Six-String Samurai (1998) — Elvis has left the building

“If you were me, you’d be good-looking.”

Justin’s rating: Um, I can *almost* play a C chord. I rock.

Justin’s review: In an alternate 1957, the bomb drops on America. Bummer. Then the Russians invade. Bogus. But things can’t be all bad, because Elvis reigns over free “Lost” Vegas for forty years. This has a slightly adverse affect on the world because it spawns dozens of King wannabes who also, for no apparent reason, carry around swords with their guitars. Now that Elvis is dead, there’s a race to get to Vegas to have a new rocker crowned The King. And just to make things interesting, Death himself is trying to thin out the applicants.

Welcome to a post-apocalyptic looney bin of crazy proportions.

Our hero in Six-String Samurai, Buddy (Jeffrey Falcon), is a product of the ’50s and bad action movies. He’s stoic, never breaking into a grimace or grin while cutting down scores of bad guys. Toting around a samurai sword strapped to a guitar, Buddy’s got a gig he can’t miss. It’s basically Back to the Future with more radiation and random acts of violence.

Buddy makes the fatal mistake of rescuing a little kid at the beginning of the film, condemning himself to have a sidekick who, for the most part, just grunts “AUGHHH!” and tags along like a parasitical tapeworm. If you watch this film, you will, will grow to hate this kid. It’s an absolute certainty. Fortunately for us, Buddy smacks said little brat on the head a lot and throws him into the trunk of a car, which is a good role model for most babysitters.

Samurai and kid quest across the arid wastelands of Nevada, encountering a score of sunstroke victims. Answer me this: why are there never any happy, normal, civilized people in post-apocalyptic earth? I’m sure that out there, there just had to be some English tea drinkers, debating Longfellow over a game of backgammon. But no, here we get violent bowlers, a nuclear family gone bonkers, a gang of men in spacesuits (which, in a desert, just has to be crispy cool), your standard mutants and Spinach Monsters, and — of course — the Grim Reaper (as a heavy metal enthusiast) and his merry gang. It’s a tough road to travel for the samurai, and he can never find a ratchet when he needs one.

With almost nonstop rockabilly music — the soundtrack is downright unrelenting in this regard — Six-String Samurai is a confused mixture of action, fantasy, and slap-happy humor. Although the idea of this film very much appeals to me (we just don’t get enough post-apocalyptic flicks to suit my taste), it had a hard time winning my heart. At many times, it felt somewhat amateurish, particularly when Buddy was posing before and after and during battles like a stock action figure. Yet, it also has a slavish devotion to the ’50s rock-and-roll spirit, and I dug the attitude and quotes Because of the PG-13 slant, most of the action scenes lose their punch with frantic cuts and lack of blood, so it becomes nothing more than some clever martial arts posturing.

Where Six-String Samurai excels is in its world, which manages to be diverse while at the same time retreading territory that we’ve seen in films like Mad Max and The Stand. It was some sort of wacked stroke of genius to have our hero take on, more or less, the entire Red Army in a sword fight. That, indeed, was groovy.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Six-String Samurai is not just a quirky flick, but instead a cult masterpiece. All I know is that I wish more filmmakers would be this imaginative when it comes to location and story. But next time, leave the kid at home and make it an adult night out. And you should probably see this, just so that you can say to your coworkers or friends, “Last night I watched a post-apocalyptic flick starring a guitar-playing samurai who wanted to replace Elvis as King.” That’ll get you dates.

Didja notice?

  • 1957, good year indeed
  • Post-apocalyptic gear: a sword, guitar and parasol
  • Fighting to rockabilly music is straaaaange
  • The Clint Eastwood lookalike
  • Stupid Spinach Monster
  • Kids make lousy drivers
  • The chase scene at three miles an hour
  • Bad guys attacking with, what, Gobstoppers? Bubble gum?
  • The tiny little “Entering Nevada Badlands” sign… yeah, that sure stands out, PLUS it covers the entire badlands area!
  • Also, the tiny Lost Vegas sign… who are these signs for, Smurfs?
  • How to seduce with chewing gum
  • City of the people who talk while gurgling water
  • Are guitars as pillows really comfy? At least they make good sleds.
  • Random Russian falls over dead, even though he was not hit
  • The Pin-Pals are flipping “Eisenhower” dollar coins that were first minted in 1976, while the storyline calls for a thermonuclear war that destroyed the USA in 1955.

One comment

  1. ” And you should probably see this, just so that you can say to your coworkers or friends, ‘Last night I watched a post-apocalyptic flick starring a guitar-playing samurai who wanted to replace Elvis as King.’ That’ll get you dates.”
    It’d definitely get you one with me!

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