Six-String Samurai

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Six-String Samurai
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLance Mungia
Written by
Produced by
  • Jeffrey Falcon
  • Justin McGuire
CinematographyKristian Bernier
Edited byJames Frisa
Music by
Distributed byPalm Pictures
Release date
  • 1998 (1998)
Running time
91 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$2 million USD[1]

Six-String Samurai is a 1998 American post-apocalyptic action comedy film directed by Lance Mungia and starring Jeffrey Falcon and Justin McGuire. Brian Tyler composed the score for this film along with Red Elvises, the latter providing the majority of the soundtrack.

The film was greeted with a great deal of excitement when shown at Slamdance in 1998, winning the Slamdance awards for best editing and cinematography, and gathering extremely favorable reviews from influential alternative, cult and indie film publications such as Fangoria, Film Threat[2] and Ain't It Cool News. It is billed as a "post-apocalyptic musical satire".[3]

In a limited theatrical release the film ran for several months in a few theaters, gaining a reputation as a minor cult film; having a budget of $2,000,000, it only made a mere $124,494 at the box offices. An intended trilogy has been discussed but not yet realized, just like the predicted launching of the career of the film's star, Jeffrey Falcon, a martial artist who had appeared in several Hong Kong action movies in the 1980s and early 1990s. While Mungia made several music videos, he did not direct another feature until the 2005 film The Crow: Wicked Prayer.


In 1957, the Soviet Union attacks the United States with nuclear weapons, rendering most of the nation uninhabitable. The American government has collapsed with the exception of the haven known as Lost Vegas, ruled by King Elvis. The Red Army has been besieging Lost Vegas, but the lack of supplies over the years has relegated them to a gang of thugs. Forty years later King Elvis dies and radio disc jockey Keith Mortimer announces a call for all musicians to come to Lost Vegas to try to become the new King of Rock 'n' Roll. The ending of His message, "Vegas needs a new King!"

Buddy, a lone guitarist and swordsman, saves an unnamed boy he simply calls "Kid" from a group of bandits; consequently, as the Kid's mother was killed by the bandits he tags along with Buddy much to the latter's annoyance. As the duo travel through the desert wasteland, the heavy metal-playing Death stages several attempts to prevent Buddy from reaching Lost Vegas alive and claim the throne for himself. After enduring an attack by a bounty-hunting bowling team, Buddy and the Kid steal a car from another musician to continue their journey. They are later attacked on the road by bandits but escape.

When their car breaks down, Buddy and the Kid attempt to borrow a wrench from a suburban family, unaware that they are cannibals. Buddy leaves the Kid with them and takes off on foot. The Kid is about to be eaten but is spared after a group of Windmill People invade the home and the family flees with Buddy and the Kid's abandoned car after revealing they had a socket wrench needed to fix it. Buddy returns to defeat the Windmill People, the two reunite and continue their journey on an abandoned motorcycle. Meanwhile, Death has been killing off all other musicians coming across his path and taking their guitar picks as trophies.

Buddy and the Kid arrive in the town of Fallout, where he leaves the Kid with some locals and enters a bar to drink and spend time with a cheerleader. Death arrives but the Kid warns Buddy in time for them to flee. Before they do Buddy is approached by a young guitarist, whom he then humiliates. Continuing their travel, Buddy is attacked by the guitarist. Buddy unintentionally kills him in self defense, and, feeling guilty, he lays his sword down and walks away, but the Kid brings it back to him, still believing in Buddy and helping regain his confidence. Eventually the two begin to bond closer. Later, after they collapse in the desert, they are ambushed by Death and his bandmates, a trio of archers. Buddy slides the Kid and his guitar to safety while he battles the archers, but when the Kid is captured by a group of underground mutants, Buddy pursues the mutants to their lair. Death decides not to follow him as there are other musicians left to kill saving Buddy for last.

Buddy manages to save the Kid, and after returning to the surface, they find their road to Vegas blocked by the Red Army. After a grueling battle, Buddy is injured with the Kid dragging him to continue. Death finally catches up to them and engages Buddy in a guitar duel clashing their styles of music against one another; Buddy, Rock 'n' Roll and Death, Heavy Metal. When Buddy proves the better guitarist, an angry Death orders his bandmates to shoot him and the Kid with their bows. Buddy shields the Kid, getting shot in the back, but rises up and battles Death in a sword fight. Death mortally wounds Buddy in the end but the Kid discovers water is Death's weakness after spitting at him. The Kid then melts Death away with his water canteen.

With his defeat, Death's bandmates are in shock that the Kid bested him. They give him a card and tell him with admiration that if he ever needs them to call them, and they take their leave. The Kid, saddened by Buddy disappearing after dying, bravely accepts to finish Buddy's journey. He puts on his clothes and glasses, and carries his sword and guitar. With Lost Vegas now in sight, the Kid has completed Buddy's dream, and the film ends with him turning into Buddy, symbolizing he's inherited His spirit as a crowd cheers him from Lost Vegas.


