Friday, May 24, 2013

Ninja III: The Domination Scream Factory Blu-ray/DVD Combo Review

Ninja III: The Domination
"I like your pajamas"

Director: Sam Firstenberg
Writer: James R. Silke
Stars: Lucinda Dickey, Sho Kosugi, Jordan Bennett, James Hong(!)
Year: 1984
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Studio: Scream Factory
Region: A
Buy it from: Amazon

Coming to Blu-ray June 11th from Scream Factory is Sam Firstenberg's amazingly entertaining gonzo ninja possession flick Ninja III: The Domination. The third in an alleged trilogy of ninja films put out by Cannon between 1981 and 1984 (Enter the Ninja and Revenge of the Ninja being the first two entries). I say "alleged" because while it's called a trilogy none of the three films are really related at all. Well, maybe a bit, all three films star Sho Kosugi, all three have the word "ninja" in the title, and all three were produced by Menahem Golan & Yoram Globus, but that's about it really. Oh, and incidentally all three films are completely awesome.

The plot, if you will:

Ninja III starts out with an absolute bang. The mysterious Black Ninja (David Chung) attacks and kills a scientist and his bodyguards on a golf course (what kind of scientist has bodyguards?). He then takes out a couple of golf security guys for good measure. This guy is on a roll, before you even know what's happening he's taking on, and kicking the asses of the entire police force as they chase him through the golf course. After a few minutes several cops in a helicopter fly by to help track him down. Now, you'd think guys 40 feet off the ground in a helicopter would be safe from a ninja on the ground below. Nope, this fucker scales a tree, jumps onto the overpassing helicopter and starts kicking those guy's asses - killing the pilot with a shuriken he throws with his foot! Words cannot describe the insanity of this opening scene, were looking at a good 40-50 deaths in the first 10 minutes. Ninja III is not messing around.

It isn't until the cops completely surround him before they can stop his rampage. They fire hundreds of rounds, they kill this guy 14, 15 times in the span of a minute and he still doesn't die! In an act of desperation he throws one of those ninja smoke bombs to the ground and disappears. One would assume the cops would stick around and perform a hard target search for this guy, maybe send out another helicopter even, but I guess they wanted to get a head start on repopulating the police staff because they just kinda leave. Manhunt? Nah...

Cut to a nearby utility pole a short time later. Chris (Lucinda Dickey, Breakin'), the world's only attractive female phone company worker/aerobics instructor is connecting some wires when she catches a glimpse of the ninja stumbling by. She attempts to help this tremendously injured man but before she has a chance to say a word the ninja grabs her by the hand and possesses her with the spirit of the Black Ninja. The rest of the film follows Chris as the ninja uses her body as a vessel to exact his vengeance on all of the cops who did him in.

She goes on about her business teaching aerobics and misusing V-8 Juice for erotic purposes, only now she also occasionally commits mass homicides during police funerals. Chris' police officer boyfriend Billy (one of the cops who helped stop the Black Ninja) finds a shuriken in her van and begins to suspect that she might be involved, and after a failed Chinese exorcism he calls in some help from a ninja named Yamada (Sho Kosugi, Pray for Death, also awesome). A rule made up exclusively for this movie states that a ninja can only truly be killed by another ninja - you know, because of science. So Yamada must depossess Chris and defeat the Black Ninja to send him back to the grave. Only for real this time.

You haven't lived until you've seen a possessed woman in a tree kill a dozen cops at a funeral with a bunch of arrows. Ninja III is one of those movies that is almost uniformly awful, yet somehow transcends it's awfulness and becomes something truly amazing and endlessly entertaining. Ninja III actually reminds me a lot of Miami Connection. The story is stupid, the acting is poor and the dialogue is even worse, but like Miami Connection the film is frequently hilarious, rarely slows down for more than a minute and contains tons of solid kung fu and wonderfully cheesy music. I could go on and on about this movie, but I don't want to spoil too much for the uninitiated, this is just something you have to see to fully appreciate. This movie rules, check it out. I give it 4 James Hong Exorcisms out of 5.

Things to watch for:
  • Shuriken Belt Buckle
  • V-8 Juice Eroticism
  • She's really breaking this guy's balls
  • Robbie Knevil on the business end of a helmet smashing head kick
  • Firing a shotgun, while riding shotgun
  • Jika-tabi - like mittens for your feet
  • James Hong's mole - I think he used this same mole when he played Snotty in Revenge of the Nerds II
  • Bouncer Arcade game - I hope they held onto this game because it's rare as shit now - as in none left in existence. They could probably fund a sequel with the money they could've gotten had they hung onto that game.


The Disc
As you can see from the above screenshots, Ninja III is kind of beautiful on Blu-ray. Just take a look at the shot of the helicopter explosion, it's gorgeous, really. The image is practically flawless, very sharp and clear, you can even make out individual pine needles on some of the trees. I might even say the transfer is perhaps a bit too good, you can see Lucinda's male stunt person Steve Lambert's face very clearly several times, though I think that only adds to Ninja III's charm. Sound is also quite solid, Body Shop has never sounded better.

Extras are pretty limited, but still very much worth checking out. The key extra is a commentary track with director Sam Firstenberg and stunt coordinator Steve Lambert. Lambert tends to talk over Firstenberg a bit, but it's still a very spirited commentary with greats stories and lots of laughs. We learn that Poltergeist and The Exorcist were major influences, and that Lambert was both the ninja climbing the tree and the cop flying the helicopter in the same scene. We also learn something kind of tragic - a head spinning scene was shot for Chris' exorcism, but was ultimately not used in the final film. Such a shame, that was probably the most amazing thing ever filmed.

In addition to the commentary we also get a photo gallery showing lots of behinds the scenes shots and rare Ninja III poster art.

Final Thoughts
Ninja III is incredible, as is Scream's treatment of the film. Highly recommended for fans of goofball ninja films like Miami Connection or Godfrey Ho's Clash of the Ninja. Releases 6/11, preorder directly from Scream: Ninja III: The Domination

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