Five Elements Ninjas (1982)

Chang Cheh directed ninety movies from 1965 to 1993*, as well as all of the lyrics to the songs within his films. The majority of his most well-known movies in the west feature the Venom Mob of Kuo Chui, Lu Feng, Chiang Sheng, Sun Chien, Lo Mang (along with Wei Pai), a group of martial arts masters who appeared together and separately across numerous Shaw Brothers films.

Also known as Super Ninjas, Chinese Super Ninjas and Chinese Super Ninja, this movie seems as if the weirdest and most violence obsessed kid in your grade school class was suddenly given enough money to stop scribbling in his notebooks and instead allowed to make a movie that is pretty much non-stop ninjas horribly murdering one another.

This is quite frankly the highest praise that I can give to a movie.

I mean, let me sum up the first five minutes: Chief Hong (Chan Shen) has challenged his rival Yuan Zeng (Kwan Fung) for the title of martial arts master, which mostly entails sending each others’ students after one another in battles to the death. Hong has cheapened these wars of honor by inviting a foreign samurai to the contest. He kills one of Zeng’s students before being stopped by Liang Zhi Sheng (Lo Mang). Before he commits seppuku, he throws a spiked ring to Zeng, which poisons the master and keeps him from doing kung fu until he heals.

There’s no time to heal, as a new challenge arises from the Five-Element Ninjas. Zeng asks Sheng and Tian Hao (Cheng Tien Chi) to fortify the school while ten of his best men answer the challenge. What follows is a series of increasingly brighter colored ninjas basically showing you every Mortal Kombat fatality nearly a decade before the game came out. The ninjas also send Senji (Chen Pei-Hsi) to infiltrate the school. Yes, Hong and Mudou (Michael Chan, who didn’t just play triad gangster roles, but left the police to become one), the leader of the ninjas, are pretty much the winners before the fight even gets started.

Within a few weeks, she has mapped out the entire school and Mudou’s ninjas attack as she offers herself to Sheng. He refuses her, but allows her to play the flute for him. As she entertains him, everyone in the school except for Hao, who escapes and visits his old ninja master. Joined by four other fighters, he challenges the Five-Elements Ninjas and Mudou, who has killed Hong and taken the title of master.

This movie is quite frankly amazing. It blew my mind throughout and never lets up, like a children’s show that has wall-to-wall gore. As the first movie in our week of Hong Kong films, it has set a high bar which other films will really have to battle to scale and exceed.

You can watch this on Tubi.

*The Legend of the 7 Golden VampiresFive Venoms and Crippled Avengers to name a few.

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