• Samurai Cop (Special Edition)

    Released by: Cinema Epoch
    Released on: June 4, 2013.
    Director: Amir Shervan
    Cast: Matt Hannon, Robert Z’Dar, Melissa Moore
    Year: 1989
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    The Movie:

    Directed by Iranian ex-pat Amir Shervan during his producing/directing stint in California that took place in the late eighties through the early nineties, Samurai Cop became a cult hit when Media Blasters released it with a Joe Bob Briggs commentary as part of their Guilty Pleasures line back in 2004. Though that disc was a lot of fun, it left something to be desired in terms of quality and now Cinema Epoch have brought this turkey back from the grave remastered and in its original aspect ratio for the first time!

    The story revolves around a tough guy cop named Joe Marshall (Matt Hannon) who has been trained in the ancient art of the samurai by some presumably very wise Japanese guys. Joe’s cop partner is a black guy named Frank (Mark Frazer) – why point out his race? Well, because Joe’s basically Mel Gibson, Frank is basically Danny Glover and Shervan is basically borrowing very heavily from Lethal Weapon.

    At any rate, if there’s one thing Joe hates, it’s crime and Mr. Fujiyama (Joselito Recober, who barks each line of dialogue like an angry dog) and his Yakuza thugs, the Katana Gang, have been committing crimes all over the place. Joe busts up his gang and is instantly on his bad side. As if Fujiyama himself weren’t enough, he’s also got a right hand man named Yamashita (Robert Z’Dar) who also happens to be a samurai, albeit a very and heavily bearded evil one. Yamashita wants to take Joe out of the picture permanently and prove once and for all that he’s the better samurai – but in order to do this, he’ll have to pry Joe off of all the hot, horny ladies who seem to be taking up so much of his time.

    Completely deserving of its reputation as an absolutely horrible film in every regard, at the same time it’s pretty much impossible not to have a complete blast watching Samurai Cop. Edited with a butcher’s knife by someone obviously not paying very close attention and shot in the grand ‘point the camera at it and roll!’ tradition, it’s as technically inept as it is completely devoid of artistic merit. Nothing, absolutely nothing, about this movie turns out right, which somehow makes it transcend the very standards by which right is defined. Shervan’s direction is so wonderfully clueless that plot lines meander in and out of the movie seemingly at random – we’re told Joe speaks Japanese and is a master samurai but we never hear Joe speak Japanese or do much in the way of samurai related chores. Instead we see him hit on anything with two legs and make racial jokes at his partner’s expense. Nobility, a big deal in samurai culture, is not a concern with Joe. Not in the least.

    And then there’s the acting. Matt Hannon furrows his brow to express anger, confusion, danger and arousal – in fact, he furrows his brow at pretty much anyone and everything. His shaggy mullet and penchant for running around in black bikini briefs might be charming in its unintentionally homoerotic way but the guy cannot emote. Though the fact that his mullet is sometimes more mullety than others (he has a wig that seems to disappear then reappear at random intervals) helps to distract from this, he doesn’t have a whole lot to offer in terms of the fight scenes either. Robert Z’Dar runs around overdoing it too, torturing women by pouring hot oil on their chests and boasting about his abilities while Mark Frazer just sort of sits around and looks confused and/or like he's passing gas most of the time.

    The movie is filled to the brim with random moments that do not make any sense whatsoever. As two cops are about to burst into a house to catch some criminals, the female police officer offers to bone her male partner. Undercover cops trail thugs as covertly and nondescriptly as possible… using a giant noisy plainly marked police helicopter. Joe impresses Jennifer (Jannis Farley), the girl he’s trying to bang and steal from the Katana gang after meeting her, but before then chats up a gay Puerto Rican waiter who jokes about her about her father’s suicide. HA! Joe’s boss, the foul mouthed police commissioner who yells at everyone, is basically sanctioning his cops to execute any gang members they run across. And then there’s that horny nurse who just cannot get enough but who is shocking unimpressed with what Joe has to offer – goodness, gracious… what were they thinking?

    All the other bad, low budget eighties action movie clichés are on hand here too – random softcore sex scenes that have nothing to do with the plot, amazing bad gore scenes, a horrible score composed entirely by one guy with a synthesizer and tacky fashions galore. Throw in loads and loads of horribly dubbed dialogue, a scene where Robert Z’Dar bangs porn star Krista Lane (whose only purpose, aside from nudity, is the announce the arrival of the boss – but she does it well, and she does it often), a gratuitous supporting role from Gerald Okamura (who plays a character named… Okamura and who also gets a sex scene!) and, well, the movie is just amazing. From the opening scene, that seems to start in the middle of something we’ll never understand, through to the big fight between Z’Dar and Hannon shot with the actors moving slowly and then obviously sped up poorly for effect, this is one beautiful disaster of a film.


    Samurai Cop arrives on DVD from Cinema Epoch in a brand new anamorphic widescreen transfer taken from the film’s original negative. All in all, it looks pretty gosh darned good on this disc. There are a few spots where the colors show a bit of age related fading but this is definitely the exception and not the rule. Overall the image is clean, stable and nicely detailed. Black levels are solid. Mild print damage is present throughout the duration of the movie but it's never distracting. The previous Media Blasters DVD was weak looking and fullframe at that – this is quite a good improvement over that disc in terms of image quality.

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound mix, in English, is also okay considering the source material. Levels jump around a bit so keep the remote handy. There are also some traces of hiss present throughout. It's a pretty safe bet that most of this is source related but the issues are there. The dialogue is easy enough to understand and the score sounds decent enough too, or at least as decent as it can given how goofy it is.

    The main reason some might want to hold on to that older Media Blasters release is the omission of the Joe Bob Briggs commentary as unfortunately Cinema Epoch was unable to carry that over to their reissue. They have, however, included three new interviews, the first of which is with the mighty Robert Z’Dar, who contributes his piece via skype (which means the fullframe video quality is a bit ugly). Though Z’Dar rehashes some of the stories he covered on the interview he provided for the Media Blasters DVD, he’s an interesting and weird enough guy that this is worth spending twenty-five minutes with. He talks about working with the director and his interactions with the different cast members including Matt Hannon and more. Also on hand are actor Gerald Okamura and cinematographer Peter Palian who speak for twenty and twenty-seven minutes respectively about their time spent on this film before giving details and background information on their careers in general.

    Aside from the interviews we also get a still gallery, a promo spot for other Cinema Epoch titles available now or coming soon, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Amazingly inept and ridiculously entertaining, Samurai Cop is one for the books and Cinema Epoch brings it back to DVD for your enjoyment. The transfer is solid and the extras are informative and interesting. The movie itself? A bit of a trash film classic, really. Sure it’s horribly made, but that doesn’t take away from it in the least, in fact, the whole thing just adds up to AWESOME.