IMDB lists Ku Kwo Ren’s Wu Tang Vs Ninja (aka Ninja Hunter) as being from 1987. It’s obvious from watching it that it’s from earlier than this and, as best as I can tell, it was actually shot in 1983 (although possibly not released anywhere until 4 years later). I’ve mentioned on previous posts about Alexander Lou that his films are often available in several different versions, with many different titles, alternate cuts and some misleading credits so it’s possible we’ll never know for sure the stories behind a lot of them… All we can do is watch them and take them as they come.
There’s some bonus confusion on this one as the title doesn’t even reflect the plot. Wu Tang actually teams up with Ninja in this rather than fighting against it. D’oh. The story begins with an evil Wu Tang abbot known as Master White (Jack Long with a white wig and giant white eyebrows) getting duffed up by a Shaolin monk. Swearing vengeance on all things Shaolin, he hooks up with a local disgraced group of ninjas and they take on the Temple together.
These ninjas are so hardcore (or stupid, depending on your point of view) that they routinely decapitate one another in training exercises and are led by a special white-suited gent with a Hitler moustache. In addition to his newfound batshit ninja army, Master White has discovered some form of sorcery that allows him to drain the lifeforce from nubile (frequently naked) girls and make himself invincible, as evidenced in a scene where he gets his henchmen to come at him with axes and spears and they just bounce off his cast-iron muscles.
Predictably, White and his entourage burn down the Shaolin Temple and kill all the monks but, having realised these villains are out to “take over the Martial World”, an old master called Uncle Ho tries to pull together all the other kung fu schools in the area and fight back. Cue a completely baffling twenty minute section where the schools get the wrong message, double-cross rival factions, switch allegiances and duff each other up in a series of outlandish fights that include some kind of burning zombie monk who’s covered in blisters and sears anyone he touches (not sure which school he belongs to but I don’t think I want to study there). It’s hard to really know who’s fighting whom or why in this bit so best to just sit back and enjoy the madness as the Martial World falls to pieces…
A full forty minutes into the film, the top-billed actor finally appears. Alexander Lou plays Wing Ding who, along with Biao (Chien Tien Chi), represents the best of Uncle Ho’s alumni. Upon Wing Ding’s arrival, the plot becomes more linear as he and Biao train hard to defeat Master White and restore order to the chaos of the fractured Martial World. All looks bleak until a beautiful young stranger gives them a secret manuscript with instructions on the “Shaolin Finger Jab” style, a delicate but deadly approach that may be the only way they’ll be able to defeat their seemingly indestructible enemy.
Obviously, this plot is pretty thin but Wu Tang Vs Ninja – like most Alexander Lou films – works through it’s sheer Lou-nacy. If it’s ninjing you want, you’ll get magical flying ninjas, tree climbing gold lamé ninjas with deadly metal hoops, an endless array of shuriken in different shapes and styles, flaming ninjas on ropes (abseiling down a mountain while on fire is an impressive feat by any standard, no?) and – best of all – a ninja who turns himself into a magic carpet (!!) and chases an understandably terrified Lou around the woods.
The martial arts are inauthentic and the historical detail inaccurate to the point of hilarity (Lou’s ever-present 80s mullet is only the beginning) but what the film lacks in realism, it makes up for in energy and style. The costumes are off-the-chain; it’s like a Ming Dynasty Jean-Paul Gaultier went mad in the fancy dress basket. There’s a lot of sped-up photography and shoddy wirework but the sight of these flamboyantly dressed goofballs flinging themselves around is nevertheless irresistible. It’s like, people risked their lives for these ridiculous stunts and you’ve got to respect that. The relentlessness of the fighting is fun too – why hit a guy once if you can hit him twenty times? Lou doesn’t get a chance to display too much of his actual kung fu skills until the end but, by that stage, you’ll be so transfixed by how phenomenally bizarre the blood-drenched final fight is, you won’t care.
I was intrigued by an IMDB review that claimed Wu Tang Vs Ninja featured “some weird nudity” but, alas, I can confirm this unusual claim is true. In addition to the aforementioned nubiles from Master White’s rituals there is a sequence in which an evil monk has fiercely awkward, unerotic sex with a courtesan to anachronistic 80s saxophone music while two junior monks watch and excitedly fondle each other. When the sex gets rough and the courtesan starts slapping the evil monk, the two apprentices get overheated and start slapping each other furiously, thus giving away that they’re watching and getting duffed up for their troubles. I think it’s supposed to be a funny skit but it’s mostly just gratuitous, weird and unrelated to the rest of the film. It’s highly likely it was spliced in from a different movie altogether for reasons no one will ever know.
So, as ever with Alexander Lou’s films, Wu Tang Vs Ninja is a mixed bag. Obviously there are flaws and it doesn’t even remotely hold together as a straight narrative but its flair for the dramatic, disregard for cast members’ personal safety and its merciless assault on logic makes for an original, colourful and entertaining 90 minutes of ninjoid nonsense. You might have to already be quite “deep” into ninjology before trying this one but it’s recommended to all intermediate students.