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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 10/5/99

Six-String Samurai
1998 (1999) - Palm Pictures

review by Frank Ortiz, special to The Digital Bits

Six String Samurai Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B+/B-

Specs and Features

91 minutes, PG-13, widescreen (1:85:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, seven other promotional trailers (Ghost In The Shell, Ninja Scroll, Superthruster, The Secret Adventures Of Tom Thumb, Mandela, Gravesend, and The Basketball Diaries), two videos for The Red Elvises: Love Pipe and Boogie On The Beach, film-themed menu screens with music, scene access (14 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1) and (DD 2.0), subtitles: English (SDH)

Every once in a great while, a film comes along that truly pays off -- in every possible way. Six-String Samurai is one of those films. Lance Mungia (director/writer) and Jeffrey Falcon (writer/actor) took a big chance here, and it worked. They did a terrific job of making this project work, mostly by using scavenged objects, such as clothing and props, film stock and equipment they borrowed. If you want to see some of the story of the making of Six-String Samurai, click here. This is just an overall great entertaining movie that reminds me of a cross between the Road Warrior and The Highlander, with only the best parts used. It was a mistake for me to miss this when the film toured in the Los Angeles area in a handfull of theaters. But I get to make up for that by championing this great DVD.

Jeffrey Falcon plays Buddy, the six-string samurai, in an alternate history for the US of A. In 1957, the Cold War fears manifested themselves in an all too different way, and the Russian nukes actually fell, making America a wasteland without much opportunity for survival. Lost Vegas (the former Las Vegas) is the last free territory, and at the beginning of the film, we find that Elvis the King has just passed -- but he died without leaving an heir to the thrown. In pursuit of the throne, comes the coolest of cool cats -- a hero armed with a hollow-body electric guitar and a sword. He is on a journey to claim the crown as the new King of Rock and Roll, and kick a few butts along the way.

The writing is filled with subtle satire of our American culture. There is not a lot of dialogue, but many interesting views. I may have read more into this picture, but I really enjoyed the fact that our good old American culture was made fun of in a few ways. It was funny for me to see a cannibalistic Cleaver family, eager to have another protein meal. You have to like a movie that has a buff midget, bounty-hunting bowlers, characters in all tattered and torn wardrobes, well choreographed sword fights, and a cool band.

By the way, the music is terrific and definitely accomplished the task of setting the mood. The Red Elvises provide fun surf rock/rock-a-billy set to action and fighting scenes. Jeffrey Falcon also sings a tune or two. The Red Elvises also appeared in the movie as the aforementioned cool band, and the DVD features two videos for songs on the soundtrack.

The video quality is very good -- it's a nice, clean widescreen 1:85:1 presentation. The one flaw that can be seen is a slight anti-aliasing, but overall I think the picture is very clean. This is not an anamorphic transfer, which was a disappointment (Island is one of the last distributors to embrace 16x9, which we hope is soon on the way -- especially with The Wings of Honneamise in the DVD pipeline). The colors are bright and contrast isn't overdone at all. It's a great way to check out the stupendous camera work by Kristian Bernier, who did wonders with his indie film budget. The sound is a fit Dolby Digital 5.1 track. There are not a lot surround effects present, but the dialogue is clean and centered. There is some nice stereo two-channel presence, but nothing too out and in your face. What would you expect from an indie film on DVD anyway?

There are a few extras on the disc. You get the above mentioned music videos from the Red Elvises, the film trailer, and a nice assortment of promotional trailers for other Palm Pictures and Manga Entertainment releases (see full list above). There is the alternate English stereo track, and optional English subtitles. It would have been good to have other language tracks, a featurette or audio commentary -- especially a commentary track, since Lance Mungia claimed there was going to be one, and had so much to say about the film during it's festival runs. Why there isn't one here is a shocker only Palm Pictures can answer.

Six-String Samurai is indeed a great addition to your DVD library. It's one of those fun indie films to find and share with all of your friends. I think that our very own Todd Doogan said it best in his TNT Rough Cut review, "This is the ultimate fanboy experience: wide open vista shots, a too cool for words antihero, and a surf-rock soundtrack to die for." Couldn't have said it better myself.

Frank Ortiz
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