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The Octagon (1980)

Although a handful of western films like You Only Live Twice and The Killer Elite had minor ninja characters, The Octagon is arguably the first major one whose plot revolves around them. Between this, Eric Van Lustbader’s Ninja novel (1980) and Enter The Ninja (1981) pretty much every trope of the 80s ninja boom was created. What’s interesting about The Octagon though is how straight it plays things. Even as early Enter The Ninja, there was a level of absurd, OTT action and knowing comedy creeping in (that would heighten throughout the reign of Cannon Films) but The Octagon has no time for such frivolity.

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It’s a Chuck Norris vehicle and, at the time, he was a bona-fide rising star. Having made such an impression in Bruce Lee’s Way Of The Dragon, studios were trying to carve a niche for him as an action star. Riding high on a couple of classics with Good Guys Wear Black and A Force Of One, The Octagon built on his reptuation as a serious martial artist. Sadly, this is an image that would soon be abandoned, replaced by the gun-toting Rambo-style mass slaughter machine that we’d see in the Missing In Action and Delta Force franchises, so I rather treasure this particular era of Norris films. Unfortunately for Chuck, and for us, he doesn’t even get to do that much actual fighting in this one. Most of the film is just… talking.

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So what are they talking about? Well, Chuck plays Scott James, a Vietnam vet and martial arts champion who’s quit fighting, haunted by an injury he caused another fighter while training. We first meet him at a theatre where he heads backstage to chat up a dancer called Nancy (Kim Lankford). She falls for his bushy-faced charm and takes him home but he is thwarted by a troupe of cock-blocking ninjas who are waiting for Nancy to return, having murdered her entire family. Chuck gives good fight but it’s in vain. They kill Nancy as well, leaving him mystified and talking to himself. He knows there is only one man capable of training ninjas and it’s his estranged adoptive brother Seikura (pronounced “Sakura” like the falling cherry blossom often associated with ninjas).

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Seikura (Tadashi Yamashita, whom ninjologists may recognise as the Black Star Ninja from American Ninja) is running an organisation known as The Octagon. They recruit terrorists from all over the world (or, at least, graduates from the School of Comically Bad Accents, majoring in Irish, French, Mexican and God knows what else) and, for a hefty sum, Seikura trains them in the art of Ninjutsu. As a concept, this is pretty terrifying (all the worst people in the world being trained in the deadliest art) and there are a couple of really cool training scenes that almost make you wish the whole film had just been set inside The Octagon… It probably would’ve worked better than what we ended up with.

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Anyway, having uncovered this conspiracy, you’d think Scott would be hellbent on a duffing-up vengeance mission but alas, it’s not that kind of film. Instead a variety of external forces – including Lee Van Cleef as a counter-terrorist, Karen Carlson as a sexy heiress called Justine and Art Hindle as Scott’s buddy A.J. – all mastermind a series of manipulations and counter-manipulations that will ultimately lead to pacifist Scott cracking under the pressure and being forced to fight Seikura. Sometimes this is bordering on incomprehensible, as everyone’s motives blur, but other times it’s an excuse for some enjoyably melodramatic dialogue, like the classic line when Scott realises Justine is trying to make him do her bidding through seduction (“It’s an insult to both of us! It makes me stupid and you a whore!”).

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The pacing, as you’d expect from the leisurely 104 minute run time, is super-slow and there’s really only so much time that can pass without a fight before most viewers will start nodding off. The plot, while it tries, just simply isn’t engaging enough (we know that eventually Scott will have to fight Seikura so why not just get there or at least duff up a few more throwaway bad guys along the way?), the acting is pretty ropey (Chuck, with his undeniable charisma, way outshines everyone) and there are a number of subplots and ideas that go nowhere, like the ghostly voices in Chuck’s head that whisper echoey observations to him (“Oh my God! Ninja-ja-ja-ja-ja…!”) but don’t have much point to them within the narrative.

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Seeing a serious, straight-faced ninja film with ambition is a refreshing change and the effort should be applauded so it’s a real shame that it doesn’t quite work. The set design rules, Michel Hugo’s cinematography is quite beautiful here, capturing some lovely skylines, sunsets and all the stuff we’ve come to love seeing ninjas posing with. The movie looks good and sounds good (thanks to a lush orchestral score by Dick Halligan) and if you can get past the tedium of nearly a full length film passing with only 10 minutes of martial arts in it, you will be rewarded with a stunning final showdown. Ninjas vs Everyone Else as the Octagon burns to the ground around them. It is a truly ninjasm-inducing sight when Chuck Norris takes on a bejewelled red-hooded super-ninja (one of the coolest costumes of the 80s) who is literally on fire! A glimpse at what we could’ve had if the filmmakers had maybe realised it was this kind of mayhem we were after, not a turgid conspiracy plot.

