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the Video Vault

From the Vault: ‘Six-String Samurai’ (1998)

Ordinarily, mixing aspects of samurai movies, westerns, post-apocalyptic science fiction, faux ’50s kitsch, and rock and roll icons into a single low-budget road movie is a pure and simple recipe for disaster; yet writer-director Lance Mungia managed to (mostly) sidestep the pitfalls of such a bizarre hash and deliver what quickly became a textbook cult classic.

Jeffrey Falcon stars as Buddy, a bespectacled guitarist/samurai crossing the barren, post-nuclear war ravaged landscape of an alternate United States circa 1957. He’s making his way to Lost Vegas, one of many seeking to claim the throne of the last bastion of civilization, left vacant by the recent passing of the King (yup, that King, who has permanently left the building).

Along the way he reluctantly acquires a traveling companion in the form of a 10-year-old orphan (Justin McGuire), and this unlikely duo must contend with a Cleaver-esque family of cannibals, remnants of the Soviet Army, killer bowlers, Russian rockabillies (a cameo appearance by the Red Elvises), the Spinach Monster, and the heavy metal minions of Death himself — who bears a passing resemblance to Slash of Guns ‘N’ Roses.

It’s thoroughly silly, but entertainingly so, and it proudly wears its various influences on its sleeve, throwing out references to Sergio Leone, Akira Kurosawa, and The Wizard of Oz in equal measure. Falcon, an American martial artist who co-wrote the screenplay and had only appeared in Hong Kong action flicks prior to this, possesses just as much charisma as he does fighting prowess, makes our hero suitably enigmatic and larger-than-life. Mungia occasionally is content to coast on weirdness when he should be mining the material deeper, but he keeps the story flowing at a proper pace, and Kristian Bernier’s cinematography is nothing short of dazzling, especially for such a low-budget production, giving this oddball gem the necessary flare.

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About Gary Dowell

Professional film critic, journalist, Byronic hero.

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