“Samurai Cop” has been a bad movie cause celebre for a few years now – one particularly brilliant scene became a hit in the early days of Youtube, and Red Letter Media, among other places, have done retrospectives about it. Watching its initial VHS-quality release was truly amazing, and it became one of my favourites too; but we all read that star Matt Hannon had been dead for some years and were sad we’d never get a hilarious tell-all interview.
Then, a couple of years ago, Hannon, who’d been living a quiet life as an events organiser, his co-workers completely unaware of his former “fame”, resurfaced with a video online, and things really began to move. The cast members renewed contact with each other, and although director Amir Shervan was dead, most of the people involved with the movie were still around, and began attending conventions and midnight showings. The cult grew, until the current rights holder decided the time was right to get the gang back together and make a sequel.
Partly thanks to Kickstarter, which I contributed to, this is all happening. Samurai Cop 2 looks amazing, full of insane casting choices (Bai Ling and Tommy Wiseau, to name but two) and a ridiculous number of original cast members returning, either for cameos or full involvement. “Adult actress” Kayden Kross looks like, from the behind the scenes videos, this could be a breakout role for her too – what I’m saying is, I’m looking forward to it more than just about anything. One of the Kickstarter gifts was a blu-ray of the first movie, remastered with a ton of special features, so that’s what I’m going to review.
The film itself doesn’t need a ton of recapping from me – check out Red Letter Media’s “Half In The Bag” episode about it below:
Joe (Hannon), known as “Samurai Cop” due to his training in the east, is brought in from San Diego to combat a “Yakuza” gang; along with his partner Frank, they kick ass, and Joe romances the ladies, including fellow cop Peggy and, for most of the movie, restaurant owner Jennifer. The bad guys’ main enforcer is Yamashita (B-movie legend Robert Z’Dar), and he attempts to kill Samurai Cop and protect his boss’s interests, sort of.
Anyway, enough of that. The film is famous for its staggering level of technical incompetence and bizarre script, and the blu-ray really allows you to revel in it. Hannon had his hair cut after principal photography was done, but Shervan needed to still shoot something like half the film and hadn’t really told anyone – so his answer was to buy Hannon a wig that sort of looked a bit his real hair. It didn’t, and it also kept falling off during fight sequences, one example of which is left in the final film. Lots of pickup shots were filmed in Shervan’s office, so you’ll have Joe delivering monologues or Frank looking surprised against a white wall, while the people they’re talking to are in a wood-panelled restaurant. Locations are used almost at random throughout.
The blu ray looks really “good”, weirdly. Everything is crisp, but for a film which presumably didn’t have a makeup person through most of its filming, it’s perhaps a bad idea. Every uncovered skin blemish is there in glorious HD, accidental pubic hair which was once lost to nice fuzzy VHS is restored, every bit of filth on the set (and there’s a lot) is there for all to see. But it’s so good to have a favourite film in this quality, that all those things just add to the wonder of it. It’s no exaggeration that I smiled through every moment of this disc.
Of course, it’s packed with special features. There’s a great interview with Matt Hannon and Mark Frazer (Frank) where they reminisce about their time on the set, and then an extended interview with Mike and Jay from Red Letter Media which is just lovely – two hardcore fans nerding out with a clearly delighted Hannon. Also, we get three different commentaries, which is an absolute treat. Frazer isn’t much of a raconteur, and I’m sure he’d be the first person to agree, but his is fine, as is the one from the superfans at 80s Picture House.
It’s the commentary with Matt Hannon which is perhaps the most problematic. He’s dabbled in standup down the years, so is a confident talker, and clearly has a million stories to tell but for some reason the production people have saddled him with an interviewer whose job is presumably to keep things moving and ask the right questions. Only problem is, he’ll interrupt Hannon to ask a question about, for example, the sort of lenses the cameraman used. What? Hannon gives no indication of wanting or needing an interviewer and the interjections, or asking a question which was just answered because he had it written down, really spoil the flow.
One tiny flaw in what is a magnificent blu-ray. One of the weirdest, most thoroughly incompetent films ever made, with every choice being a wrong one, now brought into 2014 for us to enjoy forever.
Rating: thumbs up