Ah, Ninja! Now, c’mon, who doesn’t love a good old Ninja movie? Sure, we may have had one or two Ninja films play at Zombie Club previously (Enter The Ninja in Nero Night and Revenge of the Ninja and Pray for Death both in Night of the Ninja (& Son) Night, but there are still heaps more ninja movies for us to make our way through, and we have three of the coolest, craziest and more obscure of them for you this evening.
Yes, tonight is Ninja Ninja Ninja Night, so called because each one of the three of us have brought a new Ninja discovery to the Zombie Club home cinema. Kicking off the proceedings is Sho Kosugi in Nine Deaths of the Ninja (1985), so called because the lead Ninja is very much like a cat (we presume). Following on from that is Zomblee's choice, Ninja III: The Domination (1984), also featuring Sho Kosugi, which plays out like a cross between a Ninja and an Exorcist movie, which does indeed sound like a great idea.
And finally, Jim ignores Sho Kosugi entirely and instead brings us The Ninja Mission (also 1984), an unusual entry from Sweden which still counts today as one of the highest-grossing Swedish films ever made. So, grab your shurikens, pick up your nunchakus, pull on your Ninja claws and join us as we hood up and go three ways of the Ninja!
Tonight’s Zombie Club was brought to you by Rawshark’s Lollipop Ninja, Zomblee’s Possessed Ninja and Jim’s Swedish Bearded Ninja
Nine Deaths of the Ninja (1985)
Plot Sho Kosugi kicks ass!
Rawshark Nine Deaths of a Ninja opens with a team of crack undercover agents (Sho as Spike Shinobi – an obvious riff on Jedi Ben), Steve Gordon (Brent Huff) and Jennifer Barnes (Emilia Crow) on some mission or training exercise on top of a mountain top. As Sho unrobes ready for action, revealing ninja weapons and lollipops, we realise Sho has ‘gone Kojak’ for his character development in this film. Cue ”very bad James Bond credits” (Zomblee) and a scrolling cast list showing Sho had managed to get his two sons, Shane and Kane Kosugi into the film alongside him.
Moving forward with the plot, we visit Manila where a bus tour, including such tourists as Congressman Morrison, Mr Perkins and Amanda as well as Shane and Kane as two random kids (on holiday?), is busy taking in the sights. However, the bus is soon hijacked by the demented Colonel Honey Hump (”I am Colonel Honey Hump and you are my prisoners”) and her assistant Doctor Wolf (”He likes to kill people and cut them up to see what they had for breakfast”) who are demanding the release of their friend Rahji Mohammed. But as the hijackers kill one tourist member, and try to rape another (foiled by Shane and Kane’s pant-burning antics!), the decision is taken to send in The Special Team, aka Sho and his buddies…
So in they go in their special tracksuits into a sub-James Bond / Ninja style action film that is as ridiculous as it sounds, but also very entertaining. The very Dr Strangelove-like Dr Wolf is just plain bizarre, along with his pants-wearing monkey and the way he insists on being carried through the jungle. Rahji, played by Sonny Erang, is a man of few words, but also fun (”He’s quite good this guy, even though he just laughs which is quite annoying” - Zomblee) as he demonstrates his evil nature by popping kids balloons.
Keen to find the hijackers, Sho Kosugi tracks the released Rahji to a whorehouse, to a madam who owns brothels in houses and boats called the Madam Whoopee’s Home of Unearthly Delights, prompting Zomblee to claim ”She’s got a chain! On land or sea”. Zomblee was also keen to observe Ninja etiquette for visiting such establishments and noted he’d ”never seen a ninja drink white wine before”.
Closing in on the baddies, we briefly take in an underwater fight, including a shot of Sho pulling down an innocent girl’s bikini top, before it all ends in a big face-off with Brent Huff manhandling a ridiculously big gun. Sho strangles Dr Wolf, leaving Colonel Honey Hump and laughing man Rahji to a enjoy a brief few minutes of a some strange loving relationship before Sho kills more ninjas, Brent Huff fires his big gun and Jennifer Barnes, the other Special Ops member), looks on doing as little as she’s done throughout the rest of the movie. Nice.
”Lollipop, this is The Macho Guy – do you read?”