  • George L. Casillas as Mariachi, a parody of Ritchie Valens
  • Jefferson Zuma Jay Wagner as Car Guy, a parody of Clint Eastwood
  • Monti Ellison as the Head Pin Pal
  • Kareem as Bowler #2
  • Paul Szopa as Bowler #3
  • Richard McGuire as the Cantina owner
  • Gabrille Pimenter as Little Man
  • Dan Barton as Ward Cleaver
  • Lora Witty as Harriet Cleaver
  • Rheagan Wallace as Peggy Cleaver
  • Nathaniel Bresler as Rusty Cleaver
  • John Sarkisian as the Russian General
  • Euan MacDonald as Russian Lieutenant #1
  • Henrik Henrickson as Russian Lieutenant #2
  • Kim De Angelo as the Mother

The Red Elvises appear as themselves. Director Lance Mungia plays one of the Archers.


Opening sequence distortion[edit]

The opening sequence has an intentionally distorted visual effect. The de-anamorphic visuals are a subtle "tribute" to the Chinese martial arts films (notably the films by Shaw Brothers) that often had their wide-screen opening sequences compressed to the 1.33:1 format of TV screens for VHS release.

Thematic elements[edit]

Throughout the film there are homages to many major musical movements in the United States. Buddy, the main character, is a symbol of the birth of rock 'n' roll. He shares the same clothing style of Buddy Holly, especially his horn-rimmed glasses.

Death, a character resembling Slash from Guns N' Roses, kills a character representing Jerry Lee Lewis during the film. Death also dispatches a mariachi band and another musician dressed country western style. His minions also torment a traveler dressed in hip hop fashion. Buddy also has a duel with a musician (wielding a ukulele) resembling Ritchie Valens, who died in the same 1959 plane crash as the original Buddy Holly. Death also kills rock music, through the death of Buddy. However, the last scene shows the child donning Buddy's clothing, suggesting that though rock 'n' roll is dead, there is still hope for the future.

The film also has references to the Wizard of Oz, loosely imitating the 1939 movie. A little person instructs Buddy to "follow the yellow brick road". Lost Vegas, seen from the distance, looks like the Emerald City. Death is obsessed with a specific object, Buddy's guitar pick, much like the Wicked Witch trying to get Dorothy's red slippers. Finally, Death is killed when sprayed with water, as was the Wicked Witch. When Buddy dies, his body disappears, leaving only his clothes for the kid to take, again like the Wicked Witch.


Six-String Samurai:
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedAugust 25, 1998
Red Elvises chronology
I Wanna See You Bellydance
Six-String Samurai:
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Russian Bellydance
Professional ratings
Review scores

Six-String Samurai: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is the original soundtrack to the film; the soundtrack was released by Rykodisc on August 25, 1998.

  1. United States of Russia (Red Elvises)
  2. Neverland*
  3. Love Pipe (Red Elvises)
  4. A Mother's Hand/Buddy*
  5. Fly Away Little Butterfly*
  6. Kill 200 Men (Dialogue)
  7. Boogie on the Beach (Red Elvises)
  8. I Do Not Like Rock & Roll (Dialogue)
  9. Hungarian Dance #5 (Red Elvises)
  10. Arrowed Kid/Bowlers on the Floor (Dialogue)
  11. Rock & Rolling Ourselves to Death (Dialogue)/Jerry's Got the Squeeze Box (Red Elvises)
  12. Lonely Highway of Love (Dialogue)/Scorchi Chornie (Red Elvises)
  13. My Darling Lorraine (Red Elvises)
  14. Astro*
  15. Follow the Yellow Brick Road(Dialogue)/Leech (Red Elvises)
  16. See You Around Kid (Dialogue)/Siberia (Red Elvises)
  17. Good Golly Miss Molly (Red Elvises)
  18. My Love Is Killing Me (Red Elvises)
  19. Sacred Funeral*
  20. Relentless Sun*
  21. Over the Hill*
  22. Bring His Guitar to Me(Dialogue)/Sahara Burn*
  23. A Boy and His Spirit*
  24. If You Were Me, You'd Be Good-Looking (Dialogue)/Surfing in Siberia (Red Elvises)
  25. Draggin a Fallen Hero*
  26. Nice Tuxedo (Dialogue)/Showdown at Not Okay Corral*
  27. Bend Before the Ways of Heavy Metal (Dialogue)/Dueling Guitars*
  28. Dream March*
  29. The Great Battle*
  30. End of a Hero/Finale*
  31. On My Way to Vegas*

(*) indicates original score by Brian Tyler

Critical reception[edit]

