The Ninja Trilogy!!!

In honor of “the black ninja” Sho Kusugi – this edition of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT highlights the clas-sick 80’s action flicks that comprise “the ninja trilogy”“Enter The Ninja,” “Revenge Of The Ninja,” and “Ninja III: The Domination!” These ass kickers all feature double digit body counts and an unbelievable assortment of violent and creative deaths via various deadly ninja weapons! “Don’t fuck with the Japanese. They can be very dangerous!”

LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

ENTER THE NINJA (1981)

“Enter The Ninja” features international superstar Franco Nero as “Cole,” an American soldier who trains in Japan to become a ninja after his tour of duty is finished. After successfully completing his ninja training Cole travels to the Phillippeans to visit an old army buddy of his – Frank Landers, and his lovely wife Mary Ann. After arriving at the Landers’ plantation Cole is shocked to find his once proud and vibrant friend to be a mere shell of his former self.

Frank is now losing a battle with the bottle and is also battling a ruthless land developer named Mr.Venarius (Christopher George!) who is determined to purchase the plantation. Frank is reduced to a drunken, frequently napping leader of a cockfighting ring (genuine cockfighting footage is used throughout, sure to delight animal lovers!) and in desperation asked his old pal Cole to visit, hoping he could help even the odds against Venarius.

At first Cole and Frank have a few laughs fighting off the multitude of thugs hired by Venarius in an effort to strong arm into Frank into selling his land. But all is not well in the Landers household as Frank is still neglecting his hot piece of ass wife in favor of heavy boozing. In frustration she turns to Cole and he obligingly offers her a ninja mustache ride! Just as the tension in the house is about to reach its breaking point the shit really hits the fan when Venarius finally wises up and hires a ninja of his own to deal with the Landers and Cole.

Sho Kusugi makes his memorable debut as the black ninja, this time going by the character name Hasegawa. The evil Hasegawa has a blast setting the plantation on fire and randomly kicking workers in the face as they run around screaming. (GREAT SCENE!) He then snuffs Frank and takes Mary Ann hostage. This sets up the final showdown between the white and black ninjas. Hasegawa and Cole are enemies with a rivalry that goes back to their ninja training in Japan. With the blood of his best friend on his hands, Cole agrees to a final battle to the death with Hasegawa.

This flick marked Sho Kusugi’s debut in a big budget, internationally released action film. Sho also choreographed the numerous ninja fight scenes which are quite impressive. This typically cheesy Golan Globus production was written by Sharon Stone’s brother – martial arts expert Mike Stone, and was directed by none other than the infamous Menahem Golan himself. More than a few people have poked fun at Franco Nero for his performance in this flick but I think he plays the part very convincingly. His charisma is undeniable and he looks great in his fight scenes. Franco had no martial arts training, so the part of the white ninja was actually played by writer Mike Stone, who did a phenomenal job.

My favorite part of this flick is the appearance of legendary actor Will Hare as Franco’s wisecracking comic relief sidekick “Dollars.” Horror fans should remember Will for his incredible performance as the deranged Grandpa in “Silent Night Deadly Night” who warns little Billy about the dangers of Santy Claus. Will is excellent here too, stealing every scene he is in with his non stop chatter and constant attempts to sell everyone around him porn. Only the coolest ninjas have porno peddling street hustlers as sidekicks!

Fans of the late great Christopher George will love his over the top performance as the scenery chewing Mr.Venarius. Old Chris was on a fucking tear in the early Eighties appearing in one clas-sick genre flick after another. Chris had just finished “Graduation Day” before working on this film and went on to star in “Pieces” the following year! His incredible death scene in “Enter The Ninja” is the stuff of legend and frequently turns up in highlight reels of “the worst scenes ever.”

Despite being a fairly inept production, “Enter The Ninja” became an instant success and helped kick start the “ninja craze” of the early Eighties. Numerous imitations rushed into production as well, and Golan Globus would release a far superior follow up film – “Revenge Of The Ninja,” just a few years later. “Enter The Ninja” is one of the most unintentionally hilarious flicks I’ve ever seen. It’s full of hideous dubbing, jaw droppingly bad performances, and lots of failed attempts at cornball humor. This one is impossible to take seriously, but it never fails to entertain. From start to finish this flick is action packed and a lot of fun. I don’t want to ruin the ending, but it’s a real pisser. WINK!

Sadly there’s been no proper dvd release as of yet. The UK dvd releases are all cut by about 4-5 minutes and this flick has never been released on dvd in the States. I cherish my dvd-r copy of the old school MGM/UA vhs which is 100% uncut with all the glorious neck snapping and cockfighting intact. I demand a special edition two-disc dvd of ENTER THE NINJA with a Franco Nero commentary track and an extensive behind the scenes documentary!

