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Ninja III: The Domination
DVD + Blu-ray
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A telephone repairwoman becomes possessed by the spirit of a Japanese assassin.
Martial arts and horror collide headlong--with no apparent survivors--in Cannon Films' Ninja III: The Domination (1984), one of the most bizarre emissions from the '80s cult/camp netherworld. Though billed as a sequel, Ninja III has no connection to its predecessors--Enter the Ninja (1981) and Revenge of the Ninja (1983)--beyond the oaken presence of Sho Kosugi, who spends half of the picture's running time off camera before earning a showcase for his skills in the final third. The majority of screen time is instead afforded to actress Lucinda Dickey (Breakin') as a telephone line worker/aerobics instructor who becomes possessed by the spirit of an evil ninja (David Chung) shot down by the police after a deliriously violent golf course assault. Dickey is soon tricked out in ninja gear and tracking down the officers involved in the killing. This does not sit well with new (and alarmingly hirsute) boyfriend and cop Jordan Bennett, who brings in an exorcist (James Hong from Chinatown and Blade Runner) to solve matters before Kosugi eventually arrives to face off against the ninja's ghost. Under the direction of B-action vet Sam Firstenberg--who also oversaw Dickey in Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo that same year--Ninja III is a fast-paced crazy quilt of inexplicable story choices (the ninja spirit "communicating" with Dickey through a video game; Dickey seducing Bennett with a can of V8), outrageous fight sequences (the opening golf course attack, which amasses a colossal body count in its 10-minute-plus running time), wildly divergent acting styles, and scenes cribbed from Hollywood features (a nod to Poltergeist when Dickey is dragged into her closet by unseen forces while avant-garde singer Diamanda Galás provides supernatural cries on the soundtrack), all liberally salted with '80s cultural ephemera (aerobics, Patrick Nagel prints, neon, processed men's hairdos). In short, Ninja III is a junk movie devotee's dream: a picture that operates by its own lopsided rules of sanity and logic while attempting to adhere to the absurd requirements of its story and the ninja subgenre. Scream Factory's two-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo is light on supplemental features but does provide an amusing and informative commentary track by Firstenberg and stunt coordinator Steve Lambert, who enthusiastically recount the challenges of working within the Cannon system and mounting a martial arts movie on a limited budget. Though a trailer is mentioned on the cover packaging, none is present on the discs, but the array of international poster art makes up for its absence. --Paul Gaita
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The story follows an evil ninja that kills some targeted people and then spends the rest of the beginning of the movie fighting, and killing, what appears to be all the cops in Los Angeles. They keep shooting and he will not go down, but then does a disappearing act similar to Bugs Bunny and gets discovered shortly after the cops split by a young woman who works for the telephone company. He says some sort of incantation to transfer his soul into her so that he can later seek revenge on the last remaining police officers that were trying to kill him. When his soul takes control, she goes out to kill these men and then wakes up wondering what happened and why she is bruised and battered. She also happens to be dating one of the intended victims and he becomes concerned and takes her to a mystic who gets the evil spirit to reveal itself and then informs the boyfriend that "only a ninja can kill a ninja." Just so happens that a good ninja has showed up and he agrees to help pull the spirit out of her and place it back in its original body and then fight it to the death.
The blu-ray of the film is awesome and looks great, but the only extras is a commentary track which I admit I have not tried at the time of this review. They actually listed an original trailer, but I found nothing for it in the menu of either disk. This is why it gets four stars. I'm happy to have the film, and love being about to go back to my weird childhood, but it would have been nice to see some extras with the cast sharing stories about this amazing mess of a film.
This is, like the other movies heavy on action, and light on almost everything else. The acting is okay, but not great as the cast was made up of largely unknown actors. It did divert from the revenge story lines of the previous two movies (somewhat), this time borrowing inspiration from movies like The Exorcist and Poltergeist (which the director freely admits to in the commentary track) adding in a more mystical component having the evil ninja nearly indestructible, then transfer his power into a telephone company worker/aerobics instructor (played by Lucinda Dickey). It opens with a very long action sequence where the evil ninja assassinates someone on a golf course, and then is badly injured trying to escape the police. The aforementioned transfer of power takes place, and the rest of the movie involves her taking out the cops in the final shootout and Kosugi's character trying to track her down.
The movie disperses the action sequences throughout. There are three main sequences, including the final battle, and then a handful of other sequences between a bit of romance, comedy and an attempted exorcism. The movie clocks in at just around an hour and a half, and the story flows fairly well so it does not seem to go on too long.
The blu ray transfer for those who get the disc is okay, but not great. About what you would expect from a 30+ year old low-budget movie. Certainly not the great A/V quality that high budget action movies put out today get. For extras there is a photo gallery of movie posters and production stills. There is no trailer for the movie however as the package indicates. There is also a commentary track with the director and the stunt coordinator who mainly go over how the various action sequences were done. It is interesting to listen to for those who like them because you find out that all the stunts were done practically with no harness or wire work and get an idea of how dangerous some of it was.
Chances are anyone who is reading this is well versed with the movie because they grew up watching it on TV, cable or VHS. Since it is rarely (if ever) on TV anymore, this is well worth picking up to upgrade the media and have on hand when you want to take a nostalgic trip back to a kind of cheesy 1980s action movie.
I was left completely satisfied after viewing the film with the commentary track and it left me with an appreciation for the art of film making. I highly recommend this disc for the commentary track alone and hope that Scream Factory will release all their films with such great transfers and special features.
I'd love for them to release 'American Ninja' on Blu-Ray in the near future, and in the mean time I will be exploring more of their great releases.
Buy this and have a blast!