Six-String Samurai Lance Mungia

Low on budget but high on "cool," Six-String Samurai's fledgling filmmakers came this close to a cult classic. A 1957 nuclear war has resulted in a Russian takeover of America and the last free city is Lost Vegas, where, not surprisingly, Elvis has been crowned king. The flick starts four decades after the fact (albeit still stuck in the '50s) but Big E has kicked the bucket and our hero Buddy (Jeffrey Falcon, a white chop-sockey vet made up like Buddy Holly) is en route to claim the throne, armed with a samurai sword and a six-string guitar. For the next 90 minutes, this Mad Max meets El Mariachi post-apocalyptic rockabilly romp knits together an homage quilt. Our taciturn antihero rescues and brings along a kid (Lone Wolf and Cub), gets advice from a muscle-bound midget gangsta ("follow the yellow brick road, homie"), and takes on everyone from a band of bowlers (decked out like refugees from The Warriors) and the Russian Army (Red Dawn) to a Leave it to Beaver-esque family of cannibals and Death himself, a heavy metal loving Slash look-alike. Meanwhile, the sparse dialogue revels in badass B-movie rejoinders — "Nice suit. Nice suit to die in!" Alas, this rock'n'roll fever dream never fulfils its pompadour promise, ending as it does at the gates to the emerald city. The Death Valley visuals are admittedly awesome, but with such an ingenious set-up, a little plot would've been nice. They clearly didn't have much cash, but by making it exclusively about the journey they provide bizarro battles without the back story to make them mean something. Though unlikely, it would benefit from a Desperado-type pseudo-sequel. The DVD extras offer only a trailer and some music videos, instead of an audio commentary that might've provided insight into the film and its difficult making. Samurai's cool to show off to your stoner friends, but you'd probably be just as satisfied with the soundtrack by Russian surf-rockabilly band the Red Elvises. Plus: music videos, trailer. (Sony Music)