RiffTrax Live: Samurai Cop
What a great week this is for movie riffing! First we have the first RiffTrax Live event of 2017, and now today is the release of the newest season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 on Netflix! Last night's presentation was Samurai Cop, a 1991 movie that, if I recall correctly, was a direct-to-video "movie" that was lost to obscurity for years until someone uploaded a random clip on YouTube in the mid 2000's. The film stars Matt Hannon as Joe Marshall, the titular "Samurai Cop" on loan from San Diego to help stop the Katana gang. Joe is joined by Frank Washington (Mark Frazier) who spends most of his time mugging to the camera, awkwardly laughing, and acting as a target for everyone else's racist "jokes." Together, they have to defeat the gang's most deadly enforcer, Yamashita (played by the prolific Robert Z'Dar, one of the golden boys of B-movies).
As with every RiffTrax Live event, the movie started off with a short. This time we learned about the importance of good manners and creating sentient life from chalk in the 1958 "Manners in School." We were also shown some clips of the RiffTrax crew visiting London for their upcoming "Dr. Who: The Five Doctors" riffing on August 17, as well as the trailer for the newest season of MST3K.
I'd never seen Samurai Cop before, and I know this will seem weird to say considering the subject matter of these riffs, but I was shocked at how bad it really was. I've been seeing and listening to so many RiffTrax for well-produced movies that it's been awhile since I've watched a movie that's just a complete and utter mess. Even the creators of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians knew how to operate a camera and found actors who could speak and emote. Samurai Cop is filled with all the juicy goodness that only a couple of bucks, a complete lack of talent, and a fevered dream could create.
Where to begin? The nonsense plot, the ludicrous characters, the cringeworthy performances, the poor editing, the constantly sped-up video to make chases and fight scenes appear faster, the hair, my god the hair. The sound is a nightmare: character's voices are dubbed and re-dubbed, and disembodied voices, sounds effects, and music cues haunt the movie like the ghost of Robert Z'Dar popping in and out of existence. Close-up shots of characters show them in a completely different location than everyone else. One character flubs his line mid-way through and just keeps going (professional!). Awkward sex scenes, terrible writing, bizarre locations, nonsense story...
In other words, it's brilliant.
And Torgo preserve me, the amount of racism in this movie is astounding. The worst part is that most of the comments are passed off as jokes. Between that, the invincible tough-guy protagonist, and the fact that every single woman in this movie throws themselves at the main character without any ounce of subtly shows that this movie is clearly the physical manifestation of some psychotic 12-year-old boy's fantasy. And the RiffTrax crew does an outstanding job mocking this movie, delivering some solid lines that had the theater in stitches (although sometimes the movie did that by itself). This was probably one of the better live events I've seen from them in awhile, and a lot of their jokes were on point. Another highlight for me was the "Samurai Cop" song that was performed over the closing credits, which was surprisingly catchy while also hysterical. Sadly I couldn't find a copy of it anywhere online, but hopefully it'll be made available in some capacity.
As usual, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org and visit rifftrax.com/cop for Samurai Cop-based goodies including avatars from Len Peralta, RiffTrax discounts, behind-the-scenes photos, a maze from Eric Eckert (@IDrawMazes), and a storybook from Sugar Ray Dodge.
If you have a chance to see this in theaters near you, I highly recommend checking it out. There's an encore showing on Tuesday, April 18th. Hopefully I can get some time in this weekend to start watching some of the new MST3K. Otherwise, I'll see you all back here for the next two RiffTrax Live events: "Summer Shorts Beach Special" and the "Doctor Who: The Five Doctors."