September 3, 2011

Reader's Choice: Six-String Samurai (1998)

Directed by Lance Mungia. Starring Jeffrey Falcon ("Buddy"), Justin McGuire ("The Kid"), Kim De Angelo ("Mother"), and Stephane Gauger ("Death"). Rated PG-13.

Source: Region 1 DVD (Palm Pictures)
Running time: 01:30:48
Country: USA

Picked by Elwood Jones

SIX-STRING SAMURAI is an ambitious indie film that was apparently all the rage at various festivals upon its release, and it's gained a cult following ever since. I guess. I tried watching it a while back and couldn't even get through it, for one reason in particular that I'll eventually get to, but seeing as I'm a man of the people I decided to give it another go and put my patience with this film to the test.

The is a post-apocalypse film that follows Buddy (a Buddy Holly lookalike), armed with his trusty samurai sword and guitar, as he embarks on a quest to the rock n' roll sanctuary known as Lost Vegas, which sits in the middle of the desert like a mirage amidst the nuclear wastelands. It's apparently Buddy's destiny to replace the fallen "King" of Lost Vegas, which would explain his determination to trek through hundreds of miles of desert and battle numerous post-apocalyptic warriors in the process. For some reason, Buddy's also being trailed by the Grim Reaper and his minions, but his main concern, ironically, is his only ally - an obnoxious orphan who relentlessly follows him around since being rescued from a group of barbarians by the guitar-slinging samurai.

SIX-STRING SAMURAI is all over the place in terms of its style. I wouldn't go so far as to call it "genre bending", but it's like the director blew his load and tried to incorporate as many ideas as he possibly could into the film. The results could have been a disaster, but thankfully the final product shows evidence of a filmmaker who at least had a solid vision of what he wanted to do. Despite lacking what I assume would be the ideal budget for such a project, director Lance Mungia and his crew took full advantage of their outdoor shooting locations and got some outstanding production value. Regardless of what anyone thinks of the film, one can't deny how well it's shot and how great a majority of it looks.

In case anyone's wondering, the reason I quickly (and gladly) gave up on the film during my initial viewing of it is the kid. That motherfucking fucking kid. As I mentioned earlier, he spends the film following Buddy around, which is understandable since his mother was slain early on and he has nowhere to go. The thing is, the kid's apparently a mute, so he constantly grunts, screams, and moans as a means of communicating. It wasn't so much this character trait bothered me, but rather the voice of the child actor, which I found to be extremely annoying and almost unbearable to listen to. I obviously persevered this time around, but it didn't change the fact that I wanted this kid to get his throat ripped out by vultures.

I have to say, I'm somewhat glad that I gave SIX-STRING SAMURAI another shot. I didn't find the story or the characters, or even the cast for that matter, to be particularly interesting, but I was very impressed with the film's style. The cinematography is great despite the abundance and over-use of Spaghetti Western trademarks, and the score - the SCORE, not the surf rock soundtrack by the Red Elvises - is quite good. Part of me still doesn't really care for the film, but another part of me will be fair and give credit where credit is due: SIX-STRING SAMURAI is an entertaining, stylish, and strange little film. An ideal movie to have on in the background when you're busy and don't have the time or patience to invest in something. Unfortunately for Lance Mungia, his career didn't quite take off and he only made one other feature-length film after this.

Score: 6.5


  1. I don't know why but I can never get into these types of movies. They just bore me. :/

  2. I saw this film at the Toronto Film Festival the year it came out and loved it but my only complaint was that there should've been more blood spilled! Buddy hacks and slashes his way through numerous foes and no blood?!

    I know what you mean about the kid. Annoying as hell and at least Buddy does address this during the film but still. YOu do hope that the kid meets a grisly end at some point.

  3. I love how surreal part of the film are, with moments like the car chase were Buddy not only soundtracks it on his guitar, but it's actually so slow that thier persuers who for some reason look like the club brothers from "Wacky Races" actually get out of thier car and chase after them on foot!

    I think Munga was determined to give his buddy Jeffrey Falcon a leading role for a change, much like Robert Rodrieguz was determined to find a lead role for his cousin Danny Trejo. This film was a nice change up for Falcon especially seeing how Falcon has been playing Western Thugs and bit characters in Kung Fu movies for what seems like forever.

  4. Yeah, but it's kind of ironic that Falcon never made another movie after this. I wonder why. This movie has parts about it that are undeniably bad, but it doesn't strike me as a career-killer.