Where did this one come from then, eh? Well, it’s no secret that we think ninja movies make perfect Zombie Club fodder, and it was while looking for a copy of Ninja Mission (yes, the Swedish ninja movie by the people that made Blood Tracks, which is apparently as bad as it sounds) that I stumbled upon some info about Chinese Super Ninja. I was sold on the name (I mean, who wouldn’t be?) but it turns out that Chinese Super Ninja is highly regarded, and has a remarkably high rating on IMDB to boot. After buying it from hkflix.com (great site – you can actually compare different DVD releases of the same film so you know you’re getting the version which suits your tastes the most) and watching the first half hour or so, it was quite obvious this was going to be a winner.
And then I found out that there was a fairly unofficial, very exploitative sequel with a very similar plot only involving lady ninjas, and including lady ninja training sequences involving very skimpy and revealing clothes. I couldn’t click ‘Buy It Now!’ fast enough.
Tonight’s movies are bought to you by Jim in association with the Lady Ninja Mud Wrestling Club of Great Britain.
Chinese Super Ninjas (Ren zhe wu di) (1982)
Plot A young martial artist seeks revenge on the Ninja who kills his martial arts brothers and teacher. He finds help in the form of a new teacher (who knows Ninjitsu) and new brothers. Together the four pupils face the Five Element Ninja challenge: Wood, Earth, Gold, Water, and Fire.
Jim The insane Chinese Super Ninja starts with some fighting. A Japanese School has come over and challenged a Chinese school (don’t they always?) so ten fighters line up from each side and face off. Things get messy, however, when the Japanese side's champion, a Samurai, beats a Chinese axe wielder and comments that loss of a fight is loss of life for a Samurai, prompting the Chinese guy to axe his own head off out of pride. Then his Chinese fighting colleague steps up and beats that Samurai with ease, so he has to commit hari-kari, but not before he's thrown a poisoned ring at the master, who's now poisoned and can't use kung-fu for three months. I'm not making this shit up.
So, back at the Chinese School the dead Samurai's Ninja mate turns up and issues a challenge ("So Ninjas and Samurais are both Japanese? Bloody hell!" - Rawshark) and the master sends his best fighters out to face it. The challenge is to fight each of the five element Ninjas - fire, wood, wind, water, earth - but they of course fail miserably as the Ninjas use a bit of that Ninja trickery (like pretending to be trees, for example - "They're tree Ninjas!" - Zomblee). Then Genji, the Japanese Ninja prostitute, infiltrates the Chinese School and sends messages back to her Ninja buddies using a "big message sending hat" (Zomblee), before the ninjas attack in full force and in silence (the sound, or lack of, over that sequence, blew us all away) trapping the master in a room ("They've stapled the door, that's amazing!" - Rawshark, "Uh-huh, Ninja door stapling." - Zomblee) and setting fire to it. Check out the guy with a very Bruce Lee style who tries to save the master and ends up getting stapled to the door too. Very cool.
Anyway, only the young Sho-Chin Ho escapes, because he'd had previous Ninja training. What? A Chinese guy with Ninja training? Exactly, thank God that flashback cleared it all up, as Sho-Chin heads back to his Chinese Ninja master (yeah, I know), meets some other Chinese Ninja students and plots the inevitable end of film rematch. That's the rest of the film.
I'd better go now as I've banged on for too long, but in my defence the plot rattles along, the fights come thick and very fast, and you're never bored. I’ve missed loads out the I’m sure my Zombie buddies will fill you in on, but generally speaking It's quite gory, although as Rawshark said "It's not so much gore as lots of red paint.", and the choreography is a little bit old school but of very high quality, especially in the last 20 minutes with the various revenge matches against the Five Element Ninjas being quite breathtaking. ("Where did they get those poles from, they're fucking amazing!" – Zomblee) If you're in to this kind of thing, of course.
”You haven’t come here to kill me, have you?”
