Enter the Ninja

Studio: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

May 26, 2015 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Enter the Ninja was likely intended as nothing more than a slapdash cash-in on the 1970s' martial arts movie craze. (Just look at that shameless, knockoff title!) Practically by accident, however, it was a major international hit, and started the ninja mania of the 1980s: a pop cultural obsession that spread across movies, cartoons, comic books, and video games of the era. The film was directed by b-movie king Menahem Golan, one half of the team behind The Cannon Group, the legendary production company that produced such VHS-era gems as Delta Force, Masters of the Universe, Breakin' and Cobra. His crazy choice to hire 40-year-old spaghetti Western star Franco Nero to play the film's (literal) "white ninja" may seem suspect, but the odd casting is just where the delightful nuttiness of Enter the Ninja begins.

We're introduced to middle-aged badass Cole (Nero) at his graduation from Ninja School. After successfully dispatching all of his classmates in an extremely dangerous-looking jungle warfare simulation, we see him declared a master of ninjutsu; this sparks an odd beef with classmate Hasegawa (Sho Kosugi), who has a problem with the idea of a non-Japanese ninja. (Remember this: it becomes important later!) Cole packs up his ninja suit and associated arsenal and heads to the Philippines to visit his old war buddy, Frank, and meet his new wife, Mary-Ann (Susan George). Cole's ninja training turns out to be a lucky coincidence, as Frank's run afoul of an evil businessman named Venarius (Christopher George.) Venarius seems to have studied every page of the Bond villain handbook: he lives in a fancy tower; keeps a swimming pool and half a dozen bathing beauties in his office; buys matching white suits for his private army of goons; and whose most trusty henchman has a hook for a hand. Venarius wants Frank's farmland, and he sends thugs to terrorize the impoverished villagers who live on it. Luckily, Cole happens to be around to kick the shit out of literally dozens of these guys. Venarius comes to the logical conclusion that the only way to kill a ninja is with another ninja. Conveniently, one of Cole's bitter rivals is available for hire at the very same ninja school from which he just graduated...

That plot synopsis hardly conveys just how insane Enter the Ninja actually is. It's budget '80s action in all of its cheeseball glory, complete with goofy one-liners (i.e. the bad guy's hilarious whine: "I want my black ninja, and I want him now!") The dialogue was dubbed in post, as Nero reportedly couldn't pull off a Texan drawl; the rest of the cast were also dubbed in a wide variety of accents, from British to Swedish, none of which make very much sense within a criminal organization based in Manilla. Nero wasn't a martial artist, either—there's obviously a stunt double in the action scenes, conveniently obscured by the white ninja garb. At least Nero oozes enough action star charisma from behind his bushy mustache that it's easy to forget just how implausible he is as this particular story's hero.

Where Enter the Ninja truly succeeds is in making ninjas look unbelievably f*cking awesome. The movie wastes zero time nailing that point home: the opening credit sequence features Sho Kosugi—in full ninja garb—demonstrating his whole armory, from sai to shuriken. As if that weren't enough, the film's first scene is an extended, near-silent ninja combat free-for-all, in which all of the same weapons are immediately put to use. Who cares if half these tools of death-dealing were never historically used by real ninjas? If nunchaku look sweet, you damn well bet these ninjas will be swinging them around like maniacs.

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray edition of Enter the Ninja only includes the film's appropriately sensational trailer as a bonus feature. That's hardly a knock on this fairly-priced release, though—the film itself looks ridiculously good for a movie that's seemed doomed to shoddy transfers since its home video heyday. (The funky soundtrack sounds great, too.) Enter the Ninja is corny, nonsensical fun, and shouldn't be missed by b-movie fans; it's a terrible movie that's far more pleasurable than many "good" ones.

www.kinolorber.com/video.php?id=2010
 

Author rating: 6.5/10

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