Why I love Six String Samurai
With the next round of staff picks upon us for the podcast, I figured it was a good time to subject my co-hosts with my own bad taste. As I stated in Episode 64, this movie is on of my top 5 favorites and one I've watched many many times over.
With the oddball nature of the film how ever, I figured it would be nice to expand upon just why I loved the movie so much. After all, we only have a limited amount of time on the show to talk about it and well, it would be rude if I didn't let anybody else talk!
So without further adieu, "Why I love Six String Samurai".
The year is 1957, and Russia has nuked the US. The survivors have rebuilt in the form of Lost Vegas. Elvis is the king of the last bastion of hope for the US, and sadly he has passed on. In order to find a successor to the throne, the Wolfman hits the airwaves and puts out a call to all the rock & roll cowboys across the land to come and take it.
Buddy is a sword slinging, guitar picking rocker, and he’s on his way to Lost Vegas to take The King's throne. Along the way Buddy will meet a myriad of freaks and geeks as he treks across the now desolate country, and we settle in to watch the adventure.
Sounds pretty out there, yah? Oh yes it is. And therein lies the beauty of "Six String Samurai". Many times I’ve cried the death of originality in Hollywood, and it’s movies such as this that rekindle the hope that there is still original stories to tell. One night, many years ago as I sat late upon the couch flipping channels, I came across "Six String Samurai" on HBO. Hitting the info button on my trusty remote, I was presented the above description. Seeing as it was about 1am and I was in the process of dozing off, my first thought was ‘uh…wha?’ Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I figured what the heck, and flipped over. It was post apocalyptic, had rock and rollers and sounded pretty out there; I could give it a good ten minutes before I fell asleep. Transfixed, I sat and watched the entire flick that night, jaw agape. I had happened upon something special, that’s for sure.
Low budget and way to out there to garner much interest for a big screen distribution deal, Six String was pretty much sentenced to cable glory from the get go. Many people who have discovered the film and fell in love found it on late night HBO as well, and for me, late night cable is the perfect place for a movie like this.
There’s so much to love, it’s hard to contain myself from gushing fanboy praise. From the get go, we’re given Buddy. By the picture above, it’s pretty easy to tell that Buddy is clearly a version of Buddy Holly. 50’s rocker, guitar slinger, tux and horn rims. Buddy Holly with a sword and kung fu action that is! As Buddy slices and dices his way across the Nevada desert, we see other such ‘look alike’ Samurai’s. From rockers such as the Big Bopper and Richie Valens, to nods to the spaghetti westerns, and even a Clint Eastwood look alike as well.
As a quick aside, I’ll expound on this claim of homage for a moment. The Japanese samurai film is a mainstay through out film history. From as far back as Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai in 1954, and probably even further back than that, Japanese filmmakers have been telling tales of solitary figures, loaners of their own making fighting their way across the land in search of revenge, to right a wrong, or simply because they’ve been asked to. One day, American filmmakers (and many Italian ones as well) took notice of this story telling device. Thus, many westerns were inspired. Many American westerns were influenced in this way, and many were outright remakes of older Japanese classics. The classic "Magnificent Seven" for example, was a retelling of Kurosawa’s "Seven Samurai". It is this fact that makes you realize that this film is in fact an homage to both the American Western, and the Japanese samurai epic, rolled up in one tidy little package.
I digress. Back on track!
Once you get over the "Oh wow! That’s Richie Valens!" factor of Six String, it’s then that we get to take in the wacky surroundings and cast of characters in director Lance Mungia’s post apocalyptic world. From the bowling bedecked ‘Pen Pals’ gang at Buddy’s first stop, to the cannibal family squatting in a house on the outskirts of a windmill farm, the film is populated with many fantastical people, all unique in their survival traits. Truly mind blowing, jaw droppingly captivating and hilarious simultaneously, Mungia makes sure that you are watching a movie that will be nearly impossible to forget. Looking back, one could say that there is even a nod to "The Warriors" with their comic book style street gangs and a tale of mismatched numbers, fighting through foreign territory to get back to where they belong. Honestly, it really wouldn't surprise me.
Yet another aspect of Six String Samurai that makes me giggle like a school girl is the protagonist throughout the film. Stalking Buddy across the desert, slaying hapless samurai’s in his wake, is Death and his hair metal band. Bedecked with Slash top hat and fro, Death and his band are a blatant nod to ‘modern’ rock. Looking much like a Guns N Roses/Poison reunion tour, our band of baddies stalks the road to Lost Vegas, slaying every rocker in their wake. Does our happy little film also propose an allegory to the death of rock n roll as it was when it all started, evolving into the many headed beast it has now become in our time? I can’t say for sure, but it sure makes me happy to think so.
Six String Samurai may be an acquired taste for some. But for lovers of the bizarre, original, apocalyptic and even strange, it is a film to love and embrace, and watch repeatedly throughout the years. Even the soundtrack is a stand out. When the Siberian Surf-rockers The Red Elvises sing “I can forgive you the bruises and cuts, I can forgive you the scars on my nuts, But there is only one thing I can’t stand, Don’t call me Chris, my name is Elvis.” in haunting strains backed with classic surf guitar sounds, one has to sit up and take notice. All in all, the Red Elvises and their own blend of communist surf-rock, help to pull "Six String Samurai" together as a whole.
Finally, Six String even has it’s own fair share of classic B-Movie one liners, to live up to the greats, such as Bruce Campbell’s classic ‘Groovy….’
Spinach Monster Henchman: “If I were you, I’d start running!”
Buddy pushing his taped horn rimmed glasses up his nose: “If you were me…you’d be good lookin’.”
Truly a love affair for myself, I insist… nay… demand that you must track down this flick and give it a watch. You may not like it, but you damn sure will remember it. It’s a life changer!