Wednesday, July 20, 2011

GHOST WARRIOR (1986) - no ghosts here, but rather, a quaint, samurai version of Encino Man thankfully minus the Wheeze

If Kiss wants to bang strippers and set things on fire, with the occasional ballad thrown in (for the ladies), W.A.S.P. only wants to bang strippers and set things on fire. While leaving out ballads might not seem like much of an innovation, within the realm of exploding cock rock, this was cutting edge. By the way, “exploding cock rock” is not a crass metaphor; lead singer Blackie Lawless actually wore an exploding codpiece on stage. An exploding codpiece (or “crotch rocket”) was a codpiece with a small cannon attached that would shoot sparks at the audience. Essentially, it created the illusion that his cock was shooting fireworks. Why someone would want to shoot fireworks out of their cock and onto a group of strangers is a bit of a mystery. I’ll leave it to the Freudians.

Other film critics simply don’t have the exploding balls to explore W.A.S.P.’s rather limited place within cinema history. I lack any such restrictions, so here it goes. Of course, the most famous document of W.A.S.P. is in Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years. Guitarist Chris Holmes is interviewed while drinking gallons of vodka, lounging in a pool while his mom looks on with suppressed horror. It may be the greatest interview of all time, and certainly the greatest drunk interview of all time. Of course, if you haven’t seen Decline II, you must see at once. It will fill your heart with joy and possibly help you get laid and maybe make you smarter (a big maybe, for the record).

The most obscure cinematic W.A.S.P. reference is in Alien Beach Party Massacre (1996). The stoner character in the film (named “glue”, whose hair covers his face like Slash from Guns n’ Roses) wears a W.A.S.P. shirt throughout. The reason why the reference is so obscure might he because it’s from a movie no one has ever seen. Then there’s the burnout metal guy from Ghoulies II (who might be the same dude in Alien Beach Party Massacre for all I know), who walks around a carnival blasting W.A.S.P. on his boom box, completely oblivious to the fact there are little slimy puppets running around. He finally notices their presence when one of the ghoulies destroys his boom box, no doubt crushing his soul in the process.

Probably the most important W.A.S.P. scene of all time is in Dungeonmaster (1984), where the hero crashes a W.A.S.P. concert to save his girlfriend, shooting lasers out of his watch at Blackie Lawless (don’t ask). Amusingly, Blackie doesn’t skip a beat during the performance, and just shoots lasers back at him during down time (guitar solos and what have you). Maybe Blackie assumes he has it coming, what with him being semi-famous for shooting fireworks out of his cock and right into the audience. I guess if it's good for the goose, et al. This footage shows up in two other films: Terrorvision (starring national treasure Suzy Putterman; click the bottom of the page) and today’s film, Ghost Warrior. It should be noted that Charles Band produced all three of these films, as well as Ghoulies II, and ends Ghost Warrior with the text “Special Thanks: W.A.S.P.” (and no one else). Usually a special thanks list in the end credits includes a dozen or so names, like maybe the local police department who helped to close off a street from pedestrians, or maybe the local park district where the filmmakers were allowed to shoot. Band must be the biggest W.A.S.P. fan in the world, or just thinks throwing W.A.S.P. references into his films will result in some bofo box office. Either way, he’s obviously a genius.

Essentially, Ghost Warrior is a samurai version of Encino Man. I know that sounds pretty hilarious (or at least tolerable through its stupidity), but the movie is actually a deadly serious tragedy. You see, when a 400-year-old samurai unfreezes and ends up in modern day Los Angeles (if the mid eighties qualifies as “modern”), things can only end in tears. People can’t understand him when he speaks, even those who understand Japanese (he speaks an ancient dialect apparently). So, his only form of communication with the human race is his samurai sword, and that shit just ain’t gonna fly in Reagan’s America.

You can probably figure out where this is headed. Janet Julian (the hot lead in Humongous) plays the kind hearted scientist that cares for the Samurai, while everyone else wants him dead. Janet treats him like a lost puppy, saying “he just needs a home!” at one point. They even start to bond by sharing a Cup of Noodles, as she wants to make him comfortable by reminding him of his homeland. Her performance is awkward but heartfelt, contributing a sort of inept pathos to the piece. She also rocks a couple of amazing outfits, including what looks to be a Star Trek uniform that was designed by Z Cavaricci.

The samurai is played by Hiroshi Fujioka (unknown to me), who plays it deadly seriously and effectively as a cinematic samurai who is discovering the modern world. Of course, you need the scene where the ice man is confused by technology, and here he happens upon a television playing the W.A.S.P. footage I mentioned earlier (following an amazing fashion commercial). Look! Blackie is cutting off a girls catsuit with a machete whilst engaged in a laser battle. THIS IS MODERN INNOVATION AND IT IS SCARY. He confusingly pokes the T.V. with his sword, as he can only interact with things by poking them with his sword (insert Peter North joke here). Stupidly, a male nurse decides he’s gonna try to steal the sword once Janet tells him “it’s worth more than what the average person makes in their lifetime!”. That’s at least a couple of million dollars, which is a hell of a lot to pay for a sword on the black market. However, it’s a moot point, as the nurse fails in his quest as you might imagine. The problem with trying to steal a sword from a samurai is that you have to steal it off of a samurai that is armed with a sword. It’s the same reason you don’t want to try to steal an uzi from John Rambo, regardless of how much the uzi is worth.

Of course, the samurai escapes and happens upon a gang messing with an old man for no reason. It’s part of the code of any gang to immediately start messing with old people when a vigilante hero enters the vicinity. Death Wish 3 is simply this premise for a full 90 minutes. Anyway, the samurai saves the old man, killing one of the gang members after hacking off his hand. Amusingly, Janet later happens upon the aftermath, where the chalk outline of the gang member includes a separate outline of the hand. It's these kind of touches that add richness to a story. Anyway, the old man appropriately takes the samurai out for some sushi as thanks. Amusingly, a lady sitting in the sushi restaurant says “oh my god, it’s Toshiro Mifune!”. I guess this was a time when Toshiro was the only Japanese person Americans could reference by name. This sushi lunch is interrupted by the gang, who want to kill the samurai as revenge for not letting them beat up an old man for no reason. This escalates into a battle across the street in an abandoned building, the SAME building that is featured in Xanadu. Rad.

See the auditorium in the background? If you watch Ghost Warrior, you'll see a samurai cut off a dude's arm in that very building. The world is one fucked up place.

If you’re afraid that this sounds rather rote, a story of a thawed fish out of water trying to enjoy some sushi and getting destroyed by society instead, let me point out a couple of facts. First of all, it says “computers provided by Radio Shack” in the end credits, which is a surefire sign that the filmmakers were not up on cutting edge technology. Also, the back of the VHS box proclaims “action thrills from the makers of TROLL!”. If that doesn’t sell you, you simply don’t want to be entertained. I gotta be honest...I now have "Magic" stuck in my head. I was trying to stay on point, but now I'm completely derailed. Oh well.


  1. Ghost Warrior looks pretty entertaining. I mean, I'm sure it is since it was made by the people who also made Troll!

    Also, seeing W.A.S.P. and Olivia Newton-John in the same post makes me extremely happy! Awesome stuff! :-)

  2. @Morgan
    Thank you! The post is half about WASP, yet ends with Olivia. That's not very metal of me, alas.