Rawshark Beginning with a scroll of ancient scrolls (”That’s the weapon disclaimer out of the way” - Jim), Chinese Super Ninjas (aka Five Element Ninjas) high-kicks straight into action with what Zomblee described as ”a big gay Kung Fu factory” as loads of guys in white line up for a monster mash-up with some Japanese Ninjas. It’s Old School Vs New School, but when the Japanese lose the ten-round bout, they get all frumpy and poison the Chinese leader and curse all of the fighters with a challenge from the 5 Element Ninjas.
Thus, our Chinese heroes return home and begin to set lots of traps (involving bells and wooden poles) before sending out their best men to meet the challenge. Things don’t turn out too well though as all the Chinese fighters are quickly dismissed (the Gold Ninjas use ‘dazzling’ umbrellas, Wood Ninjas pretend to be trees, Water Ninjas have ”water wings”, Fire Ninjas use er, fire and the Earth Ninjas hide underground poking pointy sticks at the unfortunate Chinese warriors).
With most of the best Chinese fighters now dead, the Ninjas set about laying siege to the Chinese stronghold by getting their girl Zenchi to infiltrate the camp undercover as a ”poor little orphan” who annoys our hero Shao Tien-hao by tidying away his spear. She also spends her time drawing out a map of the camp, which she then fires over the perimeter with the bow and arrows hidden in her hat (”Message on an arrow” sang Zomblee to the tune of Message in a Bottle), and the Ninjas silently attack. Doors are stapled, the Chinese Master is killed, and Shao Tien-hao is tied up in rope in the ‘Petal Method’, but luckily he uses his secret Ninja cunning to escape, find his old Ninja Master and return with his new pals to wreak revenge on the Gold, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth Ninjas (”you know, today’s elements would probably be things like plastic, polyurethane…” - Jim, ”Nylon Ninja!” - Zomblee)…
To summarise, Super Chinese Ninjas moves at a breathless pace, with pretty much wall-to-wall fighting and much clapping from us three Zombie Clubbers. The outfits and hairstyles are brilliant (”We’ve got to get ourselves some fake Chinese Super Ninja sideburns!” - Jim), the weapons even more so (”Poles that become stilts – genius man, I love it!” - Zomblee) and there are some great gory death scenes (”Wow – four-way Tree Ninja Quartering!” - Zomblee). In summary, chop-socky entertainment of the highest order, but if I had to pick, I’d definitely rather be a Fire Ninja – the others were admittedly a bit naff.
”Strange. Samurai knows Ninja”.
Zomblee "He's auditioning for Big Trouble in Little China!" was one of the first things Jim said when we started watching the high-octane fightfest that is Chinese Super Ninjas, and while that probably wasn't the case, there is every chance that this film was a main inspiration behind that ill-fated 80s genre cocktail. The first 10 minutes or so had me worried, though. The relentless fighting was quite, err, relentless, and while that should be a good thing, all those dubbed 'clink clink' sword sound effects were beginning to do my head in, coupled with the worry about the absence of a plot.
Alas, I was being a little impatient, and before Jim could say "I do believe one of those ninjas is a lady", loads of the Kung Fu school fighters are dispatched to kick ninja 'element' ass but end up mostly getting slaughtered by the deadly, cunningly concealed enemy, at least one of whom is the lady Jim refers to ("That ninja has tits man! I can't believe you weren't looking!"). The wounded return to the Kung Fu base where they get attacked yet again by the ninjas, who this time have all sorts of spiky hand weapons (very practical - no, really, for climbing stuff), during which the Kung Fu Master (who Rawshark thought looked like a Chinese Dickie Davis) dies. The Chinese survivors of this night time attack then find an old dude who teaches them 'ninja kung fu' (including useful techniques of "hurling, hitting, holding and locking"), eventually unfurling their new methods to confront and defeat the deadly element ninjas.
It's an outrageous plot, but it's all the more fun for it (kung fun?). The 'element' component really sets this one apart from other martial arts movies of this ilk, and it's also a visual treat, especially if you're watching a gorgeous 'Shawscope' print like we were tonight. The sheer inventiveness (where else would you find a pak choi trap?) earns it great kudos, and all that crazy choreography and weaponry on display constantly amazed us all, even Rawshark - "It's got five spiky claws from me so far!".
Director Cheh Chang was a prolific workhorse for Shaw Brothers, and also helmed the highly regarded Five Deadly Venoms ('Name Your Poison!'). If Chinese Super Ninjas is anything to go by, then I'm well up for more of this.
"I'll use my hands against. Any weapon."
Director Cheh Chang
Cast Tien-chi Cheng
Tien Hsiang Lung
Chen Hei Psi
Runtime 107 mins
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Chinese Super Ninja 2 (Nu ren zhe) (1983)
Plot During the Japanese occupation of Shanghai, a Chinese woman trains in the covert arts. When she arrives in Hong Kong, she learns that her brother works on behalf the Japanese cause. She then pulls together a team of women warriors to stop her brother.
Zomblee Tonight's second movie started abruptly, to say the least. An old Chinese dude is killed while confronting some big time "well respected" Japanese baddie, and all of a sudden we're at some kind of ninja training academy where a Chinese ex-prostitute who "runs like a girl" (Jim) does bikini tricks before graduating, thus getting her official 'ninja badge', kind of like Franco Nero getting his official 'ninja certificate' in Enter the Ninja. And, just like Nero upsetting Japanese ninjas because he's white, she upsets fellow ninjas because, well, she's Chinese, and she's a lady. You can tell by the way she runs, just like Jim says.
Anyway, turns out the old bloke killed at the beginning was her dad, so the rest of the movie sees her avenge his death, but to get to Lee Chung, she must first get past his 4 bodyguards, who specialise in:
1. Tae Kwon Do
2. Trident (eh?) - He "never goes out"
3. Tae Kwon Do (again...eh?) "can kill a bull with his bare hands...loves brothels"
4. Expert with Japanese sword...has a weird crab tattoo on his head. We don't like him.
Before you can say, "Can you find me some girls who can do kung- fu?", she assembles a posse of ex-whores who learn the ancient arts while wearing really ill-fitted, brightly coloured bikinis. Bearing in mind this is meant to be during WWII (don't think I mentioned that did I?), the fashions on display here seem to be not-altogether authentic looking, to say the least. As for the cars, they were similarly ahead of their time; Jim reckoned they were "straight out of Falcon's Crest".
So, the ex-whore ninjas kick the bejesus out of three of the four bodyguards, trying to get to nasty Lee Chung (who by the way has involved himself in some sort of subplot about assassinating a Japanese General, don't ask why, I don't think even he knows), who then hires yet another bodyguard ("We're back up to two bodyguards now" - Rawshark), who, like every other guy in Chinese Super Ninja 2, has a moustache. Then at the end our hero has a big scrap with some guy who burrows under the ground with his sword, yanking her underneath for a short spell, before the "exploding belt buckle finale". You really have to see it to believe it. Utterly ridiculous fun.
"I've been expecting you...you walked right into my trap!"
Rawshark It must be said, that in the tradition of ‘unlicensed sequels’, this film’s not a patch on the first movie, but still contains enough going for it to reap some rewards whilst watching with like-minded film junkies. Bearing no relation to the original, Chinese Super Ninjas 2 is set during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai and focuses on a Chinese woman whose special distracting move is to suddenly make herself appear to be wearing a bikini! Yes, you did read that right.
Although she skilfully obtains her ‘Ninja Badge’ Crystal Maze style early on in the film, Elsa Yeung’s character (there’s no name for her on IMDB, and I never did get to write it down in my notes whilst watching) is upset because her father has been killed (” It’s either father, brother or lover version. We’ve got the father version” Jim helpfully said) so she assembles a small army of female fighters to get revenge on the dastardly killer, Lee Cheung.
