"Samurai Cop" and The Fine Art of B-Cinema
"You’re tearing me apart Lisa!" "Hello doggie!" "Oh hi Mark!" These lines have been engrained in the minds of many, the same people who throw spoons at the cinema screen during The Room, scream along to the antics of Troll 2, and watch birds go insane during Birdemic: Shock and Terror. The B-film, aka midnight cinema, has gained notoriety in the age of the internet, often becoming cult classics in the later years of their release. However, the act of releasing a movie so bad that it’s great, takes in my opinion more skill than it takes to create a best picture winning film at the Oscars. There is an art to it’s creation, and can create a legacy that far surpasses it.B-cinema has it’s roots in the exploitation genre, often times low budget films that might be negatively viewed at first, but often times grow cult followings. As well, some of the most iconic examples of these movies span back decades, for instance the extensive catalog of late director Ed Wood. The ever growing love for this cinema can also be thanks in large to Mystery Science Theater 3,000 (MST3K) and the commentary community as a whole. MST3K gave these films a platform and an audience in the mainstream media, and again was a major reason for its uprising and domination within the past few decades. From this I discovered what I feel is one of my favorite films of all time: Amir Shervan's Samurai Cop.
Samurai Cop, released in 1991 and directed by Amir Shervan, stars Matt Hannon as Joe Marshall, a cop who learned the ancient arts of the samurai before being transferred out as a renegade cop in Los Angeles. Now, is any of that explained in the film? No, I got that straight from the plot synopsis on my blu-ray copy of the film. That’s something I find truly special about Samurai Cop: none of it is ever explained, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense, yet there is a beautiful cohesion to the film that continues to bring me back to watching it. The task of Joe and his partner, Frank, is to take down the Katana, a deadly gang who is attempting to control the drug trade of LA. And oh boy, this film makes it so entertaining. All fight scenes are choreographed so awfully, and honestly I feel like the foley artist/editing team was paid $10 to edit and produce this whole thing. The punch sounds are always delayed, and the cuts are awkward and long which makes the fight scenes so jittery and off. The performances as well are unreal. Fujiyama is honestly one of my favorite villains I’ve seen in a film, and Robert Z’Dar absolutely demolishes is as Yamashita. This film absolutely radiates masculinity and stereotypical "bro energy." All women are wearing barely anything, the characters will always make sex jokes just out of nowhere.
Like many films before it, Samurai Cop suffers from "sex scene syndrome," a commonly found disorder among many a midnight classic. Sex scenes are just placed in the middle of nowhere, each one using the same camera angles, shots, and the same damn saxophone driven scoring underneath, Kenny G style. Color grading is always off, scenes that supposedly take place in the same location will just randomly teleport to somewhere else, and it works all so well. This, and many other aspects make Samurai Cop genuinely the funniest film I have ever seen, regardless if that was on purpose or not.
It’s easy to write off these films as sloppily made or not worth your time, but these B-movies are what contrast the pretentious within the film industry. These are films that are made with love and passion, and aren’t made to just sell tickets or win an Oscar. There is living, breathing soul in these terribly made films, and that’s what makes them so refreshing. Movies like Samurai Cop truly stand for what cinema is supposed to be: an experience, an event, and a moment to connect with those around you. Go to any screening of The Room, and people who you don’t know will scream out lines with you and throw spoons with you at the screen. This is a community of loving and caring cinephiles, and it just goes to show how much artistry and talent it takes to make a film of that caliber.