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It’s interesting to think about just what the right balance is between silly and serious when it comes to ninjing. I’m a fan of martial arts films that take themselves seriously and provide a decent plot, strong emotional beats, good characterisation (and these things are rare in the ninja subgenre) but I do also like nutzoid kung-fu and insane stunts. The problem is, if these things are taken too far, you can end up with pure silliness but, if they’re not taken far enough, a fairly boring film like The Octagon. Corey Yuen is a director who has always balanced the two sides perfectly and one can only imagine how brilliant The Octagon would’ve been had he directed it (I’m basically thinking Ninja In The Dragon’s Den, crossed with No Retreat No Surrender 2 : Raging Thunder and that’s just about the best thing I could dream of!) but, as it stands, it’s an important curio and a well-made glossy piece, but hardly essential viewing for ninjologists.

Oh. One last thing though. We do get to see what a ninja pillow fight might look like:

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Rage of Ninja (1988)

Rage Of Ninja (aka Rage Of The Ninja, aka Rage Of A Ninja) is one of those films that makes you wonder how can there be so damn many unfinished and unmarketable films out there for IFD to buy and edit together with ninjas? Between his work for Joseph Lai’s IFD and Tomas Tang’s Filmark production companies, Godfrey Ho had created well over a hundred cut-and-paste ninja nightmares by the time Rage Of Ninja was made and it’s obvious that his ninja train was, at last, running out of steam.

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Although there’s entertainment value to be found in most Godfrey Ho films, the ones that work the best are the ones where the source film is good in its own right before you even get to Ho’s footage (although, of course, his ninja work has varying degrees of quality too). Neither part of Rage Of Ninja showcases IFD at its best and, if anyone has any information about what the source film is, I’d love to hear it because I can’t begin to imagine what its point was supposed to be. It looks like it was made in Taiwan around the same time as the source films for Ninja The Protector, Bionic Ninja and Golden Ninja Warrior (all four feature Morna Lee, perhaps the actress who’s credited in the most Godfrey Ho films without ever having actually worked with him?) but I can find nothing else that may hint at what its original plot/intentions were or who was responsible.

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In Rage Of Ninja, we have a pair of ninja masters (played by Mike Abbott and Marko Ritchie) who are fighting over a manual that contains information on how to become The Ultimate Ninja. It’s currently in the possession of “Mel Simons” (Ritchie) but Abbott, whose Cornish-accented ninja doesn’t seem to have a character name, wants it. There’s a slight logical fallacy here in that, even if Abbott gets the manual, surely Mel Simons has already read it so will still know how to be The Ultimate Ninja too? Never mind. Mel Simons has given it to his ex-wife Cindy (Morna Lee) – whom I guess just has no interest in reading it and doesn’t want to be the Ultimate Ninja? – and trusted another ninja called Steve to protect her from Abbott’s ninja empire, who won’t stop knocking at her door… There’s also a guy called Henry (“Henry’s a real mean bastard!”) who steals jewels and sells them to someone called “The Unicorn” but this stops being relevant to anything quite early on…

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The manual itself – although obviously all-important – is not that important. Most of the plot centres on the burgeoning unlikely romance between Cindy and Steve. Steve – having just killed a guy who was sleeping with his wife – breaks into Cindy’s house while she’s in the bath, spies on her, eats her dinner while she’s still bathing and then, when she finds him in the house, slaps her around and ties her up for the night while he gets his thoughts together (!). In the morning, clear-headed, Steve unties her and she offers to make him breakfast. Soon, they are in love.

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Like I said, I can’t imagine what on Earth the original plot was for this source material but here it’s quite ridiculous, getting even moreso when Cindy’s friend Winnie (who’s dubbed like some kind of cartoon animal with learning difficulties) rocks up and tries to seduce Steve too. Was this originally some kind of warped Taiwanese romantic comedy? I thought it might be but then, to my surprise, about half-way through, actual source film ninjas (not Godfrey Ho ninjas) rock up to cause chaos while the three lovebirds are playing badminton.

