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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.