A short montage of training later (Chinese Ninja training in the 40s bizarrely involved lots of stretching in bikinis, mud wrestling and fighting in ‘hand print’ underwear it seems), and the team are off to take on the four bodyguards, but either the drink was taking it’s hold by this point, or (more likely) the film is so amateurishly put together that all semblance of plot or even the ”bizarre political subplot” (Jim) is lost, and we just found ourselves getting excited whenever the weird crabhead guy, who looked a bit like Prince Zoltan, appeared on screen.
Anyway, they eventually concoct a plan to get in and kill the General, and we’re treated to a final fight scene with the girl in red and the man in black using lots of reverse shots and flying mace. Our girl hero uses three illusions, so Mr Villain decides to spin underground, and before we knew it, the film ends with belt buckle that explodes, leaving us, the audience, none the wiser. And we never did get to find out who the Skull Face guy was, although Zomblee remembered that ”At the start, Skull Guy appeared and said ‘Go, go, go…”. Shoddy, sexist and in all honesty, a bit rubbish, this isn’t the greatest film ever made, but you just might like it if you’re a fan of exploited female Ninjas and bad dubbing.
”All I know is that I’ve got to kill a traitor and avenge my father”.
Jim Yes, I am a fan of exploited female ninjas and bad dubbing, so help me. That’s why, when I found out Chinese Super Ninjas had an unrelated, pretty awful sequel involving lady ninjas that get exploited, I was in like Flint. And it was well worth it, but only in a sequel to a good movie at Zombie Club kind of way, if you know what I mean.
So, after that initial training sequence with the well reported ‘bikini move’ ("Even ninjas get hard-ons." - Zomblee) lead girl goes and forms a gang with some ninja ex-whores, etc, etc. Queue comedy bikini training ("Girls ninja training mud wrestling sequence." – Rawshark) with outrageous camera angles ("You can definitely see shape there." - Rawshark). Then there was some talky padding and some confusion as to the movie’s historical placement ("I demand to know when the film's set, look what she's fucking wearing!" – Zomblee), before the four bodyguard plot was revealed and the rest of the movie started to present itself ("I managed to write down all 4 bodyguards!" – Zomblee, and he did as you’ll have read above).
To tell you the truth though, it all went a bit downhill from there for me. I remember we all understandably got very excited throughout Chinese Super Ninja and were all struggling by the middle of the sequel. Or rather, I was; I remember having many conversations as to which bodyguard had just got into a fight with which lady ninja and struggling to keep track of which of the four bodyguards were left to fight. And drunken goldfish memory stayed with me right to the end, although I do remember the stuff about the girl ninjas still running away like girls making us laugh, Rawshark getting into the ninja siege mentality ("They like their traps and stuff in Asian warfare." – Rawshark), and everyone getting into it when the crab head bodyguard guard dude has his finale showdown with the lead ninja lady girl.
I do also remember the exploding belt buckle special move finale, but I think only because it was one of the most inexplicable and unpredictable endings top a movie I could ever think of, and I think it will stay with me to my dying days. Those crazy lady ninjas.
"They run away quite slowly. Like girls."
Director Tso Nam Lee
Cast Kuan Tai Chen
Ti Men Chen
Yung Peng Shing
Hui San Yang
Runtime 90 mins
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An awesome martial arts movie (if a little old scholl for many people's tastes) followed by an awesomely bad unofficial sequel. Is that the perfect Zombie Club kung-fu double bill? Hmm, could be.
Incidentally, if you don't want to pair the amazing Chinese Super Ninja with it's crappy sequel, you should think about maybe The Deadly Venoms or it's sequel, The Crippled Avengers, which are apparently as good. The director, Cheh Chang, was amazingly successful in the 70s, with classics like Shaolin Temple, Blood Brothers and Wang Yu's original One Armed Swordsman under his belt, to name but a few. Check out his imdb page here.
Tune in next week for an amazing night of rare kidnap movies at our 100th Zombie Club. 100 Zombie Clubs! 100 Zombie Clubs! Wow...
1st Nov 04 Above all though, it is the relationship between John and Laura Baxter which is the film’s central focus throughout, and the gradual disintegration of their relationship amidst a haze of grief.