Friday, December 4, 2009

Kosugi Ninja series

Enter The Ninja (1981)
* * *

Cast: Franco Nero, Susan George, Sho Kosugi, Christopher George

Directed by Menahem Golan

Nero stars as a ninja who after an opening action sequence graduates to lethal ninja, right after the ceremony he visits a friend in the Philippines and protects said friend and fetching wife (George) from land developers, who then employ Nero’s main rival Kosugi. Enter The Ninja is one of the essential kung fu theater classics that rival the classics in the Bruce Li cannon (Though this is clearly not up to Bruce Lee standards.) indeed all of Enter The Ninja is goofy, including a ridiculous climax in which Franco Nero (looking utterly sloppy in the otherwise solid action choreography) employs his kitana, ninja stars and all type of goodies to waste the bad guys before going one on one with Kosugi in the film’s inarguably the most enjoyable movie. As campy and fun as Enter The Ninja is, one finds most of the fun moments come from villains Christopher George and Sho Kosugi. Franco Nero a decent Italian actor looks hopelessly lost in the role as does Susan George who make the least convincing actors to ever be in a ninja flick, although that’s because they try to employ their acting chops to roles that require little talent. This is the film that started the ninja craze and hands down this is well worth a look as a curiosity piece.

Revenge Of The Ninja (1983) * * *

Cast: Sho Kosugi, Keith Vitali, Arthur Roberts, Virgil Frye, Ashley Ferrere, Kane Kosugi, Professor Toru Tanaka

Directed by Sam Firstenberg

Sho Kosugi emigrates to the U.S after a rival ninja clan wipes out his family, leaving only his son and mother as survivors, however his best friend Braden (Roberts, also a ninja) is now a drug lord and has been witnessed by Kosugi’s surviving son , Kosugi puts on the pajamas again, gets the old kitana out and fights Braden in a fight to the death in one of the best ninja movies made in the 80s. Revenge Of The Ninja along with American Ninja 1-2, is ultimately one of the most enjoyable martial arts films of the 80s. The action sequences are staged extremely well, by having Kosugi the lead of the movie makes this a significant improvement over Enter The Ninja, as Kosugi is far more convincing of a ninja and a far better martial artist than Franco Nero. The main flaw with the movie is that Kane Kosugi (real life son of Sho) is utterly annoying, also the film doesn’t have enough ninja versus ninja action, sure there’s tons of action involving ninja versus mobsters and gunners but one would’ve liked to see more ninjas getting their asses kicked. Everything though is made up for by the climax where talented martial artists (though not talented actors, excepting Kosugi) fight in a climax that is surreal in the energetic chaos that finds Kosugi scaling a building and fighting Roberts decked out in ninja gear that includes flamethrowers, ninja spikes and marbles which are used to trip someone into said spikes. While martial arts are known to be pretty short on plot and bad acting, Revenge Of The Ninja is much better than most and in doing so , Revenge Of The Ninja is a classic of the genre and is well worth picking up on DVD. In fact, Revenge Of The Ninja is one of Sho’s better movies and one of the signature flicks from the Cannon studios. In other words, a must see for a martial arts fanatic.

Ninja III: The Domination (1984) *

Cast: Lucinda Dickey, Sho Kosugi

Directed by Sam Firstenberg

Breakin meets Enter The Ninja, in a movie that should meet the trashcan. Real life break dancer Dickey stars as a dancer who is possessed by a dead ninja, a dead ninja that tries to strike back at those that killed him, however only Kosugi knows that only a ninja can kill a ninja, and so an exorcism is in place and then a fight to the death, which staying awake throughout this mess is in fact. Lucinda Dickey is of course no martial artist, so she looks utterly silly, as do the action sequences. The film’s supernatural elements are ridiculous and poorly done. Indeed had this film got out the break dancing and had just non-stop ninja fights this could’ve been half way decent, instead the film is utterly tedious. Kosugi is wasted in a brief supporting role but worst of all, this film takes up too much time trying to showcase Lucinda Dickey and her boyfriend cop’s relationship, a fatal flaw that makes this film utterly unwatchable. In fact at least the Bruce Li flicks in question knew what they wanted to be and didn’t take up time trying to combine really lame elements such as break-dancing and ninjas. In fact this film is one of the worst ninja movies ever made, and don’t let anyone say any different. Thankfully Firstenberg would later redeem himself next year with the vastly superior American Ninja. Ninja III is strictly for die hard martial arts fans that think Bruce Li In New Guinea is just too complicated for the brain. A truly dreadful sequel, do not see it.

9 Deaths Of The Ninja (1985) *1/2

Cast: Sho Kosugi, Brent Huff

Directed by Emmett Altson

Kosugi and Huff star as commandos/martial arts experts who band together to lead the rescue of American children in the Philippines taken hostage by terrorists with a midget army (!) who I think are supposed to be ninjas but probably not. Actually 9 Deaths is for the most part fairly hard to follow, the film is more along the lines of a James Bond flick than a ninja flick, in fact there aren’t even any ninjas in the film, indeed this is more of a Delta Force styled movie than a ninja flick. That said there are some campy laughs to be had. The film’s completely cheap and dime-store quality is hard not to mock, the shoddy action sequences are almost surreal in their ineptitude and the film is just completely insane. The bad guys’ plans don’t make any sense and for some reason the film just jumps around sans explanation. Fans of kung fu camp may find something to enjoy as this is truly as hilarious as bad ninja movies get, seriously how can one not chuckle at seeing ninja comandos fight a midget army but anyone else that asks for quality with their ninja flicks (fun-bad as opposed to so bad it's good) are well advised to steer clear, as this remains one of the shoodiest in the genre and certainly remains one of Kosugi’s worst efforts.


  1. Gotta check out some of these ninja movies, I have seen some of them, but havent re-watched them! And I saw them all those years ago when they were first released. I do remember them being goofy. These will make for a fun weekend thats for sure.

  2. Ninja films are what make the world go round. My site is is still work in progress...But rest assured more ninja flicks will be reviewed!