• Enter the Ninja / Revenge of the Ninja



    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: June 7th, 2017.
    Director: Menahem Golan/Sam Firstenberg
    Cast: Franco Nero, Susan George, Sho Kosugi, Christopher George, Mario Gallo, Keith Vitali, Virgil Frye, Kane Kosugi
    Year: 1981/1983

    The Movie:

    Umbrella Entertainment’s recently launched line of Cannon Films classics continues with this double dose of Sho Kosugi ninja madness.

    ENTER THE NINJA:

    Following hot on the heels of the success of 1980's The Octagon, in which Chuck Norris takes on a clan of echoey sounding ninjas who spend a lot of time in trees, was 1981's Cannon Films' Enter The Ninja. Shot almost entirely on location in Manila, the film stars Franco Nero (Django, Hitch-Hike) as Cole, the first Westerner to finish ninja training. His ninja master even gives him a license that proclaims his ‘ninjatude' (their words, not mine). It's not all cake and champagne once Cole finishes his training though, because Hasegawa (Sho Kosugi of Revenge Of The Ninja) is pretty pissed off that Cole has been given the dubious honor of complete ninjaness, especially since Hasegawa comes from a long line of Japanese warriors and Cole is just another goofy mustachioed American (albeit one that’s played by an Italian).

    After Cole has finished his training, he heads off to the Philippines to help out his old war buddy, Frank (Alex Courtney of Zombie Death House). He and his lovely wife Mary Ann (Susan George of Straw Dogs) have been having some trouble keeping their employees working at their plantation, as a local crime lord, Charles Venarius (Christopher George of Pieces), and his thugs have been threatening them to get them to sell their plantation to him. It seems there is some oil underneath Frank's land, and Venarius will stop at nothing to get it.

    Good thing Cole has come down to visit Frank then, huh? Cole, being a ninja master, quickly shows those thugs that it doesn't pay to mess with his buddies. Venarius' number one bruiser, a fat and sweaty German man with a hook for an arm named Siegfried (Zachi Noy of Tobe Hooper's Night Terrors), learns the hard way that screwing around with ninjas isn't good for your health. But Venarius won't take no for an answer and he heads out to get his own ninja to stop Cole and Frank once and for all - Cole's old ninja school pal, Hasegawa!

    Enter The Ninja is one of the films that kick started the ninja movie craze of the 1980s. Followed by Revenge Of The Ninja and Ninja III: Domination, it was the first of the Cannon ninja movies and the first time Franco Nero would play a master of the martial arts. An odd casting choice for a ninja, Nero and his stunt double (martial arts choreographer Mike Stone, who also co-wrote the film and was originally slated for the lead role) smack, punch, kick and ninja their way through Venarius' toughs like it's no big thing and they do it with style. Clad in a shiny white ninja suit (probably to make sure he stands out against the red and black ninjas in the opening scene), Cole is a formidable hero. Keeping this in mind, it's no wonder that Frank basically gives him permission to bang his hot wife because he's no longer able to get it up for her because of his drinking problem - Cole is just that cool.

    Sho Kosugi looks great on screen, he's menacing, and tough looking and has a sinister vibe working for him that really goes a long way to legitimizing his character's presence. Despite the fact that he doesn't really do much except to show up and get his ass beat hard by Cole, it's a testament to his screen presence that he's as memorable as he is in this film.

    The final show down between Cole (obviously Stone and NOT Nero under the hood) and Hasegawa is the closest thing to a real martial arts bout that the movie contains but it's not executed too badly. Stone and Kosugi are obviously the real deal and it's painfully obvious when Stone is under the hood and when Nero is handling the chores as all Nero really does is punch people, occasionally kicking them. Add to the fact that Stone and Nero don't exactly look alike, if you pay attention it isn't too difficult to see which scenes are actor, and which ones are stunt double. The direction is simple and basic, the plot is cliché ridden and not very original, and the comic relief is terrible at best but Enter The Ninja succeeds in spite of itself by providing plenty of action and a likeable, if unbelievable, hero.

    REVENGE OF THE NINJA:

    In Revenge Of The Ninja, Sho Kosugi plays Cho Osaki, an artist living in Japan who returns to his home to find that a gang of evil ninjas has massacred his family. Only his son and his mother survived the attack and at the suggestion of his close friend and art broker, Cho moves them all off to America. The hope is to start a new life and to open an art gallery in which he can display his hand made Japanese dolls. Cho, who keeps it a secret that he used to be a ninja, seals up his sword and vows never to use his ninja powers again.

    Things seem to be going pretty smooth once Cho moves to the land of opportunity, that is until he gets involved in a drug smuggling plot that is going on right under his nose. He soon learns that he has been used as a patsy. It seems that the mafia has been using the dolls that he’s had shipped from Japan as smuggling devices for some high-grade heroin they’ve been importing into the U.S.A.

    When Cho finds out what’s going on, his son gets kidnapped and his mother is killed, sending him into action. He breaks the seal on his sword once more, only to find out that there is another ninja in town. Not only is this other ninja up to no good, but he just might be behind all of this….

    If you’re a fan of the eighties era ninja films that seemed to be coming out faster than you can shake a stick at during the genre’s boom years, then you probably saw Revenge Of The Ninja. If you didn’t, stop what you’re doing right now and go get it, because it really is one of the best. The movie has just enough setup to matter and it moves at a nice, quick pace. The violence is strong and consistently well-choreographed, letting the various players involved really strut their stuff. Realism is thrown out the door from the opening scene (we see Kosugi catch an arrow in his teeth!) but it doesn’t matter. This is a world where kids and senior citizens alike can get in on the action, kicking ass and taking names alongside the best trained assassins that the world has to offer. It’s a world that puts entertainment first and logic a very distant second and it’s a world we should all be so lucky to experience, if only for ninety minutes.

    Not surprisingly, the focus of the film is Sho Kosugi. The man is a total bad ass, never afraid to put his ninja powers to the test while at the same time, never shying away from his character’s emotional side. He may not have the range or the depth of some of cinema’s more lauded thespians but he handles the material thrown at him well enough to make it work. We buy him as a loving father, but so too do we buy him as an instrument of deadly vengeance. This movie is pretty much nonstop action with only a few scenes interrupting the fights to add some more or less unnecessary character development to the mix. The film does slow down a bit when this occurs, but never so much as to really pull you out of things at all.

    Throw in a cheesy eighties synth-rock score that would make John Carpenter weep and a whole lot of gratuitous bloodshed, even a few gratuitous nude scenes into the mix, and you’ve got one fine piece of ninja-slpoitation all wrapped up in a nice neat ninety minute package. Nostalgia or not, it’s a movie that remains as endlessly entertaining now as it was back in the eighties.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Enter The Ninja and Revenge Of The Ninja are presented on one 50GB disc, both films are framed at 1.85.1 and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentations. The transfers are clean, colorful and nicely detailed, free of any compression artifacts or edge enhancement. Any print damage that pops into the frame is minimal and texture is strong here too. We also get nice, strong black levels and a fair bit of depth to the picture as well.

    The English language DTS-HD Stereo tracks are also pretty decent. There are no issues with any hiss or distortion, the levels are nicely balanced and the now somewhat iconic music used throughout each feature sounds just fine. There are no alternate language or subtitle options provided here.

    Extras are slim, limited to a trailer for each feature, menus and chapter selection. There is some nice reversible cover art included though.

    The Final Word:

    Two genuine classics of the eighties ninja movie explosion are presented in very fine shape from Umbrella. Both of these pictures are endlessly entertaining and a whole lot of fun.

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









































    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Where is the best place to buy this?
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