Not that long ago the video store was a mundane and sometimes obnoxious part of life; driving over to some lonesome strip mall with your friends or family to comb through the all-too-often disorganized shelves of your local shop, argue over a selection, and then be stuck with it, for good or ill. Yet, it was also sublime. And for those who lived during the true video boom, video stores also equate to another bygone commodity: VHS. When JVC’s Video Home System won the early-80’s format war, the motion picture market changed forever. The genre and B-movies that had previously filled drive-ins across the country now often went straight to VHS. Then DVD took the world by storm in the late-90’s. It was a brave new world, and sadly, many films never made the leap, trapped now on a dead format. These often aren’t “good” films, but goddammit, they were what made video stores great. For we here at CHUD are the kind of people who tended to skip over the main stream titles, our eyes settling on some bizarre, tantalizing cover for a film we’d never even heard of, entranced. These films are what VHS was all about. Some people are still keeping the VHS flame burning. People like me, whose Facebook page Collecting VHS is a showcase for the forgotten charms of VHS box artwork. With this column it is my intention to highlight these “lost” films and the only rule I have for myself is that they cannot be available on DVD.
Title: Ninja III: The Domination
Genre: Gonzo Action/Supernatural Horror
Tagline: The fastest. The deadliest. The best.
Released by: MGM/UA Home Video
Director: Sam Firstenberg
Plot: Christie is a hot aerobics instructor/telephone pole operator who becomes possessed by the diabolical spirit of a slain Ninja assassin. Initially, her behavior appears normal to her new, unnaturally hairy, police officer boyfriend. But before long she starts killing off, Ninja-style, the cops that are responsible for the evil Ninja’s death following a golf course murder spree. Luckily, Christie’s boyfriend enlists the aid of Yamada, a good Ninja, because it appears that only a Ninja can kill another Ninja.
Thoughts: The Cannon Group made three Ninja movies in the 80’s with legendary martial arts action star Sho Kosugi that included: Enter the Ninja (with Franco Nero), Revenge of the Ninja and the mind-shatteringly epic Ninja III: The Domination, which is not a sequel to those previous films, nor is it a sequel to any other film. It’s simply titled Ninja III: The Domination because it’s the third Cannon movie to feature both Sho Kosugi and Ninjas. BOOM!
This pizza party classic opens with an amazing, extended action set piece in which a deadly Ninja assassinates a very important scientist and his bodyguards on a golf course. The Ninja is pursued by law enforcement and kills dozens upon dozens of cops, including the destruction of several police cars, motorcycles and one helicopter! The violent Ninja rampage appears to be without end until he is finally gunned down mercilessly by a barrage of machine gun and shotgun fire… but he still keeps going like a Ninja Michael Myers, killing a few more cops before escaping via smoke bomb. He manages to crawl away far enough from the melee to transfer his soul into an attractive young female telephone pole worker named Christie (Lucinda Dickey). This is the first twenty minutes of the film and it plays like Grand Theft Ninja: Vice City!
At first, Christie’s personality seems normal. She has an awesome aerobics workout montage and starts dating a swarthy cop named Billy (Jordan Bennett), who she shares a disgusting V-8 tomato juice love scene with. But he notices something unusual about his new flame after she beats the living shit out of a gang of would-be rapists outside the gym with her crazy new Ninja powers. Then one night the Black Ninja (David Chung) takes full control of Christie via laser light show emanating from the video arcade game she has in her way-too-expensive-to-afford loft apartment. From that point she goes on a bloody murder spree of the remaining cops responsible for gunning down the Ninja. Her new beau enlists the aid of a good Ninja named Yamada (Sho Kosugi) to help him get his girl back. Together with the wise Miyashima (Big Trouble in Little China’s James Hong) they perform an opium influenced exorcism that leads towards an epic final Ninja showdown that’s filled with tombstone-smashing action as Christie attacks a police funeral filled with armed cops!
Director Sam Firstenberg (Revenge of the Ninja, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, American Ninja, Avenging Force) elevates unintentional cheesiness to high art status with this incredibly crowd pleasing cult classic of late night cable gems. The trashtacular is drenched in an ear-splitting pseudo-Asian synth score, including random aerobics routines, brutal violence and over-the-top action all wrapped up in one big fun-bomb of lunacy that only the Cannon Group could deliver. Its like Flashdance meets The Exorcist with motherfucking Ninjas and it’s one of the most outrageous and unique martial arts/horror films I’ve ever seen before. For years this rare exploitation delicacy has languished exclusively on analog and remains one of the few titles in the Cannon catalog yet to be given the full digital makeover, unless you count the bad bootleg VHS-dubbed DVD that was released awhile back, which I don’t. Well, the good news is a beautiful new Blu-ray of Ninja III: The Domination is going to be released by the fine folks at Shout! Factory on June 11th! If you like Ninjas and insane cinema from the eighties, this one will blow your skull off!
CHECK OUT THE NINJATASTIC TRAILER: