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Six-String Samurai (1998)
A Pastiche of Cult Cinema
Imagine a Post-Apocalyptic Spaghetti-Western/Samurai/Kung Fu/Rock&Roll movie, and you've got at least a vague idea of what Six-String Samurai is all about.
Within the first 10 mintutes, I counted nearly 10 direct references to other films: Road Warrior, A Boy and His Dog, The Dollars Trilogy, The Seven Samurai, Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz, and others. Six-String Samurai is clearly having fun with the movies it's stealing from, creating a pastiche of cult cinema.
By the way, anybody who thinks the kid is annoying has most likely never seen Eraserhead... and probably didn't get that the kid character in this film is a ripoff of the "Feral Kid" character from Road Warrior.
The only problem I can see with Six-String Samurai is that it was made by movie buffs for movie buffs. That's fine for film historians like my husband and me. But it might be alienating for more normal viewers. Still, how can you not love watching Samurai and Kung Fu action set to surf guitar?
Galaxy Quest (1999)
A Send-up and a Tribute All Rolled into One!
"Galaxy Quest" was my husband's idea. I wanted to see "Any Given Sunday." But I figured that the film at least had to be worth the popcorn, so I went.
My low expectations were demolished within the first five minutes. This movie is dead-on in its depiction of fandom and of acting has-beens. But as other viewers have said, it's not mean-spirited. The ultimate fans--the aliens--offer the actors a chance to become true heroes, and some human fans help the actors in the process.
"Galaxy Quest" walks the fine line between send-up and tribute, and it succeeds brilliantly at both. What can I say? It was even better than the popcorn!
Tell Your Children (1936)
The Gone with the Wind of 30's Exploitation Films
Because of 70's NORML propaganda falsely claiming that the FBI sponsored Reefer Madness, most viewers believe that this Exploitation classic was meant to be taken seriously. Not so! Thelma White (Mae) has noted in interviews that the producers and director Louis Gasnier asked the cast to "hoke it up." The famous "Faster, Faster" scene is, in fact, a direct parody of a similar scene in the classic musical 42nd Street (a scene in which Dave O'Brien--Ralph in Reefer Madness--played a chorus boy).
So why make a cautionary tale, but do so tongue-in-cheek? Simple. To get around the Hays Code and show more skin than the Code allowed...but also to capitalize on the public's fear of drugs. Either way, the producers made a ton of money on the Exploitation circuit--more than covering their costs for this relatively expensive sub-Poverty Row production.
Made over the course of 3 weeks (most Exploitation films were shot in a few days), using an experienced director and a couple of talented actors who went on to have respectable careers in Hollywood, Reefer Madness is quite simply the finest Exploitation film to come out of the 30's.
The film's funny, is it? Well, the folks who made it thought so too. And they laughed all the way to the bank.