Cinophile: Six String Samurai

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[column size=one_half position=first ]Don McClean’s song Miss American Pie is said to be about the death of Buddy Holly. This movie is also about Buddy Holly, sort of, except he has a samurai sword and fights Slash. Some movies never quite become ‘cult’. They never reached enough of an audience or just never sounded like an interesting way to spend a hundred or so minutes. The prospect of a post-apocalyptic musical about a guitar-playing sword-wielding warrior might have put off some people. But they missed out.

The king is dead. Elvis, to be exact. The Russians bombs the U.S. in 1957, igniting a global war, and in the aftermath the King of Rock n Roll took charge, ruling from Vegas. But he is no more and warriors from across the land are headed to the Strip to claim their crown, heeding the siren’s call of a radio station DJ. One of these is Buddy, a sword-carrying musician with destiny on his mind. But his journey is interrupted when an orphan crosses Buddy’s way.

Six String Samurai is actually from the orphan’s perspective, telling us the story of his mysterious protector. Our hero deals out quite a bit of death, cutting down the weird fighters and gangs who come in his way. Meanwhile Death is also carving his way to Vegas, with his minions scouting the way. Six String Samurai drinks deep from the well of films like Shogun Assassin and the opening sequence is even shot to resemble a mangled conversion of a Shaw Bros movie, as often happened in the VHS era.

This film started life as a student project, but the final product turned into something far bigger. A strange mixture of Samurai and Kung Fu movie reverence, combined with an awesome musical theme, Six String Samurai drinks deeply from familiar stories but still manages to remain very unique. Some of the characters represent different types of music, though it’s not all that rigid. For example, more than one character represent rock n roll. The villain is Death, a masked figure with more than a passing resemblance to the Guns n’ Roses guitarist Slash. But the movie isn’t saying metal killed rock ‘n roll. Things don’t run that deep. It’s just having a lot of fun combining the worlds of serial Samurai epics and kick-ass rockabilly tunes.

Perhaps all of this was just too conceptual and surreal for audiences. Six String Samurai is certainly more of an art film than it can admit, but it is also an action movie, creating a strange blend. As if Tank Girl and Road Warrior got together, but with a rocking soundtrack. This is why the film refuses to die and makes a new fan every time someone gets their hands on a copy.[/column] [column size=one_half position=last ]

Six String Samurai started as a thesis film for Lance Mungia. His idea was initially dubbed The Blade and after meeting Jeffrey Falcon, who was also a b-movie jack of all trades, work began on the apocalyptic tale. It was shot in California’s Death Valley, mainly because Mungia was able to secure a filming permit there through his student ID. Filming was done over weekend to accommodate the school schedule of Justin McGuire, who plays the orphan boy.
Six String Samurai started as a thesis film for Lance Mungia. His idea was initially dubbed The Blade and after meeting Jeffrey Falcon, who was also a b-movie jack of all trades, work began on the apocalyptic tale. It was shot in California’s Death Valley, mainly because Mungia was able to secure a filming permit there through his student ID. Filming was done over weekend to accommodate the school schedule of Justin McGuire, who plays the orphan boy.
Six String Samurai was one of the last films starring Jeffrey Falcon, but far from his first. Previous to this the actor had starred in thirteen movies, most of them in Hong Kong action films. A highly-trained martial artist, he performed all of his own stunts as the sword-wielding Buddy.
Six String Samurai was one of the last films starring Jeffrey Falcon, but far from his first. Previous to this the actor had starred in thirteen movies, most of them in Hong Kong action films. A highly-trained martial artist, he performed all of his own stunts as the sword-wielding Buddy.
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Despite a strong debut among critics, Six String Samurai fell well short of its speculated $2 million, bringing in less than a tenth at the box office. The story was to encompass an entire trilogy, but that never happened. The director only made one more feature, a straight-to-DVD Crow movie, and none of the main stars appeared in much else since. But the Red Elvises, which provide most of the soundtrack, are still going strong and Brian Tyler, the composer, went on to add a ton of A-list movies and games on his resume.
Despite a strong debut among critics, Six String Samurai fell well short of its speculated $2 million, bringing in less than a tenth at the box office. The story was to encompass an entire trilogy, but that never happened. The director only made one more feature, a straight-to-DVD Crow movie, and none of the main stars appeared in much else since. But the Red Elvises, which provide most of the soundtrack, are still going strong and Brian Tyler, the composer, went on to add a ton of A-list movies and games on his resume.

Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.

Last Updated: June 23, 2014

James

A total movie glutton, nothing is too bad or too obscure to watch, unless it's something like The Human Centipede. If you enjoyed that, there is something wrong with you. But bless you anyway - even video nasties need love...

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