In 1981, Canon Films released Enter the Ninja. This was quickly followed in 1983 with Revenge of the Ninja and in 1984 with Ninja III: The Domination. Each film in the “Ninja” trilogy had nothing to do with the one that preceded it save for the fact that they each featured a (different) character played by Sho Kosugi. In Ninja III, Kosugi plays…well…a Ninja, but until the final-third, the film is Christie’s story – and what a gloriously goofy story it is!
The film begins with what may be, without a word of hyperbole, the greatest opening in cinematic history. Beginning at a golf course that also features a hidden cave, a mysterious white-suited man enters and finds a cache of hidden ninja weapons including throwing stars and a sword. He emerges in full Ninja gear plus eye-liner, and what follows is ten or so minutes of over-the-top, unadulterated chop-socky carnage.
The Ninja (who we later find out is an evil “Black Ninja”) assassinates a man for apparently no reason other than the fact that he has a yellow sweater tied jauntily around his neck. He then cuts a swath of destruction through Sweaterman’s (actually a prominent scientist, but in what discipline the film never explains) numerous burly bodyguards. The police arrive but they prove to be little match. Black Ninja slices and dices his way through what appears to be an entire squadron, laying waste to all whether they be on foot, in car, on motorcycle or in chopper. Yes, he manages to bring down a police helicopter using only his bare hands!
He finally meets his end in a massive hail of bullets, but not before dispatching at least three-dozen people (we stopped counting after his perfectly-aimed blow-dart caused a pistol to explode.) But before he expires for good, he stumbles about long enough to meet Christie, played by Lucinda Dickey of the Breakin’ series and Cheerleader Camp. Christie is an attractive telephone installer/aerobics instructor. He mumbles something in Japanese and hands Christie his sword which she happily accepts despite the fact that he is bloody, bullet-ridden and doesn’t speak a word of English.
Ah, but everything free has a catch. In Christie’s case, this means continually flashing back to being gunned down whenever she sees one of the cops who pulled a trigger plus nocturnal blackouts where she becomes the spirit of the avenging Black Ninja.
One such lawman is the shockingly hirsute Billy who pursues Christie and ultimately becomes her lover. They’re in bed post-coitus when a thunderstorm that apparently only she can hear wakes her. She opens her closet and the sword magically removes itself from its sheath and moves of its own accord. Christie grabs it and…nothing. Billy wakes up and Christie acts as if nothing at all unusual had just occurred.
Cut to an airport and a man wearing what appears to be a giant Japanese coin for an eye-patch. That’s our Sho arriving in America, but it really doesn’t matter for now. What does matter is the next scene where Christie is playing the arcade machine in her flat (awesome!) Suddenly, the game starts spinning around and Christie is bathed in a laser-light show befitting a planetarium playing Pink Floyd. And here comes that darn sword again! This time when Christie grabs it, she begins smoldering like The Ultimate Warrior cutting a promo and is led to the geological weapons cache. She comes out dolled up in her finest Ninja finery plus eyeliner and is ready for a little vengeance, Black Ninja style!
The next morning, Christie wakes not feeling so hot and with no recollection of the previous night’s events. She goes to a doctor who tells her that she’s perfectly fine save for her “exceptional extraordinary sensory perception and her preoccupation with Japanese culture.” Huh? Wouldn’t E.S.P alone warrant at least a follow-up visit? And up to that point, the only things Christie seemed preoccupied with were leg warmers and leotards.
After another night of nocturnal butchering, Billy takes the ailing Christie to a Japanese medicine man played by the wonderful James Hong. She is chained up and given something funny to smoke. Must have been some strong stuff because she suddenly starts spinning wildly while looking and speaking like Regan MacNeil. She breaks her shackles and passes out. In the next scene, Christie is sitting on Billy’s desk in the cop shop eating yogurt, blissfully unaware that she went full Exorcist just mere moments ago.
The rest of the film involves Sho and Billy teaming up to try and free Christie of the demonic curse and defeating the evil Black Ninja once and for all. Cue lots more sword-slicing, star throwing, arrow shooting, kung-fu fighting and all-around general kick-assery.
Ninja III: The Domination is 90 minutes of delirious fun. It’s impossible not to love, especially if one is fond of gratuitous 80s aerobics dancing, bad-ass martial arts and consenting adults finding erotic pleasure in V8 juice. Besides, any film whose credits font could best be described as “Generic Chinese Restaurant” is aces in our books.
**** (out of five)