A Few Thoughts On The World’s End, Dark Forces & Six String Samurai

Between a mix of business and less-than-desirable equipment, I’m bummed to say I haven’t done nearly as much blogging as I wanted to this year. However, as I sit here under my brand new laptop — one with the luxurious benefit of a fully working keyboard — I wanted to get into a trio of movies I’ve seen recently that I really enjoyed!

Last year I fell in love with Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver and rekindled the same affection for his Hot Fuzz (which has a lot more horror elements than I remembered). In reminiscing on Wright’s career, I remembered that I never watched his fourth feature — and the last part of the Cornetto trilogy — The World’s End. I finally rectified that with a Blu-ray borrow from Netflix and was once again smitten with a Simon Pegg-Nick Frost starrer.

I’m not going to get into the plot too much, because I went in only knowing that it was about a group of childhood friends trying to finish a pub crawl as adults with craziness ensuing. If you haven’t seen it, but like anything any of the people involved have done, give it a watch. I fell hard for this film, especially the relationship between Pegg and Frost that is very different in this one than the others.

It’s just another example of how completely Wright conceives of these films, starting with a script that’s always more in-depth than it seems and then moving through everything from casting to set design and, of course, sound track to present this wonderful picture of what it means to be human for a lot of people including myself.

From there I found myself wandering the digital aisles of Amazon Video and decided on the 1980 film Dark Forces (also known as Harlequin). I was drawn in by the wild description about a magic man moving into a politician’s house and causing trouble. The further I got into it, the more it felt like this super-weird combination of The Omen and Mary Poppins because this guy Gregory Wolfe (Robert Powell) heals Senator Nick Rast’s sick kid and literally moves into his house where Mrs. Sandra Rast starts hitting on him. Before it gets into the politics of everything, it delves into the unusual, but compelling relationship developing between Gregory, Sandra and Alex.

Director Simon Weaver (who later did Free Willy, The Phantom and Operation Dumbo Drop) created something special with this film. From the opening which cross-cuts between the politician dad being hounded by reporters and an unsettling child’s birthday party (where you don’t know the relationships until later) to the ending reveal that I never could have seen coming, this film had me staring wide-eyed the entire time. It doesn’t share the plot points of a giallo, but felt like it was going for a somewhat similar vibe at times, though I’m far from an expert in that field.

Other quick favorite moments include a dissolve from a piece of spilled cake on the grass to a dead bird in the water, Wolfe rocking some killer leathers at a stuffy tuxedo party looking like a 70s rocker (the film was originally written with Bowie in mind) and the photo montage between Wolfe and the kid’s mom that made it look like they got married. If you’ve got time and like offset weirdness, give Dark Places a watch.

Finally, I re-watched a movie that I first checked out back in those halcyon days of renting six VHS tapes a weekend for $3 from my beloved Family Video: Six String Samurai (1998). I honestly haven’t thought about this movie much since I watched it way back when, but totally understand why I gave it a look just glancing at this poster of a dude wielding both a samurai sword and electric guitar!

Directed by Lance Mungia and starring Jeffrey Falcon, Six String Samurai takes place in a world where only the best rocker-fighters can claim the throne of King of Lost Vegas. That’s where Falcon’s Buddy comes into play, though it’s never quite clear if he actually wants the position. The same can be said in regards to the kid he protects throughout the film.

I was stunned with how competent and impressive this first time filmmaker’s debut turned out! Mileage will vary for some in regards to their interest in this world, but once you’re in, it’s completely immersive and absorbing. Falcon’s an incredible martial artist, so that part of the picture comes off as believable and thrilling, but I was even more awed by the lived-in and worn-down costumes and the overall vibe of the whole endeavor. It’s shocking to me that Mungia didn’t immediately make eight movies. Instead his next feature credit comes in seven years later in the form of The Crow: Wicked Prayer. Six String Samurai is also on Amazon Video Included With Prime, so give it a watch, I think you’ll dig it!

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