November 17, 2015

Revisit: Ninja III: The Domination

When your ol' pal Carl Eusebius was but a wee tot, he loved him some Japan. My age being in but single digits (my IQ of course was already immeasurable due to my godlike intellect), I loved four things: He-Man, Godzilla, Voltron, and ninjas.

Now you may have noticed that three of those things are Japanese, and all of them are completely fictional. Yes, in the early '80s Japan was still a mystical wonderland full of inscrutable little folk and their quirky habits, like taking their shoes off indoors and brutally subjugating neighboring countries. It was a more innocent time, before hentai, weeaboos, Pikachu and DESU. Ninjas were kind of like Batman before regular people liked Batman. They dressed in cool costumes, moved in the shadows, carried all kinds of gadgets like grappling hooks and caltrops, and kung fu-ed the shit out of guys. And they had fake-ass mythical weaponry that looked awesome despite having not a chance in hell of being actually effective in combat. Xena: Warrior Princess had her chakram, Batman had his batarangs, and ninjas had shuriken. That's a fancy Japanese word for a star-shaped knife ninjas threw at people to one-shot one-kill them. That's right, no matter where the "ninja star" hit you and penetrated up to one-quarter of an inch through your skin, you immediately keeled over dead. And if the ninja felt like getting closer, he had the ninja-to (that's Japanese for "ninja sword" desu), a shittier version of the katana that was cheaper to make since ninjas historically probably weren't magical superhuman assassins but were peasant bandits who resisted samurai rule by murdering samurai in ambushes, at least when they weren't waylaying and robbing upper-class people.

But we're talking movie ninjas here. The ones who could throw ninja stars and disappear in a cloud of smoke and scale walls barehanded and take off their masks and breathe fucking fire out of their fleshless undead skulls. And in the early '80s, your movie ninja was Sho Kosugi. For those few years that ninjas were king of young white boys' screens, Sho made a half dozen kickass ninja movies. Enter the Ninja. Revenge of the Ninja. Pray for Death. Nine Deaths of the Ninja. Rage of Honor. In the pre-Jackie Chan Rumble in the Bronx years, this was the best martial arts you were gonna get. While mainstream America had its Chuck Norrises and its Jean-Claude Van Dammes, we young lads who could actually find Japan on a map had Sho. He may not have been any better an actor than The Non-Presence That Kicks or the Muscles from Brussels, but as a martial arts performer, he was the best thing the Empire had until we discovered a little known place called Hong Kong....

But all good things must come to an end, and the ninja craze ended quickly indeed. By 1984, the genre was already played out, and so of course schlock auteurs Golan and Globus chose this moment to ensure its final destruction by making a ninja movie of their very own. Take ninjas, mix in some aerobics, garnish with a dash of The Exorcist, and you have the death knell of the ninja film, or as I call it, Ninja III: The Domination.

What can you say about a movie that begins with, to quote a random IMDb person, "the greatest golf course ninja motorcycle helicopter massacre ever put on film." Yes, this movie begins with Evil Ninja murdering, uh, someone, in the middle of a public golf course in broad daylight. (You can see why these cunning assassins were so feared.) Our Evil Ninja proceeds to slaughter approximately 7000 cops who attempt to arrest him, using all of his ninja skills: throwing stars, swords, punching through steel, and editing the film so that motorcycle cops who have already been killed magically appear back on their bikes just in time to crash spectacularly into a river. Two cops in a helicopter, seeing about a dozen cops wiped out by this guy, radio their buddies to "proceed with caution". Proceed with caution?! How about calling in "Officer down!", ya mooks. These two guys politely ignore Evil Ninja as he climbs up a tree directly in front of them and then even more kindly fly very close to the top of the tree so he can climb up the skids and kill them.

Evil Ninja kills a few more guys until the script finally says the cops can tag him with their guns. They shoot him about 900 times but then foolishly creep slowly up on him to see if he's dead, causing him to immediately pop up and kill another dozen of them. The cops then shoot him approximately 185,000 more times, and this time, finally, he...throws a smoke ball and disappears. I don't know why he bothered to leave, really, since he's proven as vulnerable to gunfire as fucking Superman. While the voices of guys saying things like "Where'd he go?" are dubbed over the scene, the cops disperse to find Our Ninja, whereupon he pops up out of the ground(!). The cops being several entire yards away at this point, he slips away unnoticed.

Thus ends, ladies and gentlemen, one of the dumbest and most inept action scenes in film history. It's right up there with Future War's epic battle between Not Jean-Claude Van Damme and Cyborg Ron Jeremy, as they push empty cardboard boxes at each other.

It turns out Our Ninja is indeed kacked, though sadly not before he happens upon telephone linewoman and aerobics instructor Lucinda Dickey, a true thespian and star of both Breakin' AND Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. He makes her grab his sword (his ninja sword, you pervs) while he mutters in Japanese, and so our Flashdance-Exorcist-Nine Deaths of the Ninja "plot" begins.

Every time Lucinda sees one of the cops who shot Evil Ninja to death, we see a flashback of Evil Ninja being shot over 9000 times, and in the next scene Possessed Lucinda murders said cop in some baroque ninja way. Somehow no one ever notices Lucinda's presence at each murder scene shortly before someone turns up dead, nor does anyone see her vehicle (a huge fucking telephone van, mind you) speeding either toward or away from the murder scene. At no point do the police make any connection between the guys getting kacked and the shooting of Evil Ninja, including a cop with moar body hair than fucking Sasquatch who stalks and harasses Lucinda until she agrees to become his mistress and seduces him by pouring V8 all over her breasts. Hairy Cop doesn't bat an eye when Lucinda complains of lost memories, missing time, and unexplained injuries even as his friends on the police force are being systematically murdered by what is clearly a professional assassin. He doesn't think it might be suspicious that she suddenly has a ninja sword that she really doesn't want him to examine. It isn't until he takes her to a Chinese Japanese medium (played by consummate professional Hannibal Chew), who causes her to talk all reverb-y and then transform into one of the worst dummies you've ever seen, that he finally gets a clue. Now convinced (I guess?) she's possessed, Lucinda tries to aerobics her way out of Evil Ninja's next possession attempt, crying "No, not again!" even though she earlier claimed not to remember the possession episodes, but Evil Ninja's sword-wobbling-on-a-string-in-a-laughable-attempt-to-appear-to-be-floating will not be denied, and Lucinda is possessed again in a scene that is absolutely not a complete rip-off of Sigourney Weaver's possession in Ghostbusters. (God, even mentioning that film on this blog gives me the heebie-jeebies.)

Fortunately, Sho, looking rather badass in his eyepatch, has been tracking Evil Ninja, who is revealed in a flashback to be the guy who killed Sho's daddy and took his eye. Being rather faster on the uptake than Hairy Cop, Sho realizes that Evil Ninja's spirit is loose and figures out where he'll strike next. Sho intercepts Possessed Lucinda--decked out in the Evil Ninja's spare set of ninja duds that he apparently kept in his secret cave and luckily fit her perfectly--after she caps another of the cops. Sho kung fus her into submission, but of course lets her go when he finds out she's, like, a girl. The cops arrive and arrest Sho as the culprit, even though he's currently nowhere near the crime scene and is dressed nothing like Possessed Lucinda and is wearing a large eyepatch that Lucinda clearly wasn't wearing and he has no weapons and is much taller and proportionally bigger than Lucinda. Other than that, though, it's an airtight case. Hairy Cop gets in the back of the police cruiser with Sho, who tells him to bring Lucinda and Evil Ninja's sword to "the old temple on the hill" (you know the one). Having seen this man exactly twice, one of which is when he's being arrested by his fellow officers, Hairy Cop immediately agrees to do this. He goes home and points his gun at his new squeeze, ordering her to go to the temple. You know, the old one. On the hill. That one.

Everyone arrives at the climax of the movie. Sho has Evil Ninja's body, so that way the white people can step aside while the Asian guys show their stuff. The last ten minutes of the movie are nonstop fighting, pretty decent ninja fighting for the time, as Sho fights first the monks of the temple (mind-mojoed by the Evil Ninja) and then duels with the Evil Ninja himself. Sho ends up sticking a knife through the top of EN's head (ew!), and Hairy Cop and Lucinda love each other, and the movie just sort of stops.

Ninja III: The Domination is unquestionably the dumbest movie combining aerobics and ninjas ever made. Fortunately, Sho went on to make Pray for Death, probably the best of the ninja movies. And, the year after Ninja III came out, the Schengen Agreement was signed, creating a passport-free zone in the precursor to the European Union. At least this movie did nothing to prevent that.


  1. I love this writing (except for the cussing). I could just picture back in the day a small boy saying how awesome it was but now things are bigger and better so the movie is funny. We don't call officer down because they might get more pay if they are the ones to capture the bad guy and to capture him you have to get him where you are and it's more dangerous to fight inside a flying helicopter. My last comment is everyone knows you look smaller when you're running which explains capturing the man instead and you never capture a ninja with his/her outfit on

  2. I love this writing (except for the cussing). I could just picture back in the day a small boy saying how awesome it was but now things are bigger and better so the movie is funny. We don't call officer down because they might get more pay if they are the ones to capture the bad guy and to capture him you have to get him where you are and it's more dangerous to fight inside a flying helicopter. My last comment is everyone knows you look smaller when you're running which explains capturing the man instead and you never capture a ninja with his/her outfit on

    1. We're all adults here, and we can fucking cuss if we want to. Especially if you're as good at it as I am.

  3. I loved ninjas too when I was less old. They were potrayed exactly the same way in HK-produced martial arts/wushu movies, but always as the villains (of course). Maybe I will look for then recommend some Asian ninja films for the Master of the Universe to review :p I think I still love ninjas.