Jim Time for Nine Deaths of the Ninja, a mid-80s, hi-camp martial arts actioner that really is just a vehicle for Sho Kusogi to have loads of fun in a funky kitted out jumpsuit ("Wow, look at all the shuriken - he's got a shuriken belt!" - Zomblee) and to get his kids on screen again, which he manages within two minutes. The movie starts with the Crack Team (or they were called The Special Squad, or something like that) finishing off one of their tame missions ("It's very A-Team, no one's getting injured." - Rawshark), which really is just an excuse for Sho to throw some shuriken, introduce the other main characters and for everyone else to practice a bit of incomprehensible comm chatter ("There's a lot of that in this movie..." - Zomblee), before we're on to the interpretive dance title credits sequence which everyone found so offensive, especially Zomblee.
So, we've got Spike Shinobi (Kusogi, obviously), Steve Gordon (Brent Huff, the good looking but vacant lead from Gwendoline) and Jennifer Barnes (who pretty much does nothing for the rest of the film - I can't even remember her face). They make up the Crack Team I was talking about, and the plot centres around them searching for, and eventually finding, a bus full of kidnapped tourists being held to ransom by the unlikely named and huge-haired Colonel Honey Hump (sheesh!) and Dr Wolf, who can only be described as a poor man's Dr Strangelove.
Their investigations take them from a hotel where Sho fights a load of midget henchmen ("Did you know about this?" - Zomblee) whose boss dies unexpectedly ("He divided on to the suicide box!" - Rawshark) to Madame Woopee's and a bizarre underwater sequence ("Ninjas wear speedos!" - Rawshark). Then we pretty much jump to the final inevitable showdown in the jungle with Colonel Honey Hump (which I still can't believe I'm writing - it feels wrong!) and the mad Dr Wolf.
They navigate a booby trap ("Bring your boobies!" - Zomblee), Sho fights some guys with a sword whose handle has a right-angled configuration ("Why would you need to?" - Zomblee), Brent Huff pulls out the most ridiculous gun since Blastfighter and everybody says the word 'ridiculous' a lot. Sho's kids get a look in again though, with Kane getting out his nunchukas to full effect. Which begs the question actually... ("Who are they with? Are they just on holiday on their own?" - Zomblee). Who knows?
Lollipop this is Control, let me know when you're airborne.
Zomblee Does anyone actually know what the hell Sho Kosugi's sons were going in this movie? As any of you ninja movie connoisseurs will know, they regularly featured in dad's movies throughout the 80s, but in Nine Deaths of the Ninja they are simply there, seemingly on holiday in Manila all by themselves, and making life annoying for those really crap, stupid-looking terrorists who take over a minibus full of unsuspecting tourists. Their objective: the release of huge mentalist terrorist Mohammed Rajid. Why Rajid is so valuable to them is anyone's guess; all he seems capable of is beating people up and laughing inappropriately every few seconds.
Luckily the Anti Terrorist Team are on hand, eh? Steve Gordon (what a macho name), Jennifer, and Spike Shinobi (Kosugi) are quickly dispatched to the Philippines in their fetching grey tracksuit uniforms to bring down these pathetic terrorists led by Honey Hump and Dr Wolf - respectively a crazed bitch wearing loads of make-up and massive hair, and a Dr Strangelove wannabe, complete with wheelchair, white suit and a pet monkey.
The ninja movie genre is populated by so many turgid efforts (yes I'm referring too you, Godfrey Ho) that it takes a real stinker to stand out from the crowd. Luckily, the nonsensically monikered Nine Deaths of the Ninja - which sounds more like some kind of kung-fu giallo - ranks as one of the most entertainingly awful ninja movies ever made. Right from the point you see those sub-007 opening credits, complete with stupid, silhouetted dancers ("Have you got some kind of problem with interpretive dance?" - Jim), you know you're in for a pedigree turkey all the way. The 'villains', if you can call them that, are the least intimidating bunch you're ever likely to see, but so laughably OTT that you probably won't care.
Luckily, no-one seems to be taking this very seriously, least of all the screenwriter, who isn't half as funny as he thinks he is ("Keep your squeeze off my tit!"). Credit where credit is due though, this one also involves a mob of diminutive henchmen, bringing something memorably special to this already-daft opus; the scene where they try to bring down Sho and his two colleagues on their night off is a particular highlight ("You didn't tell me there were midget henchmen in this film!").
So, a bit of a low point for Sho Kosugi really, and he doesn't even get to use his own voice, which I can understand, given the fact that we didn't know what the hell he was on about during Prey for Death. Here, he sounds very deep and manly when he's not taking his aggression out on melons or sucking on lollipops. Lollipop-licking ninjas...Christ, who makes this shit up?
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Ninja III: The Domination (1984)
Plot An evil ninja attempts to avenge his death from beyond the grave, by possessing an innocent woman's body.
Zomblee Ninja III opens in a cave, where a green-suited ninja opens a "ninja toolbox" and promptly uses contents of said toolbox to rub out some blokes on a golf course. After a huge, exciting chase sequence, the cops corner Mr Green Ninja and blast him halfway to kingdom come ("Shame there isn't more squibbage going on...in slo-mo, that's just taking the piss!" - Jim). Not quite dead - presumably because he's really evil - he happens upon Lucinda Dickey, in an unlikely turn as a telephone line engineer. He gives her his magical, wondrous sword, she glows a bit, then he finally dies. But his big evil ninja spirit lives on in the mind of our break dancing telephone queen, who goes in and out of possessed episodes, whereby she slaughters all the cops who riddled him with bullets.
There's a love interest in the form of a cop called Billy who attends her aerobics class, and wouldn't you know it - he was also one of the cops who shot Mr McBad Ninja at the start. Can you see where this is going? Anyway, it soon transpires that it's the sword that is evil, as evidenced by the fact that it levitates and glows one night in her bedroom, which is when she awakens and is faced with some kind of crazy laser show emanating from an arcade machine. It's all very Evilspeak computer graphics for a moment, as the sword floats into her hands and she becomes all evil and angry once again. Which is where the fun really begins. Lucinda soon consults an old Chinese spiritualist, who Jim reckons looks like David Lo Pan from Big Trouble in Little China. Then it goes all Exorcist, as Lucinda turns green, spouting evil ninja talk ("I am a ninja. Ha ha ha ha"), and it's something to behold, I can tell you.
Enter Sho Kosugi to kick nasty lady ninja butt. This being an 80s movie, Sho happens to be out for revenge on a certain nasty ninja who killed his father and threw shuriken in his eye, which is why he wears that rather fetching eye patch in this movie. Lots of fighting ensues, and eventually Mr McBad Evil Green Ninja gets stabbed in the head. Happy days.
Ninja III is pure hokey trash from the heyday of 80s ninjadom. As you will no doubt have guessed, it attempts to fuse this genre with horror, which really pleases trash hounds like us, but I can't imagine that The Times film critics praised it back in 1984. As mentioned, there's a toolbox of ninja trickery involved here, and even the old ninja-swivels-into-ground move is utilised, just because they could. You gotta love it. Some scenes are sublimely fantastic and ridiculous, like when Lucinda dispenses bad ninja justice in the hot tub.
"I heard the word 'ninja'. I want to know what the hell that is!"
Rawshark To be honest, we’re not really sure why they called this film Ninja III: The Domination, a better title would surely have been something like Ninja III: Legion due to its shameless stealing from The Exorcist. On paper it sounds like a good idea to blend the elements of possession with ninjas, but let’s face it, the end result is not really quite as exciting as it makes out.
There is a lot of fun to be had though, as the film sets up its green ninja baddie with an assassination on the golf course. After grabbing some stuff from his ninja weapon stash, he blow darts his victims and runs away. Chased by lots of cops, he initially makes his escape with the old ‘swirl-into-the-ground’ technique, which gives him a brief moment to pass on his sword to a telephone maintenance girl before he gets shot to bits Robocop style by a gang of gun-hungry cops.
It turns out he’s passed his evil spirit on the young girl – Christie (Lucinda Dickey), who also happens to teach an aerobics class on the side – and now she is forced to go on a killing spree, hunting for the cops that killed the evil assassin. Cue 80s styling’s and music, ugly cops pestering our Christie for dates and Sho Kosugi turning up as Yamada, a ninja with an eye patch (first lollipops, now eye patches, Kosugi sure knows how to raid the prop department for character traits!) to get revenge on his sworn evil ninja enemy…
So far, so hokum, but there are golden moments in this film, particularly the magic sword that levitates and becomes, as Zomble described, ”self-unsheathing” (you can quite clearly see the string holding the sword in the air), and of course the classic seduction scene where Christie pours a can of V8 down her shirt and invites her cop suitor to lick it all off. Luckily for us, it does end with a very decent ninja fight scene on the top of a cliff, as the evil ninja (now returned to his old body like a zombie ninja) and Kosugi face off. Zomblee was on hand to offer Kosugi advice on how to dispose of the said zombie ninja - ”if in doubt, stab him in the head!” - but Kosugi knows best, and finally defeats the evil one his own way, which is a good thing cos that evil ninja really was far too cocky for his own good…
"You fool! You cannot stop me! I am the ninja! No one, nothing can stop me!”
Jim More 80s ninja hokum now with Ninja 3: Domination, the official third in the series of ninja movies with ninja in the title that are completely unrelated except for the fact that they have Sho Kosugi in them. This one, as you'd expect from a ninja movie, starts with a mental ninja set piece, as a vicious green ninja hacks his way across a golf course ("He blends in well" - Zomblee) before making his escape through the streets ("Not running down the middle of the road..." - Rawshark), where he's confronted by loads of cops. They gun him down, but he escapes and with his dying breath he gives his sword - and soul with it - to that girl from Breakdance and Breakdance 2: Electric Boogaloo, who in this movie plays a telephone engineer that moonlights as an aerobics instructor. Are you keeping up?
Anywho, from now on the movie blends martial arts fun with exorcism sequences and aerobics, with classic results. The girl from Breakdance, now obviously possessed by the evil green ninja, goes on a bit of a killing spree, killing off one by one all the cops that shot the green ninja at the beginning of the film, except for the lead detective guy who, despite being a real arse and having a very hairy back, she ends up dating. Meanwhile, archenemy of green ninja and general ninja good guy Sho Kosugi is on the next plane over from Japan, intent on exorcising the evil ninja from possessed girl and destroying his spirit for good. Of course he is.
The sequences of the possessed girl going all ninja ("She's found the ninja stash!" - Rawshark) and tracking down all the ninja killing cops are a lot of fun, even if she looks a lot butcher in the ninja threads, if you know what I mean. Sho is naturally as much value for money as he always is, and is sporting his usual heavy eyeliner, ("He's always got eye liner on, he loves it, he should have bought out his own range!" - Zomblee). But the final sequence, where Sho finally exorcises the evil ninja back in to his now zombified body just in time for the final fight, is worth the price of admission and the last 20 minutes are all Sho (the 'Sho' show?). And kids, how do you kill a zombie ninja? "If in doubt just stab him in the head." (Zomblee). Exactly.
Only a ninja can destroy a ninja...
Director Sam Firstenberg
Cast Shô Kosugi
Runtime 92 mins
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The Ninja Mission (1984)
Plot Swedish ninjas!
Jim The Ninja Mission, finally. Did you know that The Ninja Mission is one of the highest grossing Swedish movies of all time, having been released in more than 54 countries? And why do you think that is? Is it because it's an awesome martial arts spectacle, or is it because, in 1984, the straight-to-video market was so hungry for anything with the word 'ninja' in the title that a title like The Ninja Mission was bound to just get snapped up no matter how bad it is? Hmmm...
This movie concerns a Russian Scientist trying to defect to the West with his save-the-world secret formula. His daughter is a nightclub singer who gets her tits out a lot and then gets kidnapped in a bloody shootout after she sings one number, before being re-united with her father. Her father, you see, has also been kidnapped by the Russians, but these Russians are pretending to be CIA and get the Professor to hand over his formula because in the wrong hands it could destroy the planet. Are you following? Good. So, who do you think the Swedish Government send in to sort this sorry mess out? Why, an elite team of Swedish ninjas, of course.
Now, when I said bloody shootout, it's not all like that ("They're doing that again - slow motion death with no squibbage." - Zomblee), and some scenes do drag ("It's one of those films where everything seems to go on for a bit too long." - Zomblee) but at least the film (which features things like lasers, green puke, and those pesky Sweidsh ninjas that shoot darts from their sleeves) isn't predictable - ("you never know what you're gonna get." - Rawshark). And as the film rolls towards is conclusion the plot gets more tense ("Destroy the world so my daughter can live. Urgh, that's a difficult one." - Rawshark), the gore picks up ("Heads and hearts blowing up everywhere - that's brilliant!" - Zomblee) and things wrap up nicely in a very Cold War kind of way.
Well, in a kind of Swedish Ninja Cold War kind of way, which is where you have to suspend disbelief, as the ninjas in this movie have names like 'Olaf' and 'Johansen', and they all have beards. ("They're just not ninjas, I find the whole thing ridiculous." - Zomblee). Yes, I think we all do.
"What was the last thing you remember?"
Zomblee I still do. This was as excruciatingly bad as any third ninja film of the night should be, and you know what? That's ok. My brain had pretty much stopped working at this point and if I recall correctly, my DVD player didn't like the movie very much either because it kept spitting it out like a cheap sausage. Not that I've ever tried to play a cheap sausage (or a 'Sainsbury's Finest' for that matter) into my DVD player. Though it is tempting.
Anyway, as Jim has told you, this was a massive Swedish success (surely that means meatballs in the DVD player?) way back in the hell of the 80s, mainly due to the fact that the world had fully embraced the notion of black-dressed chopsocky men armed with plot-assisting smoke bombs and shuriken. Remember those days? I was mad for it, me. I even made my parents buy me a ninja suit which I wore when pretending to be on crap missions around the house, and also occasionally when playing football with the older lads in an effort to scare them off (it didn't work though, they just pushed me over and ran off with the ball. "They wouldn't do that to Sho Kosugi", I thought.)
They might however do it to dodgy Swedish ninjas who are just a bit rubbish, a bit like this movie in general. That said, it does feature lots of action, and for those of you who bore of silent ninjitsu techniques, then embrace this nonsense, because these ninjas resort to using guns too. That's right, guns. A bit like when those crazy zombies from Nightmare City start using machetes, though that was much better fun.
Director Mats Helge also made hair metal “horror” Blood Tracks, which we’ve already endured at Zombie Club. The same man also made a movie starring David Carradine called Animal Protector, which apparently is every bit as ridiculously bad as it sounds. Go figure.
Rawshark This being a Swedish ‘ninja’ movie, it’s a little, shall we say, different to a normal 80s ninja movie. Not really knowing what to expect, we were buoyed by the fact that the film opens well, with a silhouette credits sequence that was actually better than the one in Nine Deaths of a Ninja, and things continued to look good as we then encounter lots of semi-naked women in spas – well, hey, it is set in Sweden after all.
But unfortunately the film does take a dive shortly after as the plot kicks in, and the ninjas are revealed to be not really ninjas at all, but undercover secret service agents with guns, who only occasionally do anything remotely ninja-ish, prompting Jim at one point to exclaim ”Ooh – look, they just rolled away like proper ninjas!” Yes, the ninja excitement was few and far between, and hardly what you could all ‘of the highest martial arts quality’.
The plot concerns the defection of a Russian scientist called Markov who is trying to create a revolutionary energy source, but he is instead kidnapped by the Russian military, prompting the CIA send in the ninja agents to free him. There’s something about the scientist’s notes being disguised as a romantic novel, the scientist’s daughter is somehow involved, and at one point we’re treated to a girl in a see-through string vest singing the worst 80s song of the whole night in a random punk club. There’s an exploding dart gun, lots of shooting, explosions and a helicopter (”Every film tonight has had a helicopter. And lots of good aerobics!” - Zomblee).
It’s not the greatest ninja ever made, but it is saved by being resplendent with blood and gore. No, not of the Bruno Mattei variety, more of the slow-mo exploding heads and hearts variety. So, don’t come in expecting kick-ass chop-socky ninja action, instead just be aware that this is a fairly ok Swedish 80s action film with lots of guns, exploding darts (”brains and hearts are blowing up everywhere – that’s cool” - Zomblee), godawful synth music and the odd bit of nudity. File under ‘Interesting’.
”My best agent. A Ninja!”
Director Mats Helge
Cast Krzysztof Kolberger
Bo F. Munthe
Runtime 93 mins
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So there you have it, Ninja Ninja Ninja Night, with three ninja films that couldn’t have been more different if we’d tried covering three completely different genres from spy-caper comedy, through to possession horror and finally Swedish action. There were several linking themes, all three films contained helicopters and aerobics sequences, and, seeing as they were all made at the peak of mid-80s ‘ninja-mania’, some pretty bad 80s synthesizer soundtracks.
If pitted against each other, it’s perhaps fair to say that Nine Deaths of the Ninja emerged as victor, it’s entertainingly awfulness and lollipop-sucking Kosugi charming us all. Ninja III: The Domination ran a very close second (hey, it did feature both demonic possession AND a final zombie ninja!), whilst The Ninja Mission, despite being perhaps the least entertaining film of the evening, still had enough classic moments to warrant a projector screening on Zomblee’s living room wall.
Three films on Zombie Club evening are always a little dangerous, often leading to hazy blurred memories of the last movie of the night, so please join us (and god help us) for our next Zombie Club – a five film marathon celebrating all that is good about one of our favourite actors – Mr George Kennedy – a full day event that we’ve dubbed George Kenne-Day!