When you see the logo for Cannon Films at the beginning of your ’80s movie, you know you’re in for a certain level of quality: in the ’80s, Cannon were trying to be the biggest action movie studio in the world, making money on some real exploitation gems with slightly higher budgets than you’d normally get. They were masters of seeing trends and capitalizing on them, and in 1984, ninja movies were all the rage. But so too, off of the success of
Ninjas are real evil, I guess. Or at least this one is. The movie opens with one of the greatest first scenes in the history of cinema. A ninja adorned in grey appears in broad daylight on an Arizona golf course in order to perform a hit, in the process slaughtering everyone in sight associated with that target, and then anyone who just happens to see him, and then police officers by the truckload, in and out of helicopters, before finally getting shot repeatedly. So, he’s dead, right? Nope, he gets up and kills two more cops before getting put down, only to disappear under the Earth…somehow.
And that’s when the movie really begins, although how it can possibly live up to the grandeur of that opening sequence is beyond me. We meet Christie, played by Lucinda Dickey, an aerobics instructor and dancer who works as a telephone company linesperson. Clearly this was the
Dickey was a dancer who’d moved to Los Angeles from Kansas to be in movies. After playing a background dancer in
So Christie is slowly being possessed by the spirit of the dead ninja in order for her to go and get revenge on the police officers who finally killed him. She uses her feminine wiles to get the better of the idiot, sexist cops and they die in a series of ridiculous ways. Christie’s new boyfriend, Det. Billy Secord (played by Jordan Bennett, the hairiest man ever to be shirtless for half a movie) knows something’s up with her but doesn’t know what to do. Luckily, a one-eyed man named Yamada (finally, it’s time for Sho Kosugi) has arrived to get revenge on the evil ninja, even if it’s just his ghost.
If I were being picky–and I am–I wish Dickey’s character and Kosugi’s character had much to do with each other. It’s almost like two different movies, and the ninja master sadly feels like a bit of an afterthought amid the rampant insanity of Japanese exorcism and aerobics ninjutsu. It’s also pretty evident the finale was pieced together with people not all together at one time. Kosugi ends up being the one to fight the physical manifestation of the evil ninja once he’s exorcised, which is cool because the two actors are terrific martial artists, but then it leaves Dickey almost totally uninvolved in the climax of the movie, when she’s been the main character throughout, albeit as a possessed bad ghost person.
This is easily one of the top 10 B-movie cult classics of all time, and it’s great to see it look so excellent on both your TV screen and your Blu-ray shelf.
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