Here I go again, another “memory movie” review, actually two, since this is a double feature. It all started in the early 80s when the family finally decided to get cable, this meant a double dose of HBO and Spotlight. Adelphia Cable dropped Spotlight years later and replaced it with Showtime. I miss Spotlight. I think most of everything I saw was on that channel and Enter The Ninja (1981) was the movie that introduced me to what a ninja was. First impressions, very cool. They had specialized martial arts abilities, really great selection of weapons, and wore special outfits that, for this movie anyway, ranged from white, black and maroon. The color juxtaposition from each other as well as the environment was just simple eye candy. I think I watched this movie every damn time cable ran it.
The movie stars Franco Nero as Cole, the good ninja, and we know this because he’s dressed in white when he goes into battle. And what I didn’t know until I saw the movie Killer Mermaid (2014, aka Nymph) was that Nero’s voice was dubbed. He had a small role in Killer Mermaid and because of his accent in that film I hit up Enter The Ninja on IMDB to learn: “Franco Nero’s voice is completely dubbed entirely because the main character of Cole originates from Texas and Nero didn’t have the voice to match either an American or a Texas accent.”
The movie wastes no time in showing us ninjas in action. The whole opening of the film is Nero, fully decked out in ninja uniform and armed to the teeth with their trademark weapons, being stalked through a jungle in Japan by black clad and bad guy ninja, Hasegawa (Sho Kosugi in his movie debut), with his maroon clad (think Star Trek’s “Red Shirts” because none of them survive) ninja group. Why this is happening isn’t fully clear until Cole manages to take out all the Ninja “Red Shirts,” and make it to a residence where a man allows Cole to take his head off with his sword. This man wasn’t killed though. It was a dummy, but filmed to make us think Cole randomly took this guy’s head without any retaliation. This opening was Cole’s final test in becoming a full-fledged ninja. Hasegawa has a problem with this because Cole’s a white dude, an American, who has no business learning the ways of ninjutsu. After the opening Hasegawa exits the picture for a long while.
Cole heads to the Philippines to visit his best friend and ex-soldier buddy, Frank (Alex Courtney), and his smokeshow of a wife, Mary Ann (Susan George). He’s called him there because they’re being harassed off their land by corporate slime, Venarius (Christopher George) because there’s oil there, and he feels Cole might be able to help. He does too, kicking many asses of the goons Veniarius has hired, but it all gets tragic when Venarius decides to call in another ninja to combat Cole’s own ninja abilities. This is where Hasegawa comes back into the picture. He murders Frank one night and kidnaps Mary Ann, which leads to the requisite showdown inside Venarius’ building and in an arena nearby. After he deals with the corporate slime, he and Hasegawa face off in the arena as ninjas! No surprise Hasegawa is eventually killed.
The martial arts gets better as the movie goes on, and its clear Nero is not an adept fighter, but all the ninja scenes with the stunt doubles and Sho Kosugi’s battle at the end make up for all that. Kosugi has only played a bad guy three other times as I recall, in the Lee Van Cleef action series The Master (1984) that ran for only 13 episodes, Blind Fury (1989), which recently hit blu-ray from Mill Creek Entertainment in one of their triple feature releases, and Ninja Assassin (2009). Enter The Ninja made money for Cannon Films so they followed it up with a sequel, Revenge Of The Ninja (1983), and with a third, Ninja II: The Domination (1984). These two films are sequels in name only though; neither of them carries over any of the plot or the characters from Enter The Ninja. Sho Kosugi is the only constant connecting all three. The breakout star from Enter was Kosugi and Cannon turned him into a hero for the follow-up films.
In Revenge Of The Ninja (1983) Kosugi plays Cho Osaki, and just like in the start of Enter The Ninja we are gratefully thrust into more ninja-on-ninja violence this time with Kosugi as the hero as he and is American friend, Braden (Arthur Roberts), return from a walk to Cho’s home to find most of his family killed. The only two survivors are his youngest son, Kane, who his wife hid in the bushes before she was killed, and his mother. They even killed off his older son. Poor kid took a throwing star right between the eyes! There’s no explanation why this ninja squad targeted his family, or how he and Braden became friends. In a character reversal from Enter The Ninja where the American ninja was the good guy, here Braden, a “secret ninja,” is the bad guy! It’s revealed later he’s the one killing off certain business associates, and he wears a silver mask to protect his identity.
