American Samurai with Sam Firstenberg
Credit: Sam Firstenberg

American Samurai (1992) is the story of a reporter named Drew (David Bradley) who pairs up with photographer Janet (Valarie Trapp) to investigate an opium smuggling ring in Turkey. He soon finds himself fighting for his life and hers when he’s for to fight in a weapon-based martial arts tournament.

Drew finds himself face to face with his worst enemy, his half-brother Kenjiro (Mark Dacascos), who is now in the yakuza. His past has caught up with him, and Drew and Kenjiro will face off. But who will be left standing?

Sam Firstenberg is responsible for some of the best cult action films of the ’80s and ’90s. His work helped to keep Cannon Films afloat for years with movies like American Ninja 1 & 2, Revenge of the Ninja, Ninja III: The Domination, Breakin II: Electric Boogaloo, and others.

When Cannon began to fall apart and cousins Menachem Golan and Yoram Globus split, Sam was brought in to helm the action film American Samurai starring David Bradley and Mark Dacascos. It didn’t turn out as hoped, losing the studio money. The real problem was the fact that the film he turned in was not the film released.

American Samurai Poster

Thirty-two years later, indie filmmaker and editor Lyle Goodwin reached out to Sam, and the two of them decided to give the fans what they wanted: a re-edited version of the film more in line with Firstenberg’s original vision. Once word spread of their plans, genre fans began inquiring about the project and asking questions. I sat down with the filmmakers and discussed their journey to bring this cut of a nearly forgotten action film to a wider audience.

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I debated on whether or not to just transcribe the conversation and write an article like I normally would but I want people to see and feel the excitement these two men have for the film and the genre as a whole. Lyle, as a fan, was given the opportunity to improve upon a movie he enjoys with a filmmaker he’s long admired. And Sam preserved not only his own legacy, but all those who worked in the genre during a period in time that will never be replicated.

Here’s our full discussion to watch. Hopefully, you’ll not only enjoy it but also learn a few things about how the system worked in the 1980s and 1990s.

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  1. I really enjoyed your conversation with Sam Firstenberg. I thank you both for your hard work and dedication to restoration. I look forward to seeing the freshly edited film.


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