• Enter The Ninja

    Released by: MGM Limited Edition Collection
    Released on: October 18, 2011.
    Director: Menahem Golan
    Cast: Franco Nero, Susan George, Sho Kosugi, Christopher George
    Year: 1981
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    The Movie:

    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.


    Enter The Ninja looks pretty good in this 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer from MGM. More cleanup work probably could have been done as there’s some minor print damage present throughout, but the emphasis here is that it’s minor print damage, nothing too serious or too distracting. Colors are well defined, there isn’t any bleeding nor are there wacky contrast problems, and skin tones generally look good as well. Black levels aren’t reference quality but they’re fine, and the movie looks decent. Not perfect, but decent.

    The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 track, the only audio option (there are no dubs or subtitles provided here), is also fine. There are a few spots where you might notice a pop or two on the track but it’s generally well balanced and clear.

    Extras? Well, this is an MOD (DVD-R) release, so there’s not a whole lot here but MGM has at least included the film’s original theatrical trailer in widescreen. Aside from that… the standard MGM Limited Edition Collection menu screen is there and there are chapter stops. You’d think that this movie was popular enough and influential enough to deserve more than that, but something is better than nothing.

    The Final Word:

    This isn’t the special edition version that the movie deserves (at least in this writer’s opinion!) but it offers up this cult classic in pretty decent quality and in its proper widescreen aspect ratio. The movie itself holds up well, and Nero and Kosugi are great together and this one holds up really well, particularly if you dig eighties ninja movies.

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      So far as I can tell, yep, all the throwing star and nunchuck action cut from the UK version is intact.