Revenge of the Ninja [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (11th June 2017).
The Film

“Enter the Ninja” (1981)

Cole (played by Franco Nero) has completed his intensive training in Japan as a ninja, but not all are accepting. Fellow ninja Hasegawa (played by Sho Kosugi) sees ninjitsu as a strong Japanese tradition that a white American like Cole could not fully realize. Regardless of Hasegawa’s actions and thoughts, Cole leaves to Manila, The Philippines to restart his life again, meeting up with his old war buddy Frank (played by Alex Courtney). Living on a farm with his wife mary-Ann (played by Susan George), there are some issues happening in the area, as foreign business owners are using forceful tactics to threaten villagers and local businesses to try to gain territory. Seeing the injustice, Cole takes it upon himself to use his skills as a ninja to protect his old friend and the people. But the businessmen have many dirty tactics to use against Cole and everyone else…

“Enter the Ninja” was one of the early starts of the ninja craze sweeping western culture in the 1980s. Israeli filmmakers Menahem Golan and his cousin Yoram Globus took B-grade movies to the mainstream with their Cannon Films group, producing hundreds of low budget (and sometimes high budget) films during the late 1970s and through the 1980s. Golan directed “Enter the Ninja”, which showcased the unusual Caucasian ninja assimilating and using the code of the ninja as a way of protecting rather than assassinating, though lots of bodies were disposed of along the way. Casting Italian actor Franco Nero in the main role was a stretch, as Nero cannot speak with an American accent and also the fact that he knew nothing about ninjitsu and was not an action star. But dubbing Nero’s voice was one fix for the accent issue, and using cutaways and stunt doubles for the action scenes to solve the physical side. The action sequences are technically not that impressive with some obvious doubling and movements being slightly slow. There is one scene where the stuntman doubling Nero dressed in white jumps from a tall tree branch to the ground below obscured by bushes. Nero gets up and moves through the bushes, but there was no attempt to hide the stunt double as his body just lies there. The fight scenes have some choreography but most of the time are plainly average, although the scenes with Sho Kosugi are highly entertaining as the actor was a karate champion and was a martial artist in many differing styles. It’s a shame that his character of Hasegawa appears at the beginning and the end for short moments. What makes up for it are the comedic moments from Nero who has some silly one liners and a playful attitude rather than the strictness expected from a traditional “ninja”. Zachi Noy as the henchman with a hook for a hand Siegfried Schultz was something straight out of a comic with his French accent and stumbling and crazy look. Christopher George as mob boss Venarius took things further with the stereotypical bad boss and the confrontation scenes were more or less funny rather than frightening.

The film is fun but definitely flawed. Not just on a technical standpoint, but also the performances of Alex Courtney and Susan George were average, there were many questionable points in the plot, and the directing had nothing particularly special about it. Tongue in cheek moments throughout, “Enter the Ninja” is not high art but a laughably silly yet fun cult classic that still gets love from fans to this day. With the success of the film, it led Cannon Films to make more ninja films, including the 1983 film “Revenge of the Ninja”.

“Revenge of the Ninja” (1983)

Cho Osaki (played by Sho Kosugi) returns to his home to find a gruesome scene. His family has been massacred, with only his infant son and his aging mother (played by Grace Oshita) surviving the ordeal. Knowing that rival ninja clans will return to take them down again, he takes the advice of trusted friend Braden (played by Arthur Roberts) to move to America to be safe. Six years after moving, Cho opens a Japanese art gallery with his assistant Cathy (played by Ashley Ferrare) and Braden helping out. But Braden isn’t only helping Cho as a friend, but using the gallery as a storefront for a drug smuggling business and keeping this a secret from Cho. When Braden’s mob boss Caifano (played by Mario Gallo) gets involved, this threatens not only Cho’s business but also his family, with his young son Kane (played by Kane Kosugi) and his mother caught in the dangerous turf war.