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I think this is one of the few IFD films where ninjas appear in both films and, in a way, this takes away some of the usual joy and rhythm of Ho’s technique. Even though there’s twice as much ninja mayhem, both parties seem to be trying half as hard. Ho’s ninjing in particular is lacklustre here. Mike Abbott does his best, screaming and hollering Cornishly about being the Ultimate Ninja, and the ninja suits are natty (Mike wears canary yellow, Marko candy pink – both absolutely useless for camouflage anywhere) but the fight sequences are perfunctory and also include a lot of guns, not something ninjas normally use. There’s little here that hasn’t been done better in other IFD pictures.

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To really add insult to injury, the ending is absolutely dreadful. Although Ho’s famous for his abrupt endings, this one takes it to a new level of sudden death. The final fight here lasts for about 30 seconds and if you blink you will miss the all-important conclusion (SPOILER: The pink ninja throws a smoke-bomb at the yellow ninja who explodes in a cloud of canary feathers (!) for about half a second before “THE END” flashes up aggressively in white-on-red text). Given that the final fights can often redeem even the lousiest ninja film, I felt short-changed. I actually had to rewind it to even figure out what happened.

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If there’s fun to be had at all in Rage Of Ninja it’s the soundtrack, which features some of Ho’s finest thefts. There’s a hysterically awkward dance sequence with Steve, Cindy and Winnie that I imagine was originally set to something more appropriate than “A Day” by goth-rock stalwarts Clan Of Xymox (the drama of the music only makes the dancing more awkward). The aforementioned ninja badminton scene also introduced me to a piece of music that filled my ninja-hardened heart with sheer joy; an Italo-Disco version of the Theme From E.T. by Ego. But now I’ve brought this sonic brilliance into your lives, there’s little reason to go seek out the rest of Rage Of Ninja for yourself.

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Ninja Dragon (1986)

Of all the Godfrey Ho cut-and-paste ninja films (in which he splices someone else’s existing film with his own new ninja footage and adds a new English dub track to tie it all together), Ninja Dragon is one of the most accessible and well-known. It’s arguably a more restrained effort than usual with less surreal ninja footage and a higher quality source film (apparently a 1982 Taiwanese Triad drama called Dark Trap – although little information is available to verify this with authority), making it either an essential entry point for Ho-curious readers or a terrible one, depending on just how much insanity you crave…

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Ninja Dragon opens with some kind of poker game between powerful international businessmen in Shanghai. One of these is Gordon (Richard Harrison – reprising his “Ninja Master Gordon” character from many other Ho films) who, this time, co-owns a shady bank with his partner Fat Ronald. I’m not sure exactly how, but Gordon and Ronald’s bank is somehow to linked to all the casinos in Shanghai and this displeases Paul (“Bruce Stallion” – a dodgy pseudonym cashing in on the fact that Muay Thai fighter Paulo Tocha looks a bit like Sylvester Stallone on a bad day). What displeases Paul even more is that Gordon cleans up at poker in one hand and then leaves, claiming he’s tired. This dreadful card game etiquette sets violent events in motion…

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Paul calls his buddy Tiger and arranges to have Ronald killed. This quickly accomplished murder puts Ronald’s daughters Phoenix and Fanny (no, I’m not making up these wonderful character names) in charge of his business but Paul, Tiger and the wily old gangster Mr Fox think they can join forces and take over from the inexperienced girls. All sounds easy enough but they haven’t counted on the fact that Gordon is a ninja master and has dispatched a highly trained assassin known as Dragon to protect Phoenix and Fanny’s interests. There’s also a creepy goon called Benny (basically a Taiwanese Michael Cera) who’s in love with Fanny and will stop at nothing to win her over. Oh, and they’re all Triads.

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Phew! Actually sounds vaguely coherent, right? Most of the plot seems to be pulled directly from the source film and, excluding a few hilariously wrong dubs, it plays out sensibly. The funniest dub is definitely the scene of Ronald’s funeral where the priest is clearly performing some kind of religious chant but they’ve dubbed him with a strangulated falsetto, issuing commands to the assembled mourners that just match with whatever they’re doing (“Reeeeemooove hats! Kneeeeeel down! First booow! Second boooow! Third booow!”) but other than this and the hilarity of men shouting “Fanny! Fanny!!!” every five minutes, Ninja Dragon works as a straight story.

