I just can’t get
enough eighties cheese, and this Cannon production is about as cheesy as
they come--and any film that mixes ninjas and demonic possession is a
must-see in my book!
ENTER THE NINJA (1981) and REVENGE OF THE NINJA (1983)
were fun movies, offering up the expected chop sockey foolishness and
featuring the skilled and charismatic Sho Kosugi. In a sharp reversal of
the quality of most movie sequels, NINJA III: THE DOMINATION (1984),
featuring Kosugi in an entirely different role (he plays different parts
in all three movies), is far and away the best film of the series.
That’s not saying a whole lot, of course, since the three films were
produced and distributed by the late Cannon Group, and bear much
evidence of the cost-cutting favored by Cannon’s notoriously cheap
honchos Menahem Golan and Yorum Globus.
In a remote hillside cave a scruffy ninja--i.e.
a black robed practitioner of the “Art of Invisibility” Ninjutsu--finds
a wicked looking samurai sword and wastes no time putting it to use…by
indiscriminately slicing up a bunch of people on a nearby golf course!
Eventually he’s surrounded and shot to death by cops--only to pop back
up and possess the body of a passing aerobics enthusiast named Christie.
Christie finds herself undergoing disquieting
flashbacks to the ninja’s crimes and impulsively following a cop who
helped facilitate the ninja’s death. One night Christie is hypnotized by
a flashing beam emitted from a video game, which deposits a sword that
she grasps lovingly. This somehow leads her to the cave where the whole
mess began, and a cache of throwing stars and other deadly weapons.
From there Christie heads to the home of the cop she
followed and, dressed in full Ninja regalia, kills the fucker! Next she
tracks another member of the death squad to an indoor hot tub and offs
him there, along with his two bimbo girlfriends.
Christie’s boyfriend takes her to a Japanese sorcerer
but the hoped-for exorcism doesn’t happen. Christie remains possessed,
and embarks on a cop killing spree.
Shadowing her, however, is another guy schooled in the
art of Ninjutsu: the tough but kind Yamada, who was nearly killed by the
guy whose soul is dominating Christie and now wants revenge!
This film begins in agreeable fashion with an eight
minute blast of slashing, stabbing, piercing and shooting--and so runs a
serious risk of peaking too early. Yet director Sam Firstenberg keeps
the action and silliness jumping, from a ludicrous aerobic smack-down to
an even more ludicrous ketchup-enhanced sex scene. The film’s pinnacle
is the attempted exorcism sequence, which with its ultra-garish lighting
and outre camera angles is as insanely over-directed as just
about anything I’ve seen.
The narrative is complete nonsense (like anyone was
expecting otherwise!) and the Sho Kosugi choreographed action
sequences will never rival those of ENTER THE DRAGON or THE FIVE DEADLY
VENOMS. Firstenberg and Kosugi, however, make up for their lack of skill
with a lot of enthusiastic carnage (most evident in the opening
kill-a-thon, of course). The film for all its faults is unpretentious
and action-centered, just as you’d expect from a ninja movie. The
martial arts slaughter, combined with the horror business, makes for an
irresistible package, a definite case of two great tastes that taste
NINJA III: THE DOMINATION
The Cannon Group
Director: Sam Firstenberg
Producers: Menahem Golan, Yorum Globus
Screenplay: James R. Silke
Cinematography: Hanania Baer
Cast: Sho Kosugi, Lucinda Dickey, Jordan Bennett, David Chung, Dale
Ishimoto, James Hong, Bob Craig, Pamela Ness, Roy Padilla, Moe Mosley,
John LaMotta, Ron Foster, Steve Lambert, Earl Smith