CANNON MONTH: Ninja 3: The Domination (1984)

The third film in Cannon Films’ unofficial and unconnected trilogy of ninja movies after Enter the Ninja and Revenge of the Ninja, this movie is pure Cannon, a movie that attempts to be everything all at the same time and somehow pulls it off, which is probably due to Sam Firstenberg’s ability to direct action and a wild script by James R. Silke.

It all starts with David Chung playing Black Ninja Hanjuro, who in the space of under ten minutes lays waste to a golf course. After announcing that everyone is about to die by crushing a golf ball in his bare hands before killing everyone and anyone dumb enough to try and tee off. There’s no info as to why this is happening, but it doesn’t matter when a ninja can one hand pick up a old cart and then goes wild on an entire army — literally a hundred or more — cops who arrive by car, by motorcycle and even by chopper. After mutilating an entire phalanx of cops, they do what police officers do best and shoot him over and over and over before he disappears in a cloud of smoke.

He reappears in front of our heroine, Christie Ryder (Lucinda Dickie from the Breakin’ movies) as she works on a telephone pole. He stares into her eyes and possesses her with his spirit and handing her his katana.

Now, she must kill every one of those cops so his soul can be at rest, which gives us plenty of dramatic heft as she starts to fall in love with one of those cops,Billy Secord (Jordan Bennett).

After some aerobics — this movie is somehow a ninja Flashdance — and Christie beating up some would-be rapists, we have Billy and Christie’s love scene which — wow. I mean, it’s a 38 year old movie, but this love making scene still blows my mind even today. You’ll never see V8 the same again. After their horizontal dance, the video game Bouncer appears out of Christie’s closet in a cloud of fog and possesses her as a the katana flies into her hand. Now, some cops are going to pay, even if our heroine has no idea this is happening.

Bouncer was a real game by Entertainment Sciences that had the player control the bouncer of The Ritz nightclub. To win, you must maintain order by throwing out customers who can’t behave while keeping the paying customers happy.

Billy starts to suspect his new girlfriend, because after all she has the murder weapon in her closet and blacks out every time one of his fellow cops dies. He takes her to an Asian mystic — James Hong! — and she goes wild, nearly killing everyone, which means that only one man can stop her possession: Yamada (Sho Kosugi), a ninja whose master was murdered by Hanjuro, who also blinded him in the left eye.

The final battle has Yamada freeing our heroine inside a monk’s temple before the black ninja possesses all of the monks, turning them into ninja zombies and honestly, I don’t know another movie that relentlessly goes as hard as Ninja 3: The Domination.

Kosugi didn’t like the idea of a female ninja. Additionally, unlike so many actors, he realized his worth — he’d been in three money making movies for Cannon — and decided to leave versus getting paid what he’d been getting paid, all while seeing some of his favorite scenes get cut out of the movie. He’d work on the TV series The Master, as well as make some other totally great ninja movies: 9 Deaths of the NinjaPray for Death and Black Eagle.

According to Grady Hendrix and Chris Poggiali’s These Fists Break Bricks, Kosugi didn’t believe in this movie. “It doesn’t work,” the ninja star said in an interview. “He was believing in ninja mystery, plus breakdancing, and also trying to make psychic concept.”

I love how Hendrix and Poggiali sum up Kosugi: “Sho Kosugi always knew his value and had no problem asking for what he was worth. Cannon transformed him from a faceless extra inside a ninja suit to the first Japanese star of an American action movie, but when they wouldn’t pay his price, he left without hesitation.”

Dave Powell’s “Body Shop” appears in this movie, as it was made for the film, but Cannon loved it so much that it’s also in Breakin’ 2, and the indistinguishable Hot Resort and Hot Chili.

This is right up there at the top of my favorite Cannon films, a delightful mix of ninjas, exorcism and dance, all in one potent and fast-moving film. I wish they had made ten more of these.

  

For more info on all this great film, get Austin Trunick’s The Cannon Film Guide Volume 1: 1980-1984.

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