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Friday, June 3, 2011

"What does katana mean?" "It means 'Japanese sword'."

SAMURAI COP (1989)
d.  Amir Shervan
Starring Robert Z'Dar, Matt Hannon, Matt Frazer and Gerald Okamura


Now let me start off by saying: I like bad movies. Some people think the "so bad it's good" designation for some movies is a snobbish thing, born out of some cruel, classist impulse to mock people whose artistic values are not your own. That bad movie fans just get a kick out of seeing stuff they're "better" than.

Now, in all fairness, as Rob Schrab said at the Cinefamily screening of Samurai Cop, sometimes seeing a deliriously crappy film is a reminder that, if you just remembered to properly light a scene, you're a friggin' modern-day Orson Welles compared to the guy who made Birdemic.

But at the same time, these movies certainly bring me joy, and 9 times out of 10, they make me laugh harder than almost any Hollywood (intentional) comedy has in years. I certainly have fond and grateful memories of Timechasers and The Apple and those other treasures of the cinematic trash dump. I could tell you more about those films than something like Atonement or On Golden Pond.

Of course, there are any number of bad films that have one delirious moment of "holy s**t, is this actually happening", and another hour of ho-hum mediocrity. Even Ed Wood produced some clunkers that are merely dull. So when the movie gods (or Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre, who are like unto a god) hand me something like Samurai Cop, I have to tell you all about it.

Because, even among crappy movies, this is a wonderfully crappy movie. It is slightly more technically competent than Manos: Hands of Fate, in that there actually is a story and the right equipment seems to have been purchased and utilized in filming. But beyond that, this is the kind of film that instills in you a respect for the most basic elements of film-making.


This character, here, for example, must have inspired Dean Lerner on Garth Marenghi's Darkplace.

For example, I've called a film visually uninteresting before, but even the most static, talky actor-turned-director piece looks like a Pressburger/Powell film compared to Samurai Cop, which seems to forget that you can do something other than medium shots on a camera. Not to mention that those medium shots often have people half in frame, half out of frame. 

And we've all seen ropey special effects work, but how often do you see gunfights where the squibs go off five seconds AFTER people duck? It's a wonder that anyone gets shot in this universe, since you clearly have to wait for the bullets to hit you.

But this is a film that fails on every single level. From a conceptual failure to follow-through on the title (he's really more of a karate cop who can use a sword, not a samurai), to deathless dialogue (like the quote in the title) to sex scenes that appear to be choreographed by middle school boys, there's a lot to enjoy and laugh about.

And, sure, I know that sounds condescending, but this is a bad film that rewards re-watching, as every new viewing gives you an appreciation of how much it fundamentally misses the mark.

Even the most jaded bad movie watchers will have to admit Samurai Cop hits that sweet spot of 'so bad it's good" for every minute of viewing. This is a film where Robert Z'Dar comes across as an understated and subtle actor compared to the wooden mannequins and strippers inhabiting the other roles. 



This is not even the most disturbing image of Robert Z'Dar you will take away from this film. Trust me.


Anyway, I don't want to spoil for you all the amazing badness. Just trust me and check it out. 


Or, just watch this clip for a taste.


Samurai Cop The AppleBirdemic: Shock and Terror (Blu-ray)