Alright, here it is – the antidote to The Quiet Hour blues. You thought I was just being dramatic when I threatened a retaliatory review, but you should have learned by now that Airman Xley never messes around with movie talk. Prepare yourself mein liebling, because we are cranking the volume up to 11 for arguably the greatest B-movie of all time.
That’s right – we’re going way back to 1998 again to visit that pillar of post-apocalyptia! That action-packed stroll through rock & roll! He’s the myth, the man, the legend. It’s the Six-String Samurai.
No, you don’t need to have your eyes checked. There honestly is a movie about a guitar-wielding samurai that roams the wasteland. Despite the overly bizarre premise and campiness of the characters , it’s actually quite good too. Let me be sure to hook you into reading on by offering this teaser: Essentially this film is a rock & roll odyssey in the spirit of the Wizard of Oz with a spaghetti-western flair. You heard me, now read! Read like you’ve never read before!
Kerpow! The movie begins with opening text recapping how the Russians dropped atomic bombs and invaded America in 1957. The last vestige of American civilization is found in the city of Lost Vegas where Elvis has crowned himself king. After a 40 year reign, The King dies leaving no apparent successor, so every guitar-wielding, riff-shredding cooooool cat is on his way to Vegas to claim the crown – even Death himself!
Buddy (Jeffrey Falcon) is just one such wasteland wanderer that is making his way towards destiny with only a samurai sword and a hollow-bodied six-string to his name. After defeating some Cro-Magnon raiders, Buddy is accompanied by a kid who communicates only though dramatic cries. Despite initially trying to get rid of him, Buddy soon grows to enjoy the child’s presence when it becomes apparent the kid’s resourcefulness could help speed up the journey to his royal gig.
And what a journey he has ahead of him! The road to Lost Vegas is fraught with cannibals, rival guitarists, the Russian army, and even the infamous ‘windmill people’ in their astronaut suits. Think of this movie like any entry in the Fallout video game series and you wouldn’t be too far off the mark (they even make reference to the city of Fallout). To compound the danger of doing battle with all these baddies, Buddy is also stalked by the heavy-metal loving Death, who for all intents and purposes is just Slash from Guns and Roses – top hat and all. Death and his unholy band are on a mission to destroy Vegas and any unfortunate rock & rollers that cross their path.
You can pick your jaw up off the floor now. I promise you this movie exists and that it’s as fucking amazing as it sounds. I wasn’t kidding when I said it was the Wizard of Oz in the form of a rock & roll odyssey. Buddy is meant to be Buddy Holly (in case the physical appearance didn’t give it away), and his journey takes him through a labyrinth of symbolism that represents the rise of the musical genre.
Pretty much every major character Buddy and the kid meet are meant to represent some musical movement or a facet of the anti-rock & roll establishment of the 1950’s. Death (Slash) is heavy metal, the Russians are polka and folk music, and there are even characters representing country-western (think Jerry Lee Lewis), and hip hop. Oh and of course mariachis. At one point Buddy must also duel with a Ritchie Valens lookalike. It’s an alternate reality minus the day the music died.
The Wizard of Oz angle is equally pronounced as the film frequently makes references to the 1939 classic and follows a similar narrative. At one point a dwarf tells Buddy to ‘follow the yellow brick road’, Lost Vegas from a distance looks like the Emerald City, and there is a much more obvious parallel that unfortunately I am not at liberty to say due to spoilers. Death is also after Buddy’s guitar pick much in the manner the Wicked Witch sought Dorothy’s ruby slippers. I guess that makes the feral kid Toto? I’ll let you make your own assumptions.
The thing to remember about Six-String Samurai is it’s meant to be absolutely bizarre and campy, so don’t take it too seriously. Whether it’s the raiders launching gumballs out of a catapult during the car chase scene, or the cannibals trying to cook the kid in a giant crockpot reminiscent of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, this is just one wacky movie. Trust me, I was just as in disbelief with the premise as you probably are. I mean – a guitar-wielding samurai? Could we be so fortunate to have a movie like this? When are you ever going to see something like that in film again?
And let me tell you, Jeffrey Falcon plays one outrageous samurai. Apparently the actor has a history of starring in kung-fu movies or something, which definitely comes in handy throughout the film as he does all of his own stunts. Martial arts, sword-fighting, and some of the most ridiculous dialogue imaginable are all he needs to craft a superbly entertaining Buddy. “Who are you?” I’m Death” “Cooooooooool” might be one of the funniest lines in cinema, but you shouldn’t take my word for it – just watch the film.
Amazingly for having such a low-budget, off-the-wall production, the cinematography and editing are actually extremely impressive in Six-String Samurai. Director Lance Mungia employs a lot of really quality camerawork to highlight the action sequences such as the Russian rumble and the final showdown between Buddy and Death. The choreography in this final fight scene might by one of the most impressive samurai battles ever included in a movie, and hell – this is leagues away from a Kurosawa film in most other respects.
Rock & Roll fans rejoice, because the entire 91 minutes runtime is just one giant love letter to your favorite genre. The soundtrack is easily one of the most entertaining features of S^3, as it’s just a bunch of surf rock serenading your eardrums and getting your heart racing through Buddy’s various battles. The band The Red Elvises (again this actually exists) supply most of the original tracks and actually make a rather comical appearance early on in the film. Have fond memories of dueling with Slash and breaking your wrist playing Miserlou in Guitar Hero? Now imagine that turned into a movie.
Much like its 1998 sibling Dark City, Six-String Samurai is one of my favorite films to share with the masses every opportunity I get. It’s absolutely ridiculous – I know, but it’s just downright fun and [unlike The Quiet Earth] wholly original and creative. Low-budget and hyper-stylized, this film is sure to cure you of those blockbuster blues, at least enough to see you through till Jurassic World (which hopefully won’t be a disappointment).
The Bottom Line:
The premise alone sells this movie, so you might want to just go ahead and clear the rest of your day to watch it.
In a post-apocalyptic wasteland, a guitar-wielding samurai named buddy is on a quest to become the king as he makes his way to the city of Lost Vegas. Along his journey he must battle raiders, the Russian army, rival musicians, and even Death himself.