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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

John Belushi’s Samurai Sword Up For Auction

For you older farts like myself who watched Saturday Night Live (aka SNL) back when it was just starting out, here’s something you may remember… the samurai sword (and scabbard) used by comedian John Belushi when he played a  non-English speaking samurai working regular jobs in 1970s New York.

Modeled after the great Japanese film director Kurasawa Akira’s Yojimbo movie with actor Mifune Toshiro (both surname first) playing the lead role of masterless samurai, the ronin Kuwabatake Sanjuro, the Belushi samurai - he was known as Samurai Futaba (though everyone just called him the Saturday Night Live Samurai)  was played using made up Japanese language, but with the skill set of a gritty, edgy samurai who would perform his mundane tasks with samurai perfection, and would scare the heck out of the non-Japanese people around him.  
Mifune Toshiro as Kuwabatake Sanjuro in Yojimbo.
It was a combination of a samurai with a katana sword and a possibly coked-up Belushi with a katana. Scary - hell yes! Funny as hell, though! 

Every skit would involve the character over reacting just so Belushi-san could whip out his sword… er, his samurai sword and hack the crap out of something.  

Buck Henry… the dude who co-created the very funny Get Smart television show with Mel Brooks, was oft times a host of Saturday Night Live in the early days.

John Belushi as Samurai Futaba and Buck Henry as Mr. Dantley in the Samurai Delicatessen SNL skit.
Back then, comedic characters were often used once and discarded, but it was Buck Henry who insisted that there should be a second occurrence of Samurai Futaba on his second hosting of the show, and every time Buck would host, there would also be a a Samurai skit… until Belushi left the show.

Buck Henry would play opposite Belushi in these skits, playing the diminutive role of Mr. Dantley… except for one skit called Samurai BMOC.   

Oh… and in what may have been one of the worst ever comic books I have read (except for Dazzler #1 - why do I have over 40 of those #1’s still?!?!), Samurai Futaba and the the cast of Saturday Night Live teamed up with Spider-man in issue #74 of Marvel Team-Up (cover dated October 1978, which means it came out in August).

Belushi’s Samurai Futaba dueled with the Silver Samurai (Marvel super villain), who was trying to recover a ring containing a teleportation device that had inadvertently come into Belushi's possession.

Yeah. Someone got paid to write that story... and I paid $0.35 to read it. I can tell you that I’ve written comic book stories 20x better than that, and only had 20 people ever read it.

At least this blog's for free. 

Here’s a list of Samurai Futaba appearances on SNL:  
  • "Samurai Hotel" December 13, 1975 - Belushi and his bellhop (host Richard Pryor, also portraying a samurai) duel over who has to carry a guest's bags. Pryor smashes the front desk with his sword; The Samurai says, "I can dig where you're coming from," the only words ever spoken by the character in English;
  • "Samurai Delicatessen" January 17, 1976 - Mr. Dantley (host Buck Henry) waits as the Samurai makes a sandwich by severing ropes on hanging salami, slicing tomatoes in midair, and splitting bread with his skull. The two of them carry on a pleasant conversation although each speaks a different language;
  • "Samurai Divorce Court" February 14, 1976 - Futaba vs. Futaba. In the Samurai world, custody cases are resolved by splitting children in half. Show regular Jane Curtin plays Futaba's wife. Host: Peter Boyle;
  • "Samurai Tailor" May 22, 1976 - Mr. Dantley (Buck Henry) needs a tuxedo for a wedding. The Samurai makes one for him with his katana;
  • "Samurai General Practitioner" July 31, 1976 host: Kris Kristofferson;
  • "Samurai Stockbroker" October 30, 1976 - Belushi accidentally strikes Buck Henry, playing the client Mr. Dantley, in the forehead with a katana. On tape, Henry clearly staggers back from the blow. Afterward, Henry appeared on camera with a band-aid covering the cut on his forehead. In solidarity, for the remainder of the broadcast the rest of the cast members (including a teddy bear in one later sketch) also appeared with band-aids on their foreheads as well;
  • "The Purple Lagoon" (during musical performance) December 11, 1976 musical guest: Frank Zappa;
  • "Samurai Hit Man" March 19, 1977 - Don Marsala (Dan Aykroyd) hires the Samurai to kill, as soon as possible, both Don Cornelius and Don Kirshner;
  • "Samurai B.M.O.C." May 21, 1977 - The Samurai must convince Dean Bynum (Buck Henry) that he is qualified to graduate from college;
  • "Samurai Dry Cleaners" October 29, 1977 host: Charles Grodin;
  • "Samurai Psychiatrist" November 19, 1977 - Buck Henry relates a disturbing dream;
  • "Samurai Night Fever" February 25, 1978 - a parody of the film Saturday Night Fever, with the Samurai as a disco dancer. Host O.J. Simpson plays the Samurai's brother;
  • "Samurai TV Repairman" May 20, 1978 - The Samurai tosses a TV set around, hits it with his sword, plunges two knives into the top grill, and the picture turns out perfect. Host: Buck Henry;
  • "Rollo" (during musical performance) October 21, 1978 - host: Frank Zappa;
  • "Samurai Optometrist" November 11, 1978 - The Samurai nearly commits seppuku when Buck Henry calls him an "optician";
  • "Samurai Bakery" May 26, 1979 - host: Buck Henry Mr. Dantley (Buck Henry) buys a last-minute wedding cake, only it is not boxed. The Samurai tosses the cake in the air, and slices it to pieces as it drops behind the counter, only to pick up neatly packaged, string-tied pink boxes, which he hands to Mr. Dantley.
Samurai Hotel, Samurai Divorce Court, Samurai Bakery, Samurai Delicatessen and Samurai Night Fever are the only ones I think I saw (or can recall). Oh, and Samurai Optometrist... a very funny skit. 

Anyhow… the original katana sword used by comedian John Belushi in these skits as Samurai Futaba is up for auction.

It's Lot 438 of the Icons & Legends of Hollywood Auction, to be held June 5-8, 2018.

it is the original katana sword with sharpened metal blade, cord-wrapped grip with diamond cutouts and gold floral engraving. Cross-guard is a circular, engraved copper metal piece. The bottom of pommel features floral engraving. The scabbard sheath is of leather covered wood sleeve. Sword in sheath measures 37 in. long. Originally from Centre Firearms. Exhibiting heavy wear and fraying to grip wrapping. In vintage good condition.

Expected value is US$2,000 - $3,000, but I’d pay more for it if I had the yen.

If you are so inclined, have a look-see HERE.

Andrew Jospeh

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