The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Enter the Ninja (1981)

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If you want to look for the genesis of the ninja in American pop culture in the 80s, this is a great place to start, even though this film itself is a little light on the Japanese assassin. It really was the American Ninjas and the ninja films later in this series that started the boom, but that doesn't mean this is any less worthy of a review.

Enter the Ninja is a Golan-Globus film with Franco Nero (from this point on, The Stash) as a Westerner who becomes a ninja, and visits his friend in the Philippines. Beyond the fact the friend looks like a smaller James Caan in The Godfather, he's also having trouble with a local strongman that wants him to sell his huge ranch. His wife loves the ranch, and doesn't want to sell, and The Stash thinks if his friend wants his ranch, that no strongman will take it from him, so he takes out wave upon wave of local toughs. Finally, the corporate dude funding the strongman decides he needs to hire his own ninja, so he employs Shô Kosugi, The Stash's rival from ninja school, to take him down. Do we really see that happening?

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This is pretty ridiculous. First off, Kosugi would've made a better lead, and this problem was corrected in Revenge of the Ninja. I agree that it was plenty believable that The Stash could take Kosugi, because everyone fears The Stash, I just would've preferred Kosugi as the hero. Second was the lack of actual ninjas. If you compare this to the American Ninja films, which were chock full of ninjas, it's a disappointment. Finally there's The Stash. How can you not love The Stash? I'd love him more if he was dressed as a ninja more often, or if he was fighting more ninjas, but I'm not sure how much you can blame Enter the Ninja for that, because they were just starting the ninja film paradigm, and they (Golan-Globus) certainly corrected those mistakes in subsequent films.

The Stash has done some other pictures since this one, most notably Die Hard 2. Actually, he's a pretty accomplished Italian actor, more than simply The Stash. Alas, no more ninja films though. As a Westerner donning the ninja gear, he would've totally sucked it it wasn't for that amazing patch of hair on his upper lip. He had nothing going for him compared to a Michael Dudikoff, who was an amazing Caucasian ninja. I would say, though, that he was much better than David Bradley, so he has that in his favor. Here's to you, The Stash.

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This has barely any Shô Kosugi, and we know from the beginning that it's only a matter of time before The Stash bests him. If you're someone, like myself, looking to get into more Kosugi, this is not a great place to start. Revenge of the Ninja is more like it. That doesn't mean Kosugi isn't great, just that he doesn't have a great role, which was a bad decision, in my mind, The Stash or no The Stash.

My friend at Movies in the Attic thought the female star, Susan George, was out of her element here, because she's more of a theatrical actress, but I'm not so sure. I thought she was hot, and somehow she eked out a fully rounded, complete character out of the scant material she had. She was at times a spitfire, feisty, hard nosed, and at others scared, emotional, and frustrated. Of course, in an action film, we often don't look for nuance, we want black and white-- if a woman starts out as feisty and tough, when she's kidnapped, bound and gagged, and held at gunpoint, we expect her to be just as defiant, as opposed to being scared, hoping The Stash would save her, which is probably more realistic, even if that realism was coming in that most realistic of mediums, the ninja film. Perhaps my colleague was more right than I originally thought.

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I don't really have much for a seventh paragraph, so I thought I'd discuss my favorite ninjas in pop culture, the Mortal Kombat ones. They were really only one ninja and ten color swaps, but they were still cool. They started with two, Scorpion and Sub-Zero, but if you knew what you were doing, you could fight Reptile, a green mix of the two, at the bottom of The Pit. In part two, they added Smoke and Noob Saibot (the last names of the creators spelled backwards). Again, it was all color swaps, and all Smoke and Noob Saibot were were versions of Scorpion. They also had female ninjas, Kitana, Mileena, and Jade. You gotta love female ninjas-- very hot. In the third one all bets were off, as they added robo-ninjas, classic and old versions of Sub-Zero, and more color swaps. I haven't really played anything after part III, though I tried my brother's DC vs. Mortal Kombat game, and the one thing that sucked was the lack of unlockable ninjas, which was for me what made the earlier games great. I think it had Scorpion and Sub-Zero, but that was it. If anyone can kick Superman's ass without Kryptonite, it's a ninja, and they dropped the ball by not including more.

Okay, that was a longer rant than I wanted, but I just got all nostalgic. This might be worth giving a looksee, but don't expect the ninja fest some of the later films were. Also, it's available on Hulu, which was annoying with the random ad insertions (on TV the ads come in natural spots, on Hulu you'd get one in the middle of a sentence), but for a movie like this, it wasn't so bad. Maybe catching this for free is the best option. Also, it's not out on DVD yet. Almost forgot to mention that, so it's either Hulu or VHS.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082332/

7 comments:

  1. ENTER THE NINJA is one of those films I feel like I've seen before, but I really can't remember anything about it. Perhaps I'm getting it mixed up with NINJA III: THE DOMINATION, which cropped up on the USA Network a lot in the old days.

    Though Sho Kosugi is indeed awesome, I'd recommend checking out some Franco "The Stash" Nero films if you have a chance. I think you'd be pleasantly surprised by the fun Spaghetti Westerns he did. You can't go wrong with DJANGO, KEOMA, and COMPANEROS.

    Plus he's been shacking up with Vanessa Redgrave all these years. Hello!

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  2. Frank Nero was Umberto Lenzi's first show to star in Nightmare City. He wanted that tough guy persona as the lead, instead, he got Hugo Stiglitz, who also has a kick ass attitude, but its just not the same. Frank Nero had that look.

    I feel the same as Troy, I might have watched this when I was growing up in the 80s, but i cant quite remember. maybe if I see it again, Ill remember. Unfortunately, its not on freaking dvd.

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  3. I am familiar with Nero, it's just when that stash pops out after he takes off his ninja mask, it's kind of like POW!... and from that point on he became The Stash.

    Django I saw a long time ago on TV, and it was dubbed. Am I right about that, it's not always dubbed, you can find it in Italian with subtitles? Also, if it was on TV, it was probably heavily edited. When I was younger I never realized how much that was done, until I saw Road House sans throat rip-- that hurt.

    I agree that this should be on DVD. Hulu, even though it's free, really isn't the best way to watch movies, mostly because of the random insert ads. You could check it out there just to see if you remember it though.

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  4. Ah, NINJA III is pretty cool and I remember seeing it as a young lad on VHS and being dazzled by that badass fight on the golf course. Very cool... Plus, you've got Lucinda "BREAKIN'" Dickey as a ninja!

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  5. I really want to review Ninja III, but too isn't out on DVD, and the VHS on Amazon is really expensive. I can watch it for $2.99 on Amazon video On Demand, so I might consider that.

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  6. I had no idea NINJA III was such a prized item? I take you tried eBay? Weird...

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  7. 33 bones before shipping. I paid half that for my Dominique Wilkins Celtics jersey.

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