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It’s a much higher budget, better looking film than most of what Ho does. The source movie, while hardly Shanghai Triad, is a gritty, brutal film with convincing period sets and costumes. From the way it looks, I’d say Dark Trap was supposed to be set in the 1930s but Ho bends time by tacking on an incredible ice-cold synthesiser score that it makes it all feel totally 80s and editing in the ninja footage (visibly shot in 80s Hong Kong) with a little more panache than usual. What’s interesting is that, beyond the striking credits sequence (old-school Shaw style red backdrop with two ninjas fighting over shots of their various weapons) we don’t even see a ninja at all until 22 minutes in and the first bit of actual martial arts fighting finally happens at the 42 minute mark! Somehow this makes it all the more joyful when it eventually occurs.

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The ending of the Ninja Dragon is, for a change, surprising in that Dark Trap contains something approaching an actual “twist” and, y’know, I thought it was actually kinda shocking and poignant (and I won’t spoil it). Whatever happens to Dragon, Phoenix and Fanny though, you can always rely on Paul and Gordon to settle matters on a hill, dressed as ninjas. The last four minutes of this are brilliant, some of Ho’s most skillfully choreographed ninja fighting, set against a beautiful Hong Kong cityscape (never mind that the film’s supposed to be set in Shanghai) and the bonus is one of my favourite lines of glorious-nonsense Ho dialogue ever (“You must use the Chinese against the Chinese! You’re playing the game of death!”). There’s also a strange coherence to it that ties into other Ho films; regardless of all the bloodshed that’s gone down between Triads at street level, the Ninja Empire has more elevated concerns, something to do with the abstract but perpetual mission that runs through the series.

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You have to take all of this with a little pinch of salt and yes, there are continuity errors and no, this is not at all true to real Ninjutsu (we see Richard Harrison taking a drink in virtually every scene he’s in – cans of Lowenbrau, glasses of Sherry, tumblers full of Scotch – which isn’t something I’d believe a ninja would do!) but it works as a film. You get the quality brought in from Dark Trap, with the bonus of it having 20 minutes or so of (presumably) boring bits cut out and replaced by some brilliant ninjing and the ever-watchable Richard Harrison. It may sound a little bit Philistinian to say it but this is my kind of entertainment. Ho’s cut-and-paste technique was so maverick, scattershot and unpredictable, it’s always a pleasure when it actually comes together as well as this.

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Shadow Killers Tiger Force (1986)

Shadow Killers Tiger Force is as incomprehensible as its title suggests. In Germany it was known as both Woman’s Camp : The Ninja and Death Camp Of The Ninja. These make a little more sense, since it’s Tomas Tang up to his old cut-and-paste tricks again. Along with director “Tommy Cheng”, he’s spliced together his own ninjoid nuttiness with scenes from an old Korean Women-In-Prison film, then given the whole thing a new English dub and revised “story”. The source film is from 1977 and was originally called Prisoner 407 2 (aka Revenge In The Tiger Cage), a sequel to Prisoner 407 (aka Girl In The Tiger Cage). You still with me? Just to make it worse, the Dutch VHS art uses an image of Sho Kosugi in Pray For Death and features the phrase “Twinkle Ninja Fantasy”, a combination of words you don’t see every day…

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Shadow Killers opens with some ninjas disrupting a picnic by the water in Hong Kong. They beat up the men and kidnap the women, taking them to a labour camp, where they’re dressed in matching blue uniforms and put to work, breaking rocks in the hot sun. One of the imprisoned girls is Sylvia, the daughter of some rich white guy. It’s never clear what he does but he’s surrounded all the time by heavily armed bodyguards and hires “the good ninja, Jenny” (Cora Bentley, whom long-suffering ninja fans will recognise as the “bikini ninja” from Vampire Raiders vs Ninja Queen) to bust his daughter out of the camp.

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All makes sense so far and continues to do so as Jenny goes undercover, gets herself kidnapped and taken to the camp. In these early scenes, Cheng makes something of an effort to try and match scenery to the source film and has decked his own actresses out in similar blue uniforms to those from Prisoner 407. Although the film stock looks completely different, I was almost with it… then about 25 minutes in, the whole film stops making sense and just becomes a series of loosely connected (assuming you do the appropriate mental gymnastics required to make said connection) scenes of crazy. Jenny frequently uses ninja magic to disappear in a puff of smoke and reappear wherever she likes, including back at Sylvia’s dad’s house to give him “updates” on what’s happening (ie: to recount the redubbed plot of Prisoner 407 2). Meanwhile in the camp, she causes telekinetic “accidents” with rocks and tar as distractions while Sylvia keeps trying stupid new ways to escape like crawling through the sewer, fighting through a corridor of barbed wire or smuggling herself out in a giant slop barrel.

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Why Jenny, with her magical ninja skills that include teleportation and telekinesis, doesn’t do more to actually help is beyond me. Her communications with Sylvia (owing to the fact that they’re in two different movies) are limited to super-awkward sign language and the one time they actually speak aloud to each other, Sylvia is indoors and Jenny is outdoors so it’s unconvincing at best, surreal at worst. Even by Filmark standards, this is messy splicing. The rest of the runtime is made up of tedious footage of either uniformed prison guards laughing at the inmates or ninjas laughing at the inmates, depending which film the footage is from. The guards here are probably the least sadistic in any WIP film, spending more time laughing than anything else. The dubbed dialogue is typically hilarious at times. Some of it is clearly improvised in a “say what you see” style. My favourite line was when a guard finds Sylvia lying on the floor feeling sick while her cellmates are off to work. He says (without a break): “Ah! Someone thinks they can have a day off! Well they can’t! Oh, she has a fever… she’s not faking it… Hmm… HAVE A DAY OFF!” and then merrily walks off! (Spoiler alert : She’s faking it…)

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However, it’s worth enduring all this dry tedium (against better judgement, Cheng cuts all the nudity out of Prisoner 407 2 which is usually a primary appeal of WIP films) because the final 10 minutes are off-leash Tomas Tang at his most insane. One the maddest final fights you’ll ever see. After the evil black ninja (Wayne Archer) threatens blue ninja Jenny with the immortal line “I’m going to destroy you and make you die!” they get into an incredible duel that incorporates the usual batshit swordplay and wire-work with magic editing tricks that allow the ninjas to walk through walls and let their heads float several inches away from the rest of their bodies.

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There’s also a psychedelic Indian-style dance routine from Cora Bentley (yes, in the middle of the fight – she even changes costumes for it!) and the whole thing culminates with a magical ninja-seeking missile being fired from a rocket launcher; essentially a lethal-looking firework that chases Wayne Archer around the forest for a delirious minute as he shrieks and hollers (presumably fearful of his own safety as an actor) and is eventually blown up. Phew! It left me breathless and, sadly, makes Shadow Killers Tiger Force an impossible film to entirely ignore.

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Also of note here is the marvelous DVD release by Germany’s AVV label. They’ve digitally remastered it and loaded the disc with extras that the film really doesn’t deserve including multiple trailers and alternate scenes from different territories, a minute-long interview with Wayne Archer from 1996 (filmed on a train track for some reason – he basically just says the film is terrible (“as we all know”) but he had a great time making it) and seven minutes of awkward unedited footage of Tomas Tang talking to the guys from Eastern Heroes magazine back in 1986. I found the line of questioning a little aggressive at times (“Are you proud of these films? Do you even care?”) but Tang holds his own and it’s unbearably poignant when they ask what kind of film he’d make if he had all the money in the world and total creative freedom. He thinks, then replies simply, “A love story” which, when you’ve just watched all 82 brain-draining minutes of Shadow Killers Tiger Force, is kind of heartbreaking.

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The Super Ninja (1984)

Before I start writing about the film itself, I’m just going to mention a couple of boring housekeeping things regarding the production and release of The Super Ninja as there’s some misinformation floating around:

The version I watched was the UK DVD release (on Dragon DVD) called The Super Ninja. It has also been released (same cut) as Ninja Squad : Killers Invincible (or Ninja Squad : Killers Invisible as it’s misspelled on some discs), neither of which should be confused with Godfrey Ho’s unrelated Richard Harrison film The Ninja Squad. The UK DVD, as far as I can tell, seems to be censored as it only runs for 87 minutes. As far as I can tell, the uncut version was released as Ninja Force in Germany on AVV (one of their super limited edition releases) and was 93 minutes long but I haven’t been able to get hold of this to make comparisons and figure out what the missing 6 minutes are.