 

 

REVENGE OF THE NINJA (1983)

The black ninja returns! This time around Sho Kusugi plays Cho Osaki, a ninja master who decides to leave Japan after most of his family is slaughtered by rival ninjas. After a brutal massacre that features women and children being slain with arrows and throwing stars, and an epic retaliatory sword fight where Cho chops up the clan of murderous ninjas, Cho accepts the offer from his best friend – an art dealing and gun toting American named Braden- to open an art gallery in Los Angeles. Cho moves to America along with his sole surviving infant son and his mother, who is immediately distrustful of Braden. Viewers can also immediately tell that Braden is untrustworthy because of the creepy and forbidding music that always accompanies the many close ups of his eyes.

We then flash forward about ten years to LA and find Cho’s son Kane grown up and and kicking the ass of every bully that gets in his way. Grandmother is proud of her little ninja but Cho angrily instructs him not to fight. He tells his son that they only train as ninjas to honor their ancestors. He also shows his son that his sacred Katana has been sealed and that he has vowed to never return to that way of life so as to honor Kane’s dead mother. We also get to meet Cho’s eternally pants less and slutty looking love interest Cathy.

Things seems to be going great to Cho and the family, but that all changes when Kane accidentally discovers that Braden has been secretly storing cocaine inside the Japanese dolls in Cho’s art gallery! It turns out that Cathy has been two-timing with Braden all along, and that he is both a drug smuggler AND an evil ninja who uses his ninja powers to snuff the mobsters that double cross him. After things go sour between Braden and a scumbag named Chifano, Braden begins taking out Chifano’s family and business associates one by one. In short order the evil ninja crushes a profane mobster’s chest and head inside a public bathroom, kills a greasy homeless informant with a throwing star (inspiring the very memorable response “What the shit is this?”), and drowns a couple while they fuck in a hot tub.

The police are dumbfounded by the sheer brutality of the crimes and the forces’ Karate instructor Dave Hatcher turns to Cho for help. Cho has no idea his best friend Braden is involved, and decides not to get involved. He quickly changes his mind after he walks in on a group of Chifano’s thugs who are stealing the drug filled dolls from his gallery. A fucking unbelievable battle ensues as Cho fights off the various thugs, led by a tomahawk sporting native American! Cho refuses to let the thieves escape justice but eventually has to give up after being dragged along the pavement for a good long time and having his legs ripped to shreds in the process.

Meanwhile Braden also breaks into the gallery and winds up having a ninja death match with the feisty grandmother. Kane (who has a real knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time) shows up just in time to see Grandma getting a stomach full of Braden’s steel. Braden quickly discovers Kane and tries to kill him too, but Kane is barely able to escape. Kane is later kidnapped by Cathy No Pants after Braden uses his mystical powers of mind control to hypnotize her. Braden then keeps both Cathy and Kane as prisoners as he goes after Chifano for a final bloody payback.

After a busy afternoon spent fighting a gang of multi-racial street thugs all over a jungle gym with his new pal Dave, Cho finally returns home and finds his mother dead. Then Cathy manages to free herself and call at that exact same moment to tell him that it’s Braden who’s responsible and that he is holding herself and Kane as hostages. This final slap in the face is enough to make Cho break the seal on his Katana and unleash 400 years of training in the art of sudden death upon his enemy! “Only a ninja can stop a ninja.” Braden begins an all out assault on the high rise building that Chifano occupies and Cho quickly follows him there.

The two rival ninjas work their way though opposite ends of the building slashing Chifano’s security and a massive body count is stacked up in short order. This ultra violent sequence is my favorite part of the film and features numerous highlights including stomach slashing, groin smashing, eye gouging, tripping on little metal balls and landing into a face full of little metal spikes, hatchets in the head, and machine gun misfires! Somewhere along the way little Kane manages to escape and use his ninja skills to save half naked Cathy and Braden kills best pal Dave with a nifty spring loaded blade! Damn! This all leads to an EPIC showdown on the roof where the two Ninjas have their final confrontation. I don’t want to say much more, but I think it should be obvious from the title that the ninja gets his revenge. Big time.

This was the flick that I watched perhaps more than any other as a kid. Back in the day my older brother gave me a vhs copy dubbed from HBO and I watched it religiously for the next few years. Looking back this is a very crude, violent, and profane film and I have to wonder what in the hell my parents were thinking as I watched this one in the living room over and over again! The body count is staggering and men, women, and children alike are all snuffed. This flick is non stop action and the numerous fight scenes which were again all supervised by Sho Kusugi are all fantastic. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite, but the final rooftop battle deserves special mention. That scene is really amazing.

