The Ninja Trilogy (Blu-ray/DVD Review)
Rated: 18(UK)/Region B/1:85 & 1:78/1080p/Number of Discs 5
Available from Eureka Entertainment
Disc 1 (Blu-ray Disc)
Enter the Ninja (1981)
Directed By: Menahem Golan
Starring: Franco Nero, Susan George, Shô Kosugi
After just completing his training at a ninja school, an army vet travels to the Philippines and finds himself battling a land grabber who wants his war-buddy’s property. He must also fight his rival.
Franco Nero, Django himself, plays a man who once he is one with his ninja chee, goes off to visit some friends and ends up on the bad side of some folks trying to strong-arm the locals. This movie seemingly has it all in some ways. We open with a great ninja sequence at the start, we build the plot, and we have a lot of other cool ninja action and plot development tossed in as well. You will also notice a lot of cult movie favorites here as well. We have Nero, but we also have the grandpa from Silent Night Deadly Night, Susan George from such films as Straw Dogs and The House Where Evil Dwells, Christopher George from Fulci movie fan, and Mr.Ninja himself, Shô Kosugi, who plays the one dude from the ninja clan that doesn’t approve of Nero being a ninja. That comes to a head in one very cool ninja battle in the film, that is just as entertaining as it is outrageous. Basically, you could say that about the entire movie of Enter the Ninja. It has some slow parts here and there, but it is still my kind of movie.
When you have action in this movie, I really believe it is done right. Nero is a guy who I will always see as Django, but I do enjoy his part in this movie, even if it is awkwardly dubbed. At this point, after seeing him play the hero in as many ninja movies as I have, I’m not sure I like seeing Shô Kosugi play the bad guy, but it is what it is. You have a lot of people out there that will tell you how bad Enter the Ninja is made, but they fail to tell you how much fun the movie can be and it is that if nothing else. On the transfer side of things, it looks good. Now these were all cheaply made movies and you can’t go into this expecting to see eye-popping HD transfers, but this is very solid-looking and is just fine in the looks department as far as I am concerned. All in all Enter the Ninja isn’t a perfect movie, but it doesn’t really have to be in order to be what it is, a fun ninja movie.
Quality of Transfer: 82%
Revenge of the Ninja (1983)
Directed By: Sam Firstenberg
Starring: Shô Kosugi, Keith Vitali, Virgil Frye
After his family is killed in Japan by ninjas, Cho and his son Kane come to America to start a new life. He opens a doll shop but is unwittingly importing heroin in the dolls. When he finds out that his friend has betrayed him, Cho must prepare for the ultimate battle he has ever been involved in.
Could this be the blueprint for ninja movies? It has everything you love about the genre. We got a man who’s family is murdered and then he is double crossed seeking out vengeance and the ending result is a movie that seems to be more than half a giant karate battle. That is my kind of movie right there and this movie is a joy to watch. Over the top things are happening left and right and you are never sure if you need to laugh or not, but you won’t be able to turn away from it regardless. I’ve heard people say that this isn’t a good movie and maybe in some regards it isn’t, but it is the type of movie anyone who digs cult movies will enjoy, for one reason or another, even if the reason turns out to be really silly. If you want a ninja movie with loads of ninja stuff in it, then Revenge of the Ninja is just the movie you’ll want to see.
So in this movie we see people being killed with darts, we have a small child in a pink shirt beating up bullies, and we also have an old lady doing flips. We also have a hero that is so at one with his ninja self that he can catch a whole lot of arrows coming in his direction with one hand. If that doesn’t make for a good time I am not sure what does. The movie also has moments of gore and effects that any fan of horror and cult films can really appreciate. Outside of that it is an action-packed good time that everyone who loves ninja movies NEEDS to see. As I’ve said before, I’m not sure if this movie or Pray for Death would be the greatest ninja movie of all times, but in my opinion, I’d pick one of the two. Like Enter the Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja looks good, but not mind-blowing on Blu-ray. But it still karate kicks the old DVDs of it and are about the same (could very well be the same) as the American Kino Blu-ray release.
Quality of Transfer: 84%
Disc 2 (Blu-ray Disc)
Ninja III: The Domination (1984)
Directed By: Sam Firstenberg
Starring: Shô Kosugi, Lucinda Dickey, Jordan Bennett
The body of a sexy aerobics instructor is invaded by the evil spirit of a dying ninja. At first, changes in her behavior is limited to having strange interactions with an arcade game, doing sexy things with V8 juice, and being attracted to an unusually hairy police officer. But soon enough, she’s systematically killing, ninja-style, the officers responsible for the ninja’s death, and can only be stopped by another ninja!
So basically a female aerobic instructor is possessed by an evil spirit of a fallen ninja when coming to his aid. The spirit seeks revenge on those who killed him and uses the female instructor’s body to carry out his mission. The only way the spirit will leave the aerobic instructor’s body is through combat with another ninja. To put it simple, Ninja 3 (Which has nothing really to do with Enter the Ninja or Revenge of the Ninja, but they have nothing to do with each other) is ridiculous. I mean that in the best way possible. You can’t take what you see on-screen seriously and that makes things all the more fun. In this story we get a girl who works for the phone company that gets possessed by the spirit of a ninja. Pretty soon she’s climbing more polls than just the phone ones when she runs into a male cop. Adding to that she is being made against her will with the spirit of this ninja to kill off his cop friends and this is all leading to battle with another ninja played by the legendary, Sho Kosugi. The movie lacks logic, but I still love it.
And what is not to love? Yes, the movie has a lot of logic flaws and corny effects, but we still get a great deal of ninja action and one of the more creative uses of V8 juice you will ever find. I also think the transfer here really stands out above and beyond most, especially over the other two in this box set release. This is a 1984 film from Cannon, but the transfer stands about in this set and looks really nice overall. If you loved this movie before you will love it even more now. If this was your first time seeing it, it is goofy, but you will enjoy it for that fact. Yes, this could be what a lot of folks call a bad movie, but I believe it might also fit the whole “so bad that it is good” mold as well. If you have a sense of humor, I think you will enjoy this Exorcist/Ninja hybrid.
Quality of Transfer: 90%
– Booklet – Full color, 30 page, booklet with an essay by C.J. Lines entitled In the Gutter, Looking at the Throwing Stars
Enter the Ninja
Revenge of the Ninja
– Audio Commentary – With director Sam Firstenber, stunt coordinator Steve Lambert and moderated by Bill Olsen
– Introduction with Sam Firstenber
Ninja III The Domination
– Audio Commentary – With director Sam Firstenber, stunt coordinator Steve Lambert and moderated by Rob Galluzzo (Fearnet)
*All three movies are also on their own DVDs*