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Many websites credit Robert Tai as the director of this film. Although Tai worked frequently with its star Alexander Lou in the same period, I’m reluctant to believe this. I think the confusion may lie in the fact that, not only was he Lou’s most regular director, but Tai also had a small cameo in Chinese Super Ninjas 2 (aka Challenge Of The Lady Ninja). The original Chinese Super Ninjas is also known as Five Element Ninjas and this film, as well as taking the “Super Ninja” part of the title, features five element ninjas of its own. I think something has got garbled along the way, leading people to believe Tai made this. Being blunt, Tai was a more competent director and Super Ninja feels too rough around the edges for him.

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On the box art, the credits and IMDB, Wu Kuo-Ren is listed as the director. The production values and rough style are similar to his other films with Lou like Ninja Condors and Wu Tang vs Ninja and I can’t find any convincing case against his having directed the film. To make matters worse, it says “A Tomas Tang Film” at the very beginning but this, as far as I can tell, is just a credit added because Filmark (his company) were the distributors. If I find anything else out or score the uncut version, I’ll update this post accordingly!

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SO… with all that out the way, what’s the movie like? Pretty terrible in a lot of ways but decent trashy fun if you’re in the right mood. The always-enjoyable Alexander Lou plays John, a maverick cop in New York who’s also a ninja. The film opens with an Enter The Ninja style training exercise in the woods and then cuts to the police station where John (Lou) and his black partner Spencer (Eugene Thomas – dressed in full Axel Foley drag) are being abused by their racist commanding officer for not understanding how the law works in America. Before long, John is framed for drug possession and thrown in jail.

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He escapes and soon unravels an international conspiracy that revolves around his girlfriend Nancy and her scientist father, who’s created a secret formula. Anyone who’s watched enough of these movies will know there’s nothing ninjas love more than a secret formula. This time, the Five Element Ninjas (Metal, Fire, Wood, Water, Earth) led by a corrupt Tiger Ninja (sadly not in a tiger-striped ninja suit but just a black suit with a giant tiger face on the back) are on the trail and only John and Spencer can stop them.

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The film has two almost totally separate halves which makes me wonder if maybe Tomas Tang’s involvement meant there was some of his usual splicing together of footage from different unfinished projects into one. Either that or it’s just a really jumbled script. For much of the first half, we see John dressed up like Rambo taking his revenge on the absurdly corrupt and unpleasant NYPD officers who framed him and put him in prison. It shamelessly riffs on First Blood, with Alexander Lou running through the forests with his top off, headband on, bow-and-arrow in hand, setting traps, knifing, shooting and killing all and sundry.

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Once he finishes off his reasonably public cop disposal, he flies to Hong Kong (without anyone trying to stop him leaving the country) to stop the aforementioned evil ninjas getting the secret formula. The fact that the two stories don’t relate is waved away by the implication that cops were on the ninjas’ payroll. In HK, John’s old master tries to explain that the Five Elements are invincible. He tells him, “You don’t stand a chance” but then helpfully mentions that there is maybe one way to beat them: “Draw strengths from your future and past and see beyond the illusion of this world”. John, along with the viewer, just replies with a slightly baffled “Hmm” and we smash-cut to the next scene.

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The editing of this film is a big problem. It’s pretty lousy. The fights are all very choppy with a lot of speeding-up tricks, close-ups and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cutaways, which is a shame since Lou’s a talented martial artist and usually worth watching in action. Even outside the fights, The Super Ninja is loaded with awkward moments, bad camera angles and bizarre directorial choices – the weirdest of which is the 5+ minute sex scene between Lou and Chung-Erh Lung that feels like forever (it goes on so long that the stock saxophone music finishes and is replaced half way through by a jaunty synth tune). There are lots of close-ups on their hair and shoulders and some unintentionally hilarious drawn-out foreplay demonstrating the erotic qualities of tracksuit trousers…

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I have a very high tolerance for exploitation movies and perhaps this would’ve been more enjoyable if I’d seen the full uncut version as I felt Super Ninja didn’t quite go far enough into the crazy zone for me to overlook its many, many faults. It’s fun and sincere and there enough moments to make it worth your time but it’s far from Lou’s best work. The Fire ninja is the stand-out highlight. Unlike the ones in Chang Cheh’s Five Element Ninjas, this one actually sets his hands on fire and fights with flaming fists which is an incredible stunt that must be seen to be believed. Other than that, this is just an entertaining diversion; second-tier ninjing that’s probably best watched with a few drinks to smooth out the roughness. However, we do finally get an answer to the age-old mystery of what a ninja wears underneath his suit, when one of the burrowing Earth ninjas accidentally gets his costume torn as he pops out of the ground… Look away now if you blush easily.

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