• Ninja Busters



    Released by: Garagehouse Pictures
    Released on: December, 2015.
    Director: Paul Kyriazi
    Cast: Eric Lee, Sid Campbell, Gerald Okamura
    Year: 1984
    Purchase From Diabolik DVD

    The Movie:

    Lost films are an interesting animal, particularly when they’re rediscovered and unleashed on a new audience decades after they were first made. Case in point? Ninja Busters! Made in 1984 and then promptly placed on a shelf somewhere to be forgotten about for roughly three decades, this 35mm production was recently unearthed by the good people at Garagehouse Pictures and Exhumed Films and is absolutely one of those special releases that stands as further proof that, once again, we are living in an age of home video miracles. Seriously, when stuff this obscure and this off the wall gets the special edition Blu-ray treatment, it’s hard to argue otherwise.

    The story follows two pals, Bernie (Eric Lee) and Chic (Sid Campbell) who don’t have a whole lot going for them. Anytime they get into trouble, which is frequent, they try to talk their way out of it by telling potential foes that Bernie was one of Bruce Lee’s students and Chic was one of his teachers. It doesn’t work, but that doesn’t stop them. After they lose their jobs working at a shady warehouse, they pass by a martial arts studio where plenty of foxy ladies learn fighting skills under the tutelage of their sensei (Gerald Okamura) and soon enough, they’ve signed up for classes.

    Soon enough, our heroes are the real deal, their training having paid off. They’ve not only found the skills they need to take on bad guys, but they’ve also found… love. What they didn’t count on, however, was pissing off the wrong guys and soon enough the criminals that are after them have hired a gang of deadly ninja assassins to take them out of the picture once and for all.

    Ninja Busters is a goofy goof time at the movies. More or less suitable for all ages (I would have LOVED this movie as a nine year old in 1984!) it’s more a cornball comedy than it is an action film but it does what it does with plenty of goofy charm and cornball charisma. It’s fast paced, the jokes are as constant as they are lovably terrible and once we do get to the inevitable action packed finale, some of the fight scenes are pretty well done (Eric Lee clearly knew what he was doing).

    As far as the acting goes, well, our leads try. English was clearly not Lee’s native tongue and there are times where he struggles with his line delivery, but it’s kind of endearing in its own oddball way. Sid Campbell, who co-wrote the script, is just a flat out ham but there’s something strangely watchable about the guy. What matters here isn’t the quality of their acting so much as it is the fact that you kind of like these two dorks. That likeability helps us get behind them even when it’s clear that they’re really only taking martial arts lessons to pick up chicks, not so much for self improvement or discipline. Gerald Okamura is his typically gruff self as the sensei in the film but he’s solid in the role. All three of these actors worked with Kyriazi a few years prior on Weapons Of Death (Lee was top billed in it) and Kyriazi would, in 1990, direct the mighty Ron Marchini in the amazing post apocalyptic action B-movie Omega Cop (which also starred Adam West and Stuart Whitman – see it now!).

    The movie also works well as an eighties time capsule. Not only does it cash in on the then super hot ninja movie craze but it features a random break-dancing scene, lots of questionable fashion and hairstyle choices, a beautifully dated score that sounds like it was lifted from an Atari game and some gratuitous aerobics!

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Ninja Busters looks pretty great in this AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer that has been “digitally mastered in 4K from the only existing Fine Grain Answer Print” and which is presented in 2.39.1 widescreen. The 25GB disc handles the transfer just fine, there aren’t any obvious compression issues and fine detail is generally pretty strong here. Colors look good and while there are some minor specks here and there, for the most part the transfer is surprisingly clean. Yeah, all in all, this is a really nice looking transfer. Grain is present as it should be, there aren’t any issues with overzealous noise reduction or edge enhancement and overall this is a nice, film-like presentation.

    Audio chores are handled by an English language LPCM Mono track and it sounds fine. There are no alternate language options or subtitles provided. Range is understandably limited in spots but dialogue is typically pretty easy to understand, balance is good and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary from the film’s director Paul Kyriazi and it’s a pretty fascinating oral history of this obscure picture. He talks about how the idea for the film came to be, the genesis of the script, the casting of its leads and who did what on set (a whole lot of people put a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears into getting this thing finished). It’s a great document of the low budget filmmaking scene of the time as Kyriazi offers up some insight on the fight choreography, the sets and locations, some thoughts on the score and quite a bit more. It’s pretty fascinating stuff well worth listening to.

    Kyriazi's first feature, The Tournament, is also included on the disc. This is a forty-nine minute black and white movie transferred from the only surviving elements (a tape) and it’s as quirky a picture as you’d expect after watching Ninja Busters. It tells a simple but effective story of a samurai who strikes up an alliance with some Europeans only to wind up competing with them in a martial arts tournament. The film started off as a high school project with Kyriazi working alongside Ed Diokno and Mark Krigbaum (who would later score Crown International’s Death Machines, which Kyriazi would direct). Surprisingly enough, the movie was shot in scope and it’s quite polished in terms of cinematography and presentation and you get the impression at times that they were going for something sort of Kurosawa-esque. It’s a pretty ambitious effort and a nice inclusion on the disc.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are a quick vide introduction by the director (and one of the cast members), two minutes worth of fan testimonials shot after a screening, menus and chapter selection.

    Inside the clear Blu-ray case alongside the Blu-ray disc you’ll find an insert book sheet containing some liner notes by Dan Fraga of Exhumed Films on one side and, on the flip side, a ‘Poster Reproduction Card’ that features the same art that has been used on the cover for this release.

    The Final Word:

    Ninja Busters is a seriously enjoyable mix of eighties style buddy comedy shenanigans and martial arts action. Not to be taken seriously in the least, it’s fast paced and goofy but also ridiculously entertaining. Garagehouse Pictures have, for their inaugural Blu-ray release, rolled out the red carpet for this one and given it a proper special edition release. Lots of fun to be had here!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!