Growing up in the ’80s I was one of those boys who had a fascination with martial arts films. I owned plastic nunchucks and shuriken, watching Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee movies as well as their Western imitators. I wanted to be a ninja, and not having the access to much Hong Kong cinema, I sated my first with the likes of American Ninja and Return of the Ninja. Eureka are releasing the Ninja Trilogy (Enter the Ninja, Return of the Ninja & Ninja III: The Domination) in sumptuous high definition presentations on Monday.
Enter the Ninja is a cheesy opening to the trilogy. It’s a story of a couple, (Alex Courtney and Susana George) living in The Philippines who are terrorised by a local industrialist who covets their oil-rich land. When an old friend Cole (Franco Nero) arrives he ends ups taking on the gang and an old enemy (Sho Kosugi) he studied ninjutsu with in Japan. It’s pure cheesy action fare with dubious fight scenes and dialogue, but retains a certain nostalgic value.
Return of the Ninja is easily the best film of the collection. Cho (Sho Kosugi) moves to Utah with his mother and young son after the murder of the rest of his family by an army on ninjas. He opens a factory with his friend and business partner Braden (Arthur Roberts), and his assistant Kathy (Ashley Ferrare). Everything is going well until he discovers that Braden has been using it as a front to smuggle heroine and a subsequent falling-out with the mob leaves Cho battling to save his family’s again. It still stands up now as an impressive action film with some great fight scenes and a fast-paced plot.
In the final film of the trilogy, Ninja III: The Domination, things go very strange. An aerobics enthusiast Christie (Lucinda Hickey) is possessed by the spirit of a dying ninja who uses her to exact his revenge of the people who killed him. She embarks on a killing spree, unbeknownst to her, and only the arrival of another ninja, Yamada (Shô Kosugi), may save her. It’s possibly the most ’80s film I’ve ever seen.
The Ninja Trilogy is released on dual format by Eureka on Monday.