Cobra Against Ninja (1987)

Cobra Against Ninja (aka Cobra vs Ninja) is another of the many IFD cut-and-paste ninja flicks released between 1984 and 1988. The acknowledged release year is 1987 but it’s impossible to know when any of them were actually shot/edited. That said, judging purely by Richard Harrison’s hairline and the fact that a few of the ideas here feel a little tired, I’d agree that this is one of the later efforts. Joseph Lai takes the director credit while Godfrey Ho, Stephen Soul and the ubiquitous “AAV Creative Unit” all clubbed together on the story and screenplay. It has a lot in common with The Ninja Squad (on which all of the above players also worked) and, if I’m honest, you’d have to be a very serious-level ninjologist to need both of them in your life. Still, this blog has never shied away from taking things further than is entirely necessary so… onwards…

Cobra vs Ninja 1

The film opens with Richard Harrison as Ninja Master Gordon again, dressed in a candy-pink and white ninja suit, running up a mountain and screaming “NIIIIINJAAAAA!” to the sky, which is a familiar sight to regular IFD viewers (and I think this footage is actually taken from another film because, in all the other scenes here, Harrison’s ninja suit is red and yellow). We’re then introduced to Stuart Smith’s character, Cobra, who wears a sequined purple ninja suit and is hatching a plan whereby he can prove to Gordon that he is, in fact, the superior ninja. In order to do this, he has decided to issue the Ninja Challenge Card, which turns out to be a deadly exploding egg, delivered like a hand grenade, with a simple but effective message inside – “If you survived the warm-up, prepare to die by my sword!”

Cobra vs Ninja 2

Meanwhile, in (I think?) Thailand, we have one of the absolute worst source films IFD ever used. This leaden crime drama begins with a group of young buddies – David, Kirk, Benny and Chester – at army boot camp together. They complete their training (which has been edited to make it look like Gordon is their instructor) and go out into the world to find their fortunes. Sadly, on his return home, Chester finds his family are being extorted by a bunch of thugs whose trail of thievery, bullying and illegal activity leads to a nasty duo called Ringo and Raymond (this is similar to the plot in the Ninja Squad in which Gordon’s protege Billy is extorted after leaving ninja school). Their main line is gambling but since “sometimes we win but most of the time the odds are stacked against us” they basically use murder to rig everything. They’re also adept at misogynist banter. At one unpleasant point, they threaten to test if a girl’s a virgin using “three guys at once” (overkill, if you ask me) and, later, when one of his harem allows an important letter to go missing, Raymond barks, “You gave it to the man you just banged, you slimy ugly whore of a bitch!” Oddly the BBFC gave this one a 15 certificate but I think that’s worse than anything I ever heard in the school playground… Maybe I just went to a good school?

Cobra vs Ninja 5

Anyway, as Chester gets deeper into the underworld of gambling and extortion, they kill his mum and kidnap his sister, before the four boot camp buddies from the start reunite at the end and bringing with them an experimental top secret Bomb Ex Machina to blow up the bad guys. To pad things out, there’s a long-winded McGuffin chase with a missing briefcase and a cluster of confusing secondary characters like Winnie (the aforementioned harem girl who appears to be dubbed by a man putting on a creepy high-pitched voice) and Rose. (“Rose can’t do anything but cook!” apparently because “she didn’t go to school!” but she does get to pretty much save the day by the end).

Cobra vs Ninja 6

The main problem with the source footage is that it takes 3 minutes to tell every 1 minute of actual story and, even with the ninja madness spliced in, this is slooooow. The way said madness is linked is via gambling. Cobra sets up ninja challenges between Gordon (who calls himself The Red Champion) and a series of lesser ninjas like The Green Serpent, The White Dolphin and The Purple Falcon so he can place (rigged) bets on these fights. Hilariously, there are several scenes where he sits in the bookies’ office and says things like how he’s heard there will be a ninja showdown between the Red Champion and The Green Serpent and he wants to bet $20,000. Even though it’s implied throughout the film that ninjas are mysterious (and no one knows their secret identities) every bookie in the land to seems to be happy to take bets on their challenges…

Cobra vs Ninja 7

Of course, this subplot sounds like it should mean a ton of different colored ninjas fighting one after another, like in the Ninja Squad but – while Harrison’s natty red suit matches his name – all the others just wear black! Thus, even though the fight footage isn’t actually looped, it does sometimes feel it. No matter what else you can say about IFD films, they do normally deliver on their promises but I felt short-changed by the lack of colored suits. I mean, why would a guy who calls himself The White Dolphin wear a black suit? Don’t you dare say camouflage…

Cobra vs Ninja 8

The film culminates with a duel at noon on Falcon Ridge (which, if IFD films are to believed, is the time and place to hold a crucial ninja showdown). Gordon is furious when he realises what’s been happening and that Cobra has “broken the Ninja Commandments” and “used the Ninja Challenge Card for his own profit”! This is obviously fun stuff but too little, too late, no matter how much I love the crazy IFD ninja rules and this weird, unique universe they’ve set up. Things like the Ninja Commandments (as, uh, fluid as they can be) are already so familiar that something wacky like the Ninja Challenge Card makes perfect sense and is a joy to learn about. But, being honest, there’s only about five minutes of this film you actually need to see in order to add extra depth, value or color to the perpetual ninja mission that runs through Godfrey Ho’s mind. There’s more top quality ninjing for your IF-Dollar elsewhere.

Cobra vs Ninja 3

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