Junesploitation 2021: Pray for Death (1985)

June 1: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is ’80s action! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.

Words cannot express how important ninjas were in 1985. Every single day, American kids drew pictures of them during class, beat on one another with their weapons and watched their movies, which could nearly have an entire shelf of your local video store all to themselves.

Pray for Death is Sho Kosugi’s vehicle and he makes the most of it. You may remember him as the villainous Hasegawa who fought Franco Nero in Enter the Ninja, but here he’s graduated to become the hero. He plays salaryman Akira Saito, who has decides to follow his wife’s dream and immigrate from Japan to the United States along with their two sons Takeshi and Tomoya (Sho’s sons Kane and Shane).

What his family does not know is that Akira is a ninja and has kept the temple’s secrets, even killing his own brother Shoji as he tried to steal from their adopted father Koga (Robert Ito, Sam Fujiyama on Quincy, M.D.). His master tells him to leave Japan behind and erase the guilt he’s felt over what happened.

Purchasing an old store from a kindly man named Sam Green (Parley Baer, the mayor of Mayberry!) that will become Aiko’s Japanese Restaurant. But before they can see any success, two crooked cops hide a necklace inside the floorboards, leading to Akira’s children being attacked, Green being murdered and eventually, our hero’s wife being injured and then killed inside the hospital while she recovers.

This all means that Akira must return to the ways of the ninja and literally force a man to pray for death before impaling his hands and sawing him in half. Yes, this form of ninjitsu is not quiet in any way.

Director Gordon Hessler has the kind of IMDB list that makes me excited about movies. It has it all, from Scream, Pretty Peggy and The Oblong Box to The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park. He makes the kind of movies people like me want to watch.

Predictably, critics hated this movie. Please show me the ninja movie that they have enjoyed.

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