CAMERA OBSCURA: WEIRD MOVIES AND SHOWS – SIX-STRING SAMURAI

by Jake on November 30, 2012

Six-String SamuraiThis is the first in a series of articles about films and TV series that are, well, a little off the beaten path. Some are little known, some are just plain odd. Most are both! So definitely an acquired taste. Who knows? You might find something you like. These cult classics cover a wide range of styles and subjects, but they all have a few things in common: they’re usually done on a low budget, they’re usually not for mainstream audiences and they’re pretty darn cool.

Many also push the envelope in terms of shocking decisions about sex and/or violence, but we’re gonna start off with a flick that’s not so far out in those ways – but pretty far out in others!

The 1990′s saw a rebirth of rockabilly, the early, “dirty white boy” form of rock and roll. Performers like the Stray Cats had been bringing back rockabilly for years, but now it exploded. Add to that a growing independent movie scene and blend the two things a bit, toss in some Wizard of Oz and Mad Max and presto, you got, uh, this.

Six-String Samurai‘ (1998) takes place in an alternate reality in which the Cold War got hot, went nuclear, and the United States is now a postapocalyptic wasteland. Mutants, madmen and desperate survivors struggle to exist, as well as a few Soviet troops. The last bastion of civilization is Vegas, baby! Now called “Lost Vegas”, it’s a paradise, a rock and roll kingdom. And its King is Elvis Presley.

But now, the King is dead. The throne sits empty and warriors battle their way through the wastelands to claim the title of Rock and Roll King of Lost Vegas. One of these challengers is Buddy, the Six-String Samurai, who has only his guitar and his katana, while another is Death himself, who wants to finish the job the nukes started.

Really, that’s the plot. It’s spelled out at the very beginning.

Buddy - Six-String SamuraiThe rest of the film is Buddy’s journey to Vegas and the adventures he has along the way. He runs into marauders, Russian soldiers, mariachi players, wholesome 50′s style cannibals and a really annoying little kid.

Jeffrey Falcon plays the lead role and, while Buddy is more a man of action than words, the martial artist manages the hip 50′s style slang pretty well.

The movie is notable for two things (besides the bizarre stuff I just mentioned): cool fight scenes and great music. This thing is ABOUT music, in a way: there are characters who represent country-western, hip-hop, et cetera. Buddy (like Buddy Holly, get it?) is rock and roll, while Death is heavy metal (Death actually looks a lot like Slash from Guns ‘N’ Roses).

The soundtrack is largely the work of the Red Elvises, a Russian-American rockabilly band who are also featured in the movie. They have nice shoes.

Six-String Samurai VegasNow, as a child of the 1980′s, I have a soft spot for postapocalyptic wasteland movies, which were VERY popular then – check out ‘The Road Warrior’ if you’d like to see what Mel Gibson was like before he became a bigot – and martial arts flicks. And as Bob Segar might say, I like that old time rock and roll. ‘Six-String Samurai’ has all these things, blended together like a delicious margarita.

It was claimed this would be the first film of a trilogy, but after 14 years, I’m skeptical. But it’s not a problem, believe me: this one is pretty good all by itself.

MEMORABLE LINES:

Mesh-Head: If I were you, I’d run!
Buddy: If you were me, you’d be good-looking.

Head Pin Pal: Nice tuxedo. Nice tuxedo to die in!

Ward Cleaver: You ever try a pink golf ball, Wally? Why, the wind shear alone on a pink golf ball can take the head off a 90-pound midget at over 300 yards.

Buddy: Who are you?
Death: Death.
Buddy: Cool!

 

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