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Enter The Ninja

    Horace Cordier
    Senior Member

  • Enter The Ninja (Blu-ray)

    Released by: Kino Studio Classics
    Released on: May 26th, 2015.
    Director: Menahem Golan
    Cast: Franco Nero, Susan George, Sho Kosugi, Christopher George
    Year: 1981
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    ENTER THE NINJA - Cannon Film's 1981 actioner - opens in Japan with a bunch of pajama clad assassins (aka ninjas!) in a choreographed assault on a huge feudal Japanese home. But this turns out to be a bit of a cheat however. Turns out this bit of business is actually a training exercise for the hero of our film - American soldier of fortune/mercenary Cole (Italian legend Franco Nero, wackily dubbed). He's taking his final exam so to speak. And he's graduating with high honors - a westerner (!) granted full acceptance into the Japanese ninja ranks. He even gets a diploma (ok, a scroll)! There's a slight hitch though in the form of fellow ninja Hasegawa (Sho Kosugi). A full blooded Japanese warrior who's deeply insulted by the entire concept of having a gaijin in these hallowed ranks. Who says reverse racism is a myth? Anyway, you know these two dudes will be settling their differences violently at some point...

    Cannon hits the ground running with this absurd film, that's for sure. Shot mostly in Manila, ENTER THE NINJA's narrative centers around Cole, after getting his ninja certification, traveling to the Philippines to visit his old war buddy Frank (Alex Courtney). Frank has a smoking hot wife named Mary Ann (Susan George - no relation to Christopher) who is helping her husband run a fruit farm. It's all pretty idyllic on the surface replete with cheap non-unionized local labor and the occasional wholesome cock fight for entertainment (what IS it with Italian genre films and animals anyway?). There's one big fat white suited fly in the ointment though. Local businessman/polluter Charles Venarius (Christopher George) wants Cole's land. And he's got a bunch of henchmen to harass and beat Frank's workers. Now Cole will gave to step in and help his war pal. He'll end up using his extensive training and Venarius will have to call in some Japanese expertise for backup. Remember kids - Cannon lore 101 - only a ninja can defeat a ninja.

    While I don't rank ETN quite as high as the next film in the cycle - REVENGE OF THE NINJA - for pure entertainment, or consider it as flat out batshit nuts as NINJA III: THE DOMINATION - it remains a prime slice of genre Gorgonzola. The fights are exciting. The henchmen (including a troll-like human slug with a hook for a hand and a tall British guy who conducts himself like Mr. Belvedere) and main villain are grade A, especially top bad guy Christopher George who looks sharp as a tack in his spiffy white suits. He also has literally the greatest death scene in ANY Cannon film and creates a memorably bizarre character. Nero - despite the crazy dub - is highly effective. Susan George looks hot toting a shotgun and Courtney manages a neat trick as the alcoholic and dissolute Frank - he manages to gain audience sympathy. Finally you have Kosugi making a great first impression in the Cannon universe. He's so damn intense that Cannon made him the hero in the next film in the franchise.

    Director Menahem Golan isn't quite as adept at action films as his later protege Sam Firstenberg who took up the reins for REVENGE OF THE NINJA, but he gets the job done. Nero's stunt double was Elvis Presley bodyguard fixture Mike Stone and he was a damn good martial artist. Kosugi, always the real deal and a blast to watch, really shows his stuff with Stone in the final sand pit showdown. I also love the various bizarre touches scattered throughout the film: Nero sleeping with Frank's wife because FRANK suggests it (he's impotent and feels bad about it because his wife "wants it all the time"), Christopher George's hobby of staging synchronized swimming shows poolside, unnecessary cock fights, and Golan's propensity for staging APOCALYPSE NOW-style flashbacks on a five buck budget.


    Kino's AVC encoded 1.85.1 1080p transfer is a decent mid-level affair. The print isn't pristine, but it is mostly clean with only minor wear. Detail is strong and color reproduction good. DNR is nowhere to be seen and black levels are deep. Nighttime scenes hold up under a close eye and whatever softness is occasionally visible is a direct product of source limitations. Anyone with the previous DVDr should be pleased - and I thought if offered an improvement on my old German Blu. Audio is managed by a DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track that's on the higher end of quality for this early 80's time period. There's a bit of LFE going on and the various punches and gunshots have some nice punch to them. The score sounds full bodied too, and all dialog is clear (down to Nero's dub). The only extra you get is the film's trailer. Bummer.

    The Final Roundhouse Kick:

    I'm extremely