The rest of the flick is just as cheesy and inane as “Enter The Ninja,” only with an even more violent urban setting and sleazy vibe. The acting by the cops and the mobsters is all really over the top stuff and sure to be appreciated by cheese lovers. I love the fact that the love interest is never shown in pants. There’s also a mouth watering wet t-shirt scene where she sports a beautiful set of hard nipples that almost poke out young Kane’s eyes! Speaking of Kane, that kid is pretty damn annoying, but nearly as much as he would be in later Sho Kosugi epics like “9 Deaths Of The Ninja.” I really enjoy Sho’s performance in this flick. Very stoic. He carries the film as a leading man really well and this paved the way for most of his ninja follow up flicks.

This essential 80’s action flick was a big hit back in the day and is currently available on dvd. Amazingly enough MGM was wise enough to use the UNCUT version of REVENGE OF THE NINJA that originally aired on HBO on dvd. (this version has more blood than the R rated vhs release) Fans of body count flicks need to see this. This is another one of the clas-sick flicks that warped my mind!

 

 

NINJA III: THE DOMINATION (1984)

The third and rather disappointing final chapter of the “ninja trilogy” opens with an unbelievable sequence where an evil ninja goes on a killing rampage on a golf course in broad daylight. The cops are quickly called in and the ninja dispatches of several of them too before being fatally wounded during a massive shoot out. Before dying the paid assassin manages to briefly escape the police and possess a sexy young female telephone worker (Lucinda Dickey of “Cheerleader Camp” infamy!) who discovers him nearby.

Once possessed by the ninjas spirit, Christie gains his deadly powers and his desire for revenge against the crooked cops who killed him. Christie then spends her nights killing off the cops and their assorted bimbo girlfriends and her days having sticky V8 covered sex with her hairy shouldered junior detective love interest. (BARF!)

The film is ruthlessly padded with scenes of Christie working out, leading an aerobics class, and dancing in her apartment until Sho Kusugi finally shows up as “Yamada” – a ninja from Japan who comes to America to investigate the death of the evil ninja. It turns out that Yamada and this evil ninja were long time rivals, and that the bastard had taken one of Yamada’s eyes out with a Shuriken in a previous battle. Not fully convinced of his enemy’s death, and knowing the great powers he possessed in life, Yamada discovers that Christie is the one containing the evil spirit and attempts to exorcise the foul demon from her hard body. Once the ninjas demonic spirit is free from Christie it attacks Yamada and a spectacularly stupid special effects filled battle of mystical wonders is unleashed.

Director Sam Firstenberg (who also directed “Revenge Of The Ninja”) was at the helm of this cheaply and quickly put together follow up film. Sadly he couldn’t save this one from sucking. Most of the score is recycled from “Revenge Of The Ninja” and the songs used throughout are all incredibly lame and annoying 80’s pop music. There’s also a ton of continuity errors indicating rush job editing. Lucinda Dickey is easy on the eyes but a rather shitty leading actress. The scenes where she attempts to fight, dance around, or look possessed are all ridiculous, but so is pretty much every other scene in the movie so it doesn’t really matter.

There are lots of unintentional laughs in this one including the sight of a police officer smoking a cigar while shooting at the evil ninja, a “levitating” sword clearly attached to strings, and the luscious mane of back hair on the leading man. Sadly, Sho Kusugi’s talents are almost completely wasted here. For some reason, most of Sho’s back story and the flashback scenes that showed him in action were removed from the film. He doesn’t get nearly enough screen time in this entry, although he does his best to salvage the last twenty or so minutes of the film. The final battle between the two ninjas is easily the best part of the film, and it’s too bad the rest of the film couldn’t have been more in that vein instead of wasting so much time with the girl.

Despite my (many) criticisms, I also think NINJA III: THE DOMINATION is a highly entertaining little piece of 80’s trash. This one is definitely a cult clas-sick that is very popular with fans of “so bad they’re good” flicks. Sadly, this one has never had a dvd release either. Hopefully the rumors of “ The Return Of The Ninja” will come to pass and all three of these flicks will get a re-release or perhaps a box set!

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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2 Responses to “The Ninja Trilogy!!!”

  1. A Galaz Says:

    The Return of The Ninja production has been going around and around the rumour mill since long before Ninja Assassin came and went. Hopefully, Sho is still and will still be on board with the idea, unless he decides to retire to the senior ninja assisted-living dojo sanctuary sometime soon.

    • This post is very old, but thanks a lot for taking a look. I would still love the see a Ninja follow up. I recently bought the Pray For Death blu-ray and Sho still looks great for his age in the bonus interview.

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