Although “Revenge of the Ninja” and “Enter the Ninja” were both produced by Cannon Films and both starred Sho Kosugi, the stories had nothing to do with each other. Kosugi plays different characters and the settings are completely different, with “Revenge” being mostly set in America rather than The Philippines for “Enter”. He also gets top billing rather than secondary almost cameo work in “Enter”. With Kosugi in full force, “Revenge of the Dragon” ups the physical fight scene choreography and length, with emphasis put on Kosugi doing his own stunts throughout. The fight scene at the temple, the brawl in the driving van, and the final showdown on the rooftop are incredible highlights showing the actor’s true physical skills not faked away by cutting or editing. In addition, Kosugi’s real life son Kane Kosugi has some moves of his own such as when he fights off the school bullies and during the escape scenes. Though one must wonder how many times Kane had his head bumped during the making of the movie as it almost seemed like a recurring motif to see his head get banged in the film. But as long as father approved! While the film is more action packed and the family matters are at the core of the film, the rest of the film suffers from clichés and plot holes. The ninja attack at the start of the film is never fully explained, how a trained ninja master could not see what Braden was doing with a drug business under his nose is inconceivable, and the police being this ineffective is unusual. (Or is it?) The rest of the supporting cast is by the numbers and not particularly memorable. Sho and Kane Kosugi are memorable but mostly for their action and not their acting.

Granted Kane was only a child but Sho Kosugi is one of those actors who never cracks a smile or says anything jokingly. The playfulness of Franco Nero in the previous film is not here, the slyness of Bruce Lee isn’t either, and the insanity of Sonny Chiba he isn’t. Sho Kosugi is still remembered for his multiple action roles in the 1980s and early 1990s such as “Pray for Death” and Rage of Honor”, but his later years was mostly in retirement from the film business, though he did make a special comeback in the 2009 film “Ninja Assassin”. “Revenge of the Ninja” was still a very big hit for Cannon Films and it would lead to another ninja film from the studio a year later with “Ninja III: The Domination” which strangely had a “III” attached to the title even though it had nothing to do with the first two films except it was a ninja film featuring Sho Kosugi - in yet another character role.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray which can be played back on any Blu-ray player worldwide

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents both “Enter the Ninja” and “Revenge of the Ninja” on a single 50GB Blu-ray disc.

Both “Enter the Ninja” and “Revenge of the Ninja” are presented in 1080p in the AVC MPEG-4 codec, in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The high definition transfers are sourced from MGM with the more recent logo opening both films. Colors are fairly well reproduced though it is a little dull on the color palate, with “Revenge” looking slightly better and sharper. There are no issues of compression with the two films sharing the same disc, and there are no issues of noise reduction or artificial filtering, showcasing a film like transfer. Some specs are here and there, but none too distracting.

The runtime for “Enter the Ninja” is 99:48.
This is the uncut version of the film featuring the cockfighting segment which was cut from the UK releases.

The runtime for “Revenge of the Ninja” is 90:03.
This is the unrated international version of the film which includes additional violence originally removed for the US theatrical version.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono
Both films are given a 2.0 mono audio track in lossless DTS-HD. The opening lion roar is in fact stereo but the films themselves are in mono. Dialogue is clearly reproduced, music and sound effects are well balanced, and there are no issues of damage, hisses, or errors in the audio transfer. The mono keeps everything quite flat for the most part, with no particular standout scenes audio-wise.

There are no subtitles offered for either film.

Extras

"Enter the Ninja" trailer (2:53)
"Revenge of the Ninja" trailer (1:38)

Original trailers for both films are presented in high definition. The picture and audio has been cleaned though there are specs and dust still remaining. Both obviously showcase the fight scenes heavily. On the menu there is a “play trailers” option which plays both back to back only.
in 1080p AVC-MPEG-4, in 1.85:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

The trailers are the only extras. “Enter the Ninja” has been released in various other countries and all have the same extra - the trailer. “Revenge of the Ninja” has also been released in various other countries. The US and UK releases also include a commentary and director’s introduction that were sadly not ported to the Australian release. Also the third film in the saga has not been released in Australia on Blu-ray, though it has been in other countries on Blu-ray.

Packaging

The back cover has a “region B” symbol, but in fact this Umbrella Entertainment release is region ALL.
For the inlay, it is reversible with the alternate artwork being the original poster art for both films.

Overall

“Enter the Ninja” and “Revenge of the Ninja” are fun cult films from the early 1980s that are still enjoyable to this day with its humor and action sequences. They are not high art, high brown, or high class, but they are both very high on replay value. Umbrella Entertainment skips on the extras by only offering the trailers, but the transfers and audio are very good.

The Film: B- Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: D- Overall: B-

 


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