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‘Samurai Cop: Rifftrax Live’ (review)

Samurai Cop is a title which has become infamous in it’s short lifespan.

Shot between 1989 and late 1990 (although this is up for debate as the cast claims shooting began in June 1990 but there was a late 1989 VHS release in Poland) the film was rarely seen until uncovered in 2004… kind of. Lets back up a bit.

Director Amir Shervan was making films in his native Iran (some 25 films over 13 years) until he came to California where he made Hollywood Cop in 1987, Young Rebels in 1989, Gypsy in 1990 along with Killing American Style that same year and finally Samurai Cop, the film he will always be remembered for.

Samurai Cop was never released in the US at at time when it would have mattered (as stated before, it was ONLY ever released on a Polish VHS tape until 2004). No US VHS release followed and it was considered a lost film until Media Blasters released it on DVD, seemingly out of nowhere. According to Joe Bob Briggs the single film negative was found (randomly) in the basement of a Rome building. If not for dumb luck Samurai Cop may have been a forgotten artifact of the low ebb of shit cinema.

Making his American films on no budget and with falling “stars” such as Cameron Mitchell and Aldo Ray along with friend and frequent collaborator Robert Z’Dar, Amir Shervan would never really make the name for himself he thought he deserved. After Samurai Cop fell apart before his eyes he gave up filmmaking.

Amir Shervan is very much the Ed Wood of the 90’s. He always shot as cheap as possible with zero concern of how the final product looked. He would write the script around the money he had as a way to make every cent count (most of his movies take place exclusively in the daytime since you don’t need lights). He rarely shot a second take. He recorded mostly without sound relying on what is clearly not the original actor in post production. He would shoot in any location he could and just say it was some place else (the “police station” and the “hospital” in Samurai Cop are the same dental office).

After Samurai Cop Shervan would vanish from the scene until his death in 2011. Samurai Cop star Matt Hannon would similarly go missing until the film was rediscovered and gained a huge cult following. He even returned for the seriously awful and not fun at all Samurai Cop 2 last year, a film that is terrible in every way with absolutely zero understanding of why the first film was so loved as an unsung cult classic. Filmmakers need to learn that cult films can not be made, they need to just happen. Manufacturing a cult film has never worked and Samurai Cop 2 was every bit as manufactured and fake as silicone implants.

Despite only existing as a piece of pop culture for a little over a decade Samurai Cop has achieved a massive cult following among “bad movie” crowds. Lets not mince words here though, Samurai Cop is a bad film. It has no logic to it, a godawful script, horrendous acting, terrible FX, editing full of smashcuts and nonsensical inserts and a soundtrack that even public access television would snicker at. So why does the film work then? The same reason Plan 9 From Outer Space works.. you can see the heart in it. By all accounts Samurai Cop should be an unwatchable piece of trash and yet… it is endearing and charming almost despite of how poorly made it is.

The fact that Samurai Cop became a modern cult hit was not lost on the Rifftrax guys who released a Riff on the movie back in 2016 but also did a live theatrical riff (not the same one as the one you can buy) last night. A replay on the the 18th is scheduled as well if you happened to miss this one.

Not only does the Rifftrax comedy accentuate the film but it helps to give a voice to those who genuinely love it for what it is. This being Rifftrax Live you get a unique experience over what you would get with the more structured pay track. Live means just that… live with the unexpected of course occurring. A huge feedback issue with Mike Nelson’s mic created a few unscripted moments and Kevin Murphy nearly chocked doing an obviously off script moment. This being a live event even allowed for topical jokes to be inserted that were clearly not in the script when this event was scheduled. The scene is where the stereotypical angry police captain is screaming at a lawyer “Fuck you and go to hell”. Murphy blurts out “His last job was public relations at United Airlines”. That is the kind of joke that only comes in a live event.

One very noticeable thing though is that the the Rifftrax guys are still very uncomfortable with the movies they do being hard R movies. They are okay with the swearing and the over the top (fake) gore but for some reason nudity is always edited out. The print of Samurai Cop they use has ALL of the nudity removed and the uncut version on DVD had very copious amounts of nekkid tits. That may deter some fans but even with the boobs missing how else are you ever going to see Samurai Cop in the theater?

This being a Fathom event they always provide something extra for the somewhat inflated price tag and here we get that prior to the film. A series of misquoted movie quotes and (obviously) wrong trivia run over a series of goofy songs from bands such as “They Might Be Giants” and “Weird Al Yankovic” along with a specific Rifftrax song about Samurai Cop. Also we get a series of new cop movies cliches which are mostly quite clever and funny.

Another thing they did here was Rifftrax was pimping the return of Mystery Science Theater 3000 on… today. Actually the new season drops today doesn’t it? They show a preview of the new season prior to their first short (did I mention they had a short before the movie)?

We shall see what MST3K is like under this new regime (my hopes are there but the bits I have seen have my trouble radar on alert) but everyone should check out the Rifftrax Live Samurai Cop replay next week. It’s a damn funny movie with the guys snapping off jokes over it.

For tickets to the April 18th Encore Screening, Click HERE!




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