Film Review: Ninja III: The Domination (1984)

Release Date: September 14th, 1984
Directed by: Sam Firstenberg
Written by: James R. Silke
Music by: Udi Harpaz, Misha Segal
Cast: Lucinda Dickey, Sho Kosugi, Jordan Bennett, James Hong

Cannon Film Distributors, 92 Minutes

Review:

Ninja III: The Domination is the final chapter in the loose trilogy of ninja movies put out by Cannon Films. People typically refer to the series as The Ninja Trilogy, even though the films are unrelated other than all of them feature Sho Kosugi, the greatest ninja actor of all-time. Cannon would follow this series up with the American Ninja franchise a year later. That one spawned five American Ninja films and two quasi spin-offs.

This is the most bizarre of the Cannon Ninja pictures by far. The story sees a young woman become possessed by the spirit of an evil ninja. A good ninja has to help her separate from it before destroying it in an epic eyepatch ninja vs. zombie ninja battle.

Lucinda Dickey is great in this as the lead. 1984 was also a huge year for her as she starred in this as well as the hugely successful Breakin’ and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo for Cannon Films.

Sho Kosugi doesn’t have as much screen time as he had in the superior Revenge of the Ninja but all of his scenes were good. He was a better-than-decent martial arts star and the perfect ninja on screen, every time he appeared.

Compared to the two films before this, Ninja III is campy as hell but also incredibly fun. It is a different film entirely and I almost wish this spawned a series of its own. I don’t know if the formula could have carried over beyond one film but there was some serious magic here.

I love genre crossing movies and this one does it in the right way. It is a violent ninja movie mixed with 80s comedy, horror elements and fantasy elements. It also features the strangest product placement moment in the history of motion pictures. Go to YouTube and search “Ninja III V8”.

Ninja III is fantastic and it still plays great. Actually, it probably plays even better now as there is a high emphasis on 80s style and humor that any nostalgic for that era would find satisfying.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Enter the Ninja (1981)

Release Date: October 23rd, 1981
Directed by: Menahem Golan
Written by: Dick Desmond, Mike Stone
Music by: W. Michael Lewis, Laurin Rinder
Cast: Franco Nero, Susan George, Sho Kosugi, Christopher George

Cannon Film Distributors, 101 Minutes

Review:

Enter the Ninja is the first film in Cannon Films’ Ninja Trilogy. While it is still a pretty entertaining motion picture, it isn’t anywhere near as amazing and bad ass as the studios second effort Revenge of the Ninja.

However, this thing stars Franco Nero, the original Django and one of my favorite actors of all-time. That being said, it is still kind of weird to see the heroic white ninja remove his mask only to reveal a mustachioed buff Italian with dreamy eyes. As much as I love Nero, he just felt weirdly out of place as a ninja. Realistically, that’s probably because I really only associate him as a gunslinging spaghetti western bad ass, as that is certainly what he is most famous for. I do still like Nero in this picture, though. I mean, he’s Franco friggin’ Nero!

The villainous black ninja is played by Sho Kosugi, who would go on to be the hero in Revenge of the Ninja, two years later. He has a lot less screen time in this movie and unfortunately, isn’t as exciting as he would be in Revenge.

The other villain, the evil corporatist crime boss of the Philippines is played by Christopher George, known mostly for westerns and b-movies.

Put out by Cannon Films, this is actually directed by one of the studio heads, Menahem Golan of the infamous Golan-Globus duo.

This film’s plot deals with Nero going to the Philippines after completing his ninja training. While there, he meets up with his old war buddy and his hot wife (Susan George) only to find out that they are being bullied into selling their land to the local evil corporatist. As the film rolls on, Nero disrupts the villains plans and protects his friends. The villain than calls on help from the black ninja, a rival from Nero’s ninja school that hates that a white man has learned the sacred art.

Unfortunately, other than the beginning and the end, there isn’t a lot of ninja action. Most of the time, Nero isn’t even in his costume. Plus, the beginning sequence isn’t a real fight, it is Nero’s final test at his ninja school.

The action is still pretty solid but the ninja action isn’t anywhere near the level of the much superior Revenge of the Ninja. Still, this is a bad ass and entertaining flick for people who are into these sort of pictures.

Enter the Ninja could have been a much better film but we got that with its loose sequel.

Rating: 6.5/10

Film Review: Revenge of the Ninja (1983)

Release Date: September 7th, 1983
Directed by: Sam Firstenberg
Written by: James Silke
Music by: W. Michael Lewis, Laurin Rinder, Robert J. Walsh
Cast: Sho Kosugi, Keith Vitali, Virgil Frye, Kane Kosugi, Professor Toru Tanaka

Cannon Film Distributors, 90 Minutes

Review:

Any motion picture that starts with a kid getting a Chinese star to the face is my kind of movie!

Now I have probably seen this thing a dozen times but the last time I watched it was in the late 90s. In the 80s though, my cousin Billy and I used to rent this movie from the Movie Van all the time. He was way more into martial arts than I was. At least, he stuck with it long enough to actually compete. He even had a wall of trophies. I bet he could’ve beat that little twerp LaRusso!

As kids, this movie was great. One, it had friggin’ ninjas! Two, it had really violent ninjas! Those two things will make any red blooded bacon eating American boy jump for joy while fist pumping to Def Leppard tunes!

They don’t make pictures like this for kids anymore. Granted, it was rated R but it was a movie all the boys in the 80s couldn’t get enough of. Besides, our parents didn’t care what we watched, as long as we weren’t putting shuriken through grandma’s cats.

Watching this film now, I still feel the same way. Revenge of the Ninja is a bad ass film. In fact, it is so bad ass that it physically hurts. But it hurts in a good way, like when you wake up with your arms aching because you power-lifted the day before and it’s been six years since you’ve even seen a gym.

The film stars Sho Kosugi, who is the greatest ninja actor of all-time. It also stars his tiny son, who is also capable of kicking the bejesus out of anyone… and he does. Kosugi starred in a string of ninja movies in the 1980s. This is actually the second film in a loose trilogy referred to as The Ninja Trilogy, unofficially. The first film being Enter The Ninja, which also stars Django himself Franco Nero, and Ninja III: The Domination. All three films star Kosugi and were produced by the awesome Cannon Films.

The plot to this thing is interesting. Kosugi’s movie family is murdered by ninjas except for his mom and his baby. His American friend convinces him to go to America to sell Japanese dolls. Kosugi does this but we learn that the dolls are used to smuggle heroin into the States. The baby, who is now a bit bigger than a toddler, finds this out, even though he doesn’t know what the mysterious powder is. Kosugi has to fight thugs, then a mysterious silver-faced ninja shows up and we get a big ninja versus ninja finale on a downtown rooftop.

One of the coolest things about this movie is the action. Kosugi is a master of execution in both the delivery of his sweet moves and how he takes out the baddies. Also, the film features a car chase where one of the cars is Kosugi on his feet! A ninja on foot is just as effective as Steve McQueen’s car from Bullitt!

I was worried that this film would play like crap, all these years later. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I still love it. In fact, I’m pumped to watch the other two films in the Cannon Ninja Trilogy.

Rating: 8/10