as "Sidney"...


DISC ONE (Blu-ray)

Isolated Score
All the music cues from the film are available in this isolated score track, presented in stereo. The score is only available in the widescreen version of the film.
in Dolby Digital 2.0

"The Making of Sons of Steel" documentary (37:05)
This excellent documentary features an audio interview with Gary Keady, as he chronicles the journey of making the film from the origins of the short film, the involvement of Black Alice, the troubles the film had from the financing and the production, the addition of the "Head" narrator, and a lot more. There are behind the scenes footage, poster and scrapbook images, and a lot of great visuals to illustrate the film's journey and crams a lot of information in the less than 40 minute runtime and is absolutely essential to watch.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"Knightmare" short film (12:55)
A post-apocalyptic desert wasteland, underground caverns, flamethrowers, cricket, and metal crooning are all here in the original short film that Keady wrote and directed in 1984. It is presented here in a so-called “Director’s Cut” as labeled at the start. It’s not clear as to what was changed, though it is obvious that the opening “director’s cut” text at the start as well as the full end credits were newly edited as they have the video look rather than film, which the original was shot on. It also carries a 2011 copyright date for the director’s cut. The transfer, which seems to be taken from a standard definition video source and upscaled. actually looks quite good. Minor damage marks can be found, but colors are quite good and the sound is clear as well.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"MTV Goes to the Australian Premiere" featurette (15:13)
Presented here is footage of the Australian premiere at the Hoyts Theatre in Sydney, covered by MTV Australia. It includes interview clips with some of the cast and crew arriving at the theater, then clips of exiting audience members to get some feedback on the film, as well as some lengthier ones with the cast and crew, including Gary Keady. There is background music with cues from the soundtrack throughout to keep things consistent even with the multiple edits and cuts,
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"Access All Areas" featurette (29:52)
Presented here are clips of behind the scenes material shot in 1987 for the feature, from workout footage at the gym, on set B-roll, and more. It was shot on a home video camera (in the NTSC format as it was imported from America), so there is some weakness to be expected from the image and sound with some color bleeding and hissy noise at times, but completely in a watchable state.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in windowboxed 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"Sons of Steel Destroys The Movie Show" TV show clip (13:45)
This vintage episode of “The Movie Show” with David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz showcases “Sons of Steel” in which both critics rate it 3 out of 5 stars praising the visuals yet critical of the complicated plot. In addition, there is an interview with director Gary Keady on the film, frustration with Australian cinema at the moment, and more. The interview portion here is extended compared to what was originally aired on television. The transfer, taken from a vintage video source is a bit squeezed, so faces are a bit thin looking. Other than that, the image and sound are fairly good.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.20:1, in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

"Fighting For You" Music Video (4:00)
The Black Alice music video is presented here, which includes clips from the film itself and the band in studio lip synching to the song. This is the uncensored version with nudity uncovered, and comes from a very good video source with great image and sound quality.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"Parallel Worlds" Music Video by Two Up (3:53)
This 1983 music video is from Two Up, an Australian new wave band with Gary Keady on vocals and Rod Keady on drums in their one and only commercially released song as a band. The mostly black and white music video was c0-directed by young music video director Alex Proyas, who has a cameo appearance, a few years before he would make his feature film debut in 1987 with “Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds”. Again the image and sound quality is quite good here like the above video. The video has also been embedded below.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

Trailer (1:56)
The trailer, which seems to be a re-edit of the original, as the text screens like the credits shot are newly created, is a great one, not giving away too much of the plot while still conveying the insanity. The trailer has also been embedded below, courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.85:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

DISC TWO (Soundtrack CD by Black Alice)
1. "Something in the Air" (4:49)
2. "Sons of Steel" (5:44)
3. "There's Hope" (6:42)
4. "Hard Lover" (4:43)
5. "You and Me" (3:06)
6. "Fighting for You" (3:38)
7. "Mr System" (4:47)
8. "I'm with You" (3:22)
9. "The Burn" (4:11)
10. "Reck" (4:24)
11. "Walk in the Blues" (4:49)
12. "The Burn" (instrumental) (4:13)

The original soundtrack album, released in 1989 on vinyl and CD contained ten tracks. In 2018, a remastered version was released which included two bonus tracks, which were "You and Me" and the vocal version of "The Burn". The CD included here is the remastered version with a total of 12 tracks. "You and Me" was originally recorded for the album and film but was not used and was rediscovered in 2017 from the original tapes. Jeff Duff sang the vocal version of "The Burn" in the film, though only the instrumental was released on the original soundtrack. In 2016, Duff re-recorded the vocals for the remastered CD.

"Sons of Steel - Future's End" booklet
This illustrated 48 page booklet is an excerpt of book 1 of the novel series, written and illustrated by Gary Keady's son Brandon J Evans-Keady.

This is not the first time that the film has received a Blu-ray release, as it was released in 2021 in the United States by Future Video and available exclusively at MakeFlix. We do not have exact specs, but it looks to be an official release which includes the isolated score, an interview with Keady, and in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, though it's not certain if the interview is the same as the documentary found on this Australian release. The Umbrella Entertainment release has many more extras, two differing aspect ratio choices, and is the overall better package. An audio commentary would have been welcome to have, but with the great chronological interview that Keady gives in the documentary, it's arguably better than a rambling commentary track.

Other notable clips:

2022 conversation with Gary Keady on "Good Movie Monday"

2022 audio interview with Gary Keady on "Subculture Entertainment"

2010 interview with Gary Keady and Jeff Duff by Cut & Paste at the Revelation Film Festival

"Never Too Late" 1990 music video by Jeff Duff, directed by Gary Keady


This is volume 23 in Umbrella Entertainment's "Beyond Genres" series, which includes a uniform slipcase. The keep case inlay has unique artwork with original posters on the outer side with the inner portion having tracklisting and credits for the soundtrack CD. The prequel comic book is included within the keep case. There is one small error, with the Two Up music video being mispelled as "Parallel Words" rather than "Parallel Worlds".

In addition, Umbrella Entertainment also offered a "Collector's Edition" limited to 250 copies exclusively at their web store, which also includes a Pocket Nuclear Shelter Tote Bag (a reproduction of the bags handed out at the premiere), an A3 double sided poster, 8 postcards, and a sticker pack to leave your mark for someone in 2127AD.


"Sons of Steel" literally scream "cult film", with its mix of metal musical and time traveling science fiction on a low budget, yet its unique visual style of early music video inspirations and independent aesthetics make up for the slightly weak story. Umbrella Entertainment has given the film new life with this great Blu-ray, with input from the director and having a number of great extras. Easily one of the best and most enjoyable releases of the year and comes highly recommended.

The Film: B- Video: B+ Audio: A Extras: A- Overall: A-


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