Directed by: Menahem Golan
Starring: Franco Nero, Susan George, Christopher George, Will Hare, Zachi Noy, and Sho Kosugi
Cole (Nero) is a macho, mustachioed man who trains at a ninja school to
master the art of Ninjitsu. Upon completing his studies, his rival,
Hasegawa (Kosugi), presumably because Cole is a white Westerner, screams
“He is not a ninja!” and storms off. Undaunted, Cole travels to the
Philippines to visit his old army buddy Frank (Courtney) and his wife
Mary Ann (George). They have a lot of property there and they while away
the hours enjoying cockfights with their poor laborers.
As it turns out, the sinister, “Mr. Big”-type villain, Mr. Venarius (Christopher George,
no relation to Susan) wants their land. His henchmen, Mr. Parker
(Gregory) and the memorable Siegfried “The Hook” Schultz (Noy) are
ineffectual in securing Frank’s property for their own evil ends, so
Venarius commands an army of white-suited baddies to take it. But they
didn’t count on one thing: Cole and his newly-minted Ninjitsu skills!
Additionally, Cole’s old nemesis Hasegawa is on the loose and Cole must
deal with that. Will the power of Ninjitsu prevail for the good guys?
Not only did Cannon films and Sho Kosugi
lead the pack during the ninja boom of the 80’s, they actually kicked
it off with this, their first “ninja” film back in ‘81. Let’s remember
that besides the Sho movies, Cannon also gave us the American Ninja titles as well as movies such as Ninja III: The Domination (1984). Smartly, the main hero role is played by a man who was an established star, at least in many territories around the world: Franco Nero.
It may seem weird that Sho has a secondary role as Cole’s rival ninja,
especially when most of the film’s running time is devoted to “Nero-Fu”,
but this was a proving ground for Kosugi, who after this ruled the
ninja film world.
However, the opening titles sequence does
have Sho, well, “showing” off his array of ninja moves and weaponry (a la Revenge Of The Ninja). Unfortunately, there’s no opening or closing credits song.
The beginning and end of the movie deliver the ninja goods, but it’s
what’s in the middle that lags. Yes, there is a lot of cool and bloody
ninja violence, but the audience is not emotionally invested in the Cole
character as portrayed by the dubbed-by-someone-else Nero. (Also I
should mention that the “bad” ninja, Hasegawa wears a black outfit, the
white guy, Cole, wears a white outfit, and there are some red ninjas as
well. Could this be ninja profiling?) The characters of Dollars (Hare)
and the aforementioned hook-handed Siegfried add color to the
proceedings, and Christopher George camps it up as an over the top baddie, but the movie is just too long at 104 minutes.
While Enter The Ninja
is classified rightly as one of the premier ninja movies, its slow pace
is a hindrance and most of the film is a
run-of-the-mill actioner - one that should have been trimmed down to at
least 90 minutes. It has silly, Scooby-Doo-like musical stings, and
despite the presence of people like Susan George,
who we always love seeing, it’s hard to become invested. However, it is
very well-shot and the Philippines locations look beautiful.
Like certain TV shows when you compare the first season to later seasons when the show hits its stride, such as The Simpsons or South Park, this pioneering Ninja Boom entry is not a bad film, but, for the ninja film fanatic, the best was yet to come...
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty