I'll admit right off the bat that I'm predisposed toward any film
with a post-apocalyptic setting. Ever since I saw George Miller's
The Road Warrior (still the finest action flick ever lensed)
at a drive-in theater in 1982, I've been a connoisseur of post-nuke
pics. I can philosophize over the sociological import of early
end-of-the-world sagas like The World, The Flesh and the Devil
just as easily as I can appreciate the cheese appeal of cheap
Italian Road Warrior rip-offs like Warriors of the Wasteland.
It is with great pleasure, then, that I'm able to announce the
arrival of the newest post-apocalyptic flick to explode onto movie
screens in many a moon. I'm not counting Kevin Costner's last
two sci-fi films, of course, because--hey--even I have my standards.
Six-String Samurai is the
ultra-low-budget work of writer/ director Lance Mungia and writer/
production designer/stunt coordinator/star Jeffrey Falcon. Mungia
and Falcon set out to make this crazed post-apocalyptic, rock
and roll fairy tale on a borrowed 35mm camera and some 25,000
feet of expired Fuji film stock. After months of sweating out
a guerrilla film shoot in the heart of Death Valley, the duo secured
an agent, some financing and a distro deal and were able to complete
the feature film their addled minds had envisioned. The result
is a patchwork assemblage of samurai films, post-nuke action flicks
and all-out rock and roll fantasy.
Back in 1957, as the film's pre-credit crawl informs us, the Russians
attacked and nuked us all back to the stone age. The only city
to escape major destruction or Russian occupation was Las Vegas.
No less than Elvis Presley was crowned king and ruled the kingdom
of "Lost Vegas" for a benevolent 40 years. But it's
1997 now, and Elvis has died. The resulting power vacuum means
every guitar-slingin', sword-swingin' warrior in the wasteland
is converging on Vegas to claim Big E's crown.
Into this bloody conflict wanders oddball mythic hero Buddy (Jeffrey
Falcon), a bad-ass Buddy Holly clone with a hollow body six-string
on his back and a samurai sword in his hand. On the road to Vegas,
Buddy saves a young orphan boy from some bloodthirsty bandits
and suddenly finds himself saddled with a new sidekick. Amid his
growing paternal instincts, our anti-hero must contend with assorted
deadly threats, including his ultimate nemesis, Death--a faceless,
heavy metal sword swinger with a very bad attitude.
From this loose plotline, the filmmakers string a series of impressive
action sequences in which our tuxedo-sporting hero hacks his way
to Vegas--contending with everything from bounty-hunting bowlers
to the cannibalistic Cleaver family to half the Russian Army.
As a director, Mungia wears his influences on his sleeve. Aside
from its obvious precursors in The Road Warrior and the
Spaghetti Western films of Sergio Leone (The Good, The Bad
and the Ugly), Six-String Samurai borrows much of his
style from the balletic Japanese sword sagas of the late '60s
and early '70s. Kenji Misumi's monumental Lone Wolf and Cub
series about a rogue samurai wandering the countryside with
his infant son is a major influence--particularly in the
lensing of Six-String's stylish opening massacre. Toss
in elements from El Topo, Johnny Guitar and The Wizard
of Oz and you've got a film that's less slavish regurgitation
and more eye-popping, post-modern pastiche.
Six-String Samurai is obviously a low-budget work. Editing,
continuity and sound suffer the most from a lack of resources,
but the filmmakers have done an admirable job of covering up for
their shortfalls. Mungia knows how to sling a camera, and the
way he shoots his action sequences displays an impeccable sense
of timing. It's hard to pick out faults when the slam-bang energy
never lets up for more than a minute at a stretch. The strongest
asset on display is star Jeffrey Falcon, who both walks the walk
and talks the talk when it comes to some impressive martial arts
action. Watching Buddy go toe-to-toe with Death himself is a kinetic
thrill sequence worthy of some of the Far East's best.
Obviously geared toward underground cult audiences, Six-String
Samurai is packed with quirky visuals and a clever, campy
sense of humor. The soundtrack--courtesy of Russian-born rock
'n' roll surfers, The Red Elvises--fits the bizarre mood to a
T. If you're looking for the next Sam Raimi (Evil Dead)
or Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi) to claw his way out of
the underground, look no further than Lance Mungia and his post-apocalyptic