Six-String Samurai received mixed reviews, with a 57% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 21 reviews.[5]

Film Threat gave the film a perfect score of five stars.[6] Leonard Klady of Variety called the film "A rock 'n' roll Mad Max served up Cantonese style, this is one wildly original and highly entertaining American indie with genuine commercial appeal."[7] Peter Stack of the San Francisco Chronicle commented on his review that "If the film didn't have an underlying intelligence, it would soon be irritating -- it's too cartoonish and one-dimensional. But Falcon, an ace martial-arts practitioner, is dazzling as the nerdy main attraction, equally adept at sword fighting and guitar picking."[8] Laurie Stone of The Village Voice wrote on her review: "There's one charming sequence, with vaudeville grace and tragicomedy worthy of Beckett, but the rest of the film, even with startling visual effects and some impish humor, is repetitious and derivative, playing like an endless commercial for bullet-hole chic."[9]

Home media[edit]

Six-String Samurai was released on a non-anamorphic DVD by Palm Pictures in March 1999. Extras included the theatrical trailer and two music videos by the Red Elvises.[10]

In March 2021, it was announced that the film would be receiving its first ever HD release in a Blu-ray/Ultra HD Blu-ray combo-pack from Vinegar Syndrome. Newly created extras include commentaries with Mungia and cinematographer Kristian Bernier, as well as a brand new extended length making-of documentary directed by Mungia and Elijah Drenner.[11][12]

Other media[edit]

In September, 1998, a single Six String Samurai comic was released from Rob Liefeld's Awesome Entertainment. Written by Liefeld and Matt Hawkins, it featured art by 'Awesome' artists Dan Fraga and John Stinsman. A continuation rather than an adaptation, the plot summary from the comic is as follows:

In this alternate universe, in 1957 the Russians took the United States by nuclear force. Only one piece of the American frontier remained free, a patch of land known as Lost Vegas. Through this desert wasteland wanders the "six string samurai," a latter-day Buddy Holly who handles a guitar or a sword with equal skill. He's a man on a collision course with destiny: It seems that King Elvis, who ruled over the land of Vegas for forty years, has finally taken his last curtain call and the throne now stands empty. But it's a rough road to the big city and the body count is likely to be high, as demonstrated in this postapocalyptic future with a beat we can dance to.[13]

Cultural references[edit]

  • In the RPG Fallout: New Vegas, an achievement called "New Vegas Samurai" is available with an image based on Six String Samurai's movie poster. it is acquired when the player deals more than 10,000 points of damage with melee weapons.
  • The movie itself mentions a town called "Fallout", which is located 200 miles from Vegas.
  • The intro to the song “Holy Diver Pt.2” by Pannuci's Pizza, is a quote from Head Pin Pal saying “Nice Tuxedo. Nice Tuxedo to die in!”


  1. ^ Martell, William (2004). "Greenlight Indie Screenwriting - Screenwriting article by William C. Martell". Script Secrets. Archived from the original on 1 July 2011. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  2. ^ Gore, Chris (1998-01-26). "Six-String Samurai". Film Threat. Archived from the original on 2009-09-03. Retrieved 2006-09-03.
  3. ^ World / Independent Film - Review: Six-String Samurai Archived 2011-07-07 at the Wayback Machine by Jurgen Fauth & Marcy Dermansky. Retrieved on 2-6-2010.
  4. ^ Schulte, Tom. "Original Soundtrack: Six-String Samurai". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 2018-02-03. Retrieved 2017-02-03.
  5. ^ "Six-String Samurai". Rotten Tomatoes/Flixster. Archived from the original on 2021-09-25. Retrieved 2021-05-29.
  6. ^ "Six-String Samurai". Film Threat. 1998-09-21. Archived from the original on 2012-10-07. Retrieved 2014-06-20.
  7. ^ Klady, Leonard (1998-06-25). "Review: Six-String Samurai". Variety. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2014-06-20.
  8. ^ Stack, Peter (1998-09-18). "A Wacky, Amusing Samurai". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2014-06-20.
  9. ^ Stone, Laurie (1999-01-19). "Six-String Samurai". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on 2010-04-30. Retrieved 2014-06-20.
  10. ^ "Six-String Samurai - DVD Review". Sci-fi Movie Page. Archived from the original on June 24, 2021. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  11. ^ "Six-String Samurai 4K Blu-ray". Archived from the original on June 16, 2021. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  12. ^ "Vinegar Syndrome sets Six-String Samurai for 4K, Blue Underground's Dead & Buried 4K, Scream's King Kong (1976) BD features & more new announcements". The Digital Bits. March 26, 2021. Archived from the original on June 24, 2021. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  13. ^ Atomic Avenue: "Six String Samurai" Archived 2009-02-21 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed 1 February 2008

External links[edit]