After the ninjas re-appear and try to take out Osaki, he skillfully manages to terminate everyone one of them in one of the movies better action sequences. Braden then convinces him to come to America and live where life will be better, but his mother knows the truth, that he’ll never be able to run from his destiny, which seems to imply whatever “blood feud” the Osaki lineage was involved with might follow him to the U.S. at least the violence of it will, and she was right, it does.
Cut to six years later and Cho’s son (Kane Kosugi) is six, and Cho and his mother seemed to have gotten free of the violence, that is until we see who Braden really is. Cho has opened up an art gallery and has imported custom made dolls to display, but there’s heroine in those dolls and Cho’s business partner, Braden, was responsible for getting them here. There are gangsters thrown into the mix in this ninja flick and Brayden is getting screwed by one of the local families on payment over them, so he decides to make an example out of them and kills a few choice members of mob boss, Caifano (Mario Gallo) “family.”
Braden also kills Cho’s mother and eventually kidnaps his kid and the blond, smokeshow assistant, Cathy (Ashley Ferrare), he keeps around. Cho is now forced back into his ninja ways as he brings his assassination techniques to Caifano’s high-rise where Braden is also present killing Caifano and his men. Martial Artist, Keith Vitali, has a small role has a cop who befriends Cho and helps him in his high-rise onslaught, but gets mowed down by Braden. So, now Cho has two deaths he has to avenge, his mother and his new friend, and it all comes to an end on the roof!
This final confrontation is the second best, probably the first best now that I think about it, ninjutsu sequence in the movie. It starts in a volley ball court and moves around to different locations on the roof as both ninjas try to kill each other with just about every goddamn ninja weapon they have on them. Looking at the movie now as an adult, yes, there is an evident “cheese factor” to it all, as both men perform stunts that would naturally imply they must have “powers” of some kind, or mind-blowing good luck, but I still enjoy most of Kosugi’s ninja movies.
Revenge Of The Ninja compared to Enter has more gore in it as well. This is obvious right in the beginning with the family massacre and his kid getting starred in the head, but the sword kills are more graphic and bloody. There’s a throwing star death in the middle of the film where a guy gets it right in the eye, or beside his eyeball, and when they turn him over his eyeball is partially sticking out. Shiver. I’ve always been squeamish about eye trauma in films. And in the last act a gangster gets his hand cut off, another takes a hatchet to the head, and the death blow Cho gives Braden results in a massive jettison of blood from his chest. Some of this gore, as I understand, was edited in the theatrical cut, and for the subsequent VHS, but it’s all been restored on this blu-ray. I wonder which version I saw on cable then?
Enter The Ninja‘s first appearance on DVD in the U.S. happened in 2011 through MGM’s MOD program, but Revenge Of The Ninja made it to disc earlier in 2003. Both films didn’t hit blu-ray until 2015 through Kino Lorber Studio Classics, and that was on separate discs. Australian distributor Umbrella Entertainment’s release of both films has the added advantage of being a double feature blu, which you can order from their site here, or from Amazon U.S. here.
REVERSE COVER ART (BELOW)
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.85:1 high definition widescreen—2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio–No subs
I don’t own the Kino Lorber versions of either movie, so I can’t compare the transfer, but both movies looked real good on Umbrella’s blu!
Extras included . . .
- Original Theatrical Trailers for each film
The only downside to this double feature, if you’re a fan of extras, is the lack of extras. Kino’s Enter The Ninja only had a theatrical trailer, like Umbrella’s here, but Kino’s Revenge Of The Ninja came with a commentary, and an intro (the behind-the-scenes gallery mentioned in ads did not make it onto the disc for some reason), so keep that in mind when choosing which version you might want to buy.
(NOTE: Umbrella’s blu is region free, so it’s playable on U.S. blu-ray players).