I wonder how many parents ignored the 18 rating on the cover of this and just thought “Ninja KIDS? How bad could it be?” I wonder then how many children had their minds blown to smithereens by the sex/gore ninjoid insanity of Ninja Kids : Kiss Of Death… To clarify, there are no kids in this movie. It is not a movie for kids. Got that? Good. Let’s move on then.
Of all the names synonymous with ninjas, Alexander Lou is the one who gets the least respect, despite starring in at least 13 different movies with ninja in the title, one of which was 9 hours long (Ninja : The Final Duel)! He may not have had the dark mystery of Sho Kosugi or the relentless prolificity of Godfrey Ho but Lou definitely deserves his place in the Ninja Hall of Fame and I’m looking forward to covering more of his work on the blog. I’m starting with Ninja Kids : Kiss Of Death. It’s a fine introduction to the kind of Lou-nacy you can expect and, doubtlessly, that garish UK VHS art of the monster and the naked woman with the enormous backside (neither of which feature in the film) made an impression on many corruptible minds.
Showing once more Lou’s propensity for long films, Ninja Kids is a 90 minute edit of a far longer piece called Ninja Death (aka Ninja Tiger) that runs across three films and is nearly five hours in total. The effect of chopping out over three hours of plot is a dizzying one. I timed it and not a single two minute section of Kids passes without there being a fight. If it’s wall-to-wall ninja mayhem you’re after, you’ll struggle to find a more heightened slice of it anywhere. Even the credits sequence – a collage of the most outlandish looking characters performing acrobatics against a bright red background – is off-the-chain nutty.
Lou plays Shaku (or “Tiger” in the full length version), a pimp whom we meet in a bizarrely goofball opening exchange with a funny customer. The guy warns Shaku “the girls won’t like it the way I want it” and, after much discussion, we soon find out that “the way he wants it” is for free, so Shaku beats him up! The odd time waster aside though, things are going pretty well for the brothel until a Japanese girl sets up a place across the road and threatens to steal all Shaku’s business. She’s not what she seems, however. Rather than a madame, she’s actually a ninja on a mission to protect the long lost son of a murdered princess who has no idea of his true identity (or his calling as the “Young Master”)… Could it be Shaku? If it is, it’s a good thing his martial arts skills are the key to his destiny because his bedside manner is quite terrible (“Let me tell you, I could make you jump around a bit! I’m an expert at filling holes!”).
The plot just about makes sense but probably seems crazier than it needs to on account of the heavy editing. The relationships between the characters are complex in the way of a soap opera rather than a 90 minute film and with someone popping up every few scenes to shout “I’m your brother/mother/sister/uncle!” it becomes quite comical. In addition, plenty of characters you think are dead get better so you have a number of “I’m not dead! AND I’m your brother/mother/sister/uncle!” reveals too. In the full version, you’ve got more time to digest each of these but in Ninja Kids it’s just non-stop twist upon twist, which makes some of the more melodramatic dialogue seem gloriously absurd. My favourite line is about how one character makes “The cardinal mistake of all ninjas: to fall in love!”
This mix of high-camp soap and ultraviolence is hugely entertaining and what’s really impressive is the sheer amount of ninjing we get (and that’s what we’re all here for). Lou is a great martial artist (he was the Taiwanese Tae Kwon Do champion before he went into acting) and the choreography is as brutal as it is bonkers. The bad guys score points too for wearing such natty suits. The main evil ninja wears a gold lamé suit (my favourite kind of ninja – you can’t be stealthy ANYWHERE in shiny gold but it looks great!) and has a habit of smashing up Buddhas to show just how evil he is. There’s also a demon ninja henchman who wears a devil mask and can fly. The demon ninja goes bezerk at the sound of a magic flute too, which makes for some pretty delirious sequences.
There are somewhere in the region of 30 – 40 cannon fodder ninjas too. I long lost count of how many people get killed in this, in a blur of eye-gouging, mace-to-the-face splatter and arterial spray that jettisons from every orifice (regardless of their proximity to actual arteries). These disposable heroes are acrobatic as Hell and can do magical tricks like tri-location but even that can’t save them. Perhaps the highlight of it all however is the group of elderly crippled kung-fu masters who called themselves The Handicap Array! Yes. We get hunchback-fu in this movie and it is amazing.
The final fight, in which Lou shows off the “Illusion Style” technique he’s been learning throughout the film, is mindblowing. I’m not going to spoil it but I guarantee you won’t have seen a “finishing move” quite like this one before… Throw in a bunch of low-rent gratuitous nudity and a feverish soundtrack of crashing symbols, ethereal qinqins and flutes and the overall effect of the film is “How can this even be real? What am I watching?”
Don’t get me wrong. Ninja Kids is pure exploitation – the one-line synopsis is basically “Kung-Fu Pimp vs Flying Demon Ninja” – but it’s the highest grade of trash. By literally cutting out the slow bits, it reduces the ninja movie to just scene after scene of improbably excessive sex and violence that somehow never gets boring. With each fight, I found my jaw dropping further and further onto the floor at just how far they were willing to take it. Ninja Kids is bezerker style ninjing at its best. Three Ninjas this ain’t.