The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #321: Welcome Actress Catherine Mary Stewart As We Discuss Samurai Cowboy and More
This week, we are welcoming actress Catherine Mary Stewart to the show!
You may know her from classic films such as Night of the Comet, The Last Starfighter, and Weekend at Bernie’s. Although those are some of my favorite films of all time (and we do touch on aspects of some of those movies in this episode – I mean, how could you not?), I thought it’d be fun to highlight an underrated gem that is hard to find but still very worth your time – 1994’s Samurai Cowboy. Here’s the premise …
The film starts in Japan with Japanese subtitles. We see legions of modern samurai (salarymen and women) commuting in jam-packed Tokyo subways …
Our hero, Yutaka Sato (singer Hiromi Go) and his best friend, Goro (J. Max Kirishima), work and party hard, though the stressful life of a modern business samurai is not what Yukata desires. He longs to be a cowboy in the Wild West. I thought Hiromi Go did a great job in a role that was part serious, part comedic. He also gets to showcase his vocals by singing karaoke at least once as well as “Home on the Range.”
After tragedy makes it hard to stay in Japan, Yutaka decides to emigrate to the US and buys a Montana ranch sight unseen, hoping it will be the Ponderosa of his dreams. Reality, however, is a bit harsher, just like the pile of cow caca that he is about to step in here.
It also doesn’t take long for the small-mindedness of the locals to make itself known (this was filmed at a time of a fair amount of fear/resentment at Japan in the West). Yutaka does start to find non-bigoted allies, though. He teams up with an semi-retired cowboy, Gabe (Robert Conrad of The Wild, Wild West TV show) and an American Indian artist, Jack Eagle Eye (Byron Chief-Moon), he sticks up for soon after getting to town.
It’s hard to capture breathtaking vistas like this on film and have it translate to the feeling of being there, but I thought they did a really nice job on the cinematography. Maybe someone can chime in and correct me, but this landscape looks a lot like Glacier National Park to me. The peak they refer to as the Indian Chief looking a lot like Grinnell Glacier.
One of the non-bigoted locals that Yutaka befriends is a local veterinarian, Dr. Jessie Collins (our guest, Catherine Mary Stewart), who has the enviable job of riding around the country to get to the animals she rounds on. Here she is dispatching a cow who isn’t doing so great while Yutaka slips on the snow since he doesn’t have boots fit for the weather.
What kind of Western would it be without six guns? When Yutaka gets himself some clothes more appropriate for ranching, he spies a gaudy revolver in a case at the front of the store and can’t resist (though actually hitting anything is a different matter).
The beginnings of a romance start to blossom between our samurai cowboy and Jessie. I have to hand it to the filmmakers – it was pretty unusual at the time for Asian males to ever get to be the romantic lead in a Western-made film. The only person I can think of is Brandon Lee, who I talked about on here before. I’m sure there were others, but I’m struggling to come up with ones made in the West at the time that were not martial arts themed films. Of course, Yutaka, being Japanese, naturally has to know martial arts (which, to be fair, he uses to good effect at various points in the film), but stereotypes aside, in some ways it makes sense – he calls his ranch “The Dojo Ranch” since he views it as a place of focus and betterment and given the title, you kind of expect that the guy would be able take care of himself as any modern Samurai should, right?
Yutaka also recruits a black hip hop artist (Bradley Rapier) who gets stranded in town, offering him a job to help out on the Dojo Ranch, thus completing the team.
Together, Yutaka and company take on a corrupt local land developer, Colt Wingate (Matt McCoy) who wants Yutaka’s ranch for his own scorched earth plans. Yutaka ain’t selling, though …
Despite Wingate’s attempt to make life difficult for Yutaka, he and his compatriots decide the best way to go forward is to actually do what Yutaka set out to be – a cowboy … meaning that he and his ranchers need to herd the Dojo Ranch cattle old school-style to a town some distance away to be sold, ensuring Yutaka will have enough money to not default on his ranch loan. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Western if there weren’t a dramatic showdown at the end. The way they handled it, though, I thought was nice.
And it wouldn’t be a Western without a few sunset vistas like this. Breathtaking!
Unfortunately, although I’d highly recommend finding this movie to watch yourself, it’s not the easiest thing to do, even if you go the bootleg path. Thankfully, eBay is your friend in this arena.
If you are unable to find a copy of the film or don’t have a VHS player to play it on, you can still get a sense of what the movie is like with the clips we discussed in the podcast. As mentioned, you can actually watch them as well. Please excuse the video quality, however, since the video is coming courtesy of the Zoom call I recorded, so it won’t be quite as smooth as it were playing in real time. However, you’ll at least have some visuals for the commentary in case you want to watch along with the podcast.
If you’re a Patreon member, you’ll find some “extended scenes,” so to speak, in the latest Patreon podcast episode (#10).
Thanks to Catherine Mary Stewart for joining the show! Learn more about her on:
–IMDB (how I found Samurai Cowboy!)
Lastly, since it’s now the month of October, I think I should get on that sequel to The Last Rocketeer I wrote last year mashing up The Last Starfighter and The Rocketeer (two of my favorite things!). The story ends in a very Halloween specific way, so now that Halloween is approaching, I figure that if Cliff Secord from The Rocketeer and Centauri from The Last Starfighter are good, then adding someone who may or may not be Dracula must be better. Is there a way Alex and Maggie from The Last Starfighter can make a cameo, too? Hmm … looking forward to writing it!
Thanks for tuning in!
There are now Thirteenth Hour toys! If you’d like to pick up one of these glow in the dark figures for yourself, feel free to email me or go to the Etsy store I set up (https://www.etsy.com/shop/ThirteenthHourStudio) and get them there.
If the past few months have got you needing a break, you may want to chill out to this 80s synth throwback track for a upcoming LP with the accompanying music video:
Empty Hands, the synth EP soundtrack to the novella, Empty Hands, is now out for streaming on Bandcamp.
Stay tuned. Follow along on Spotify! There is also a growing extended Thirteenth Hour playlist on Spotify with a growing number of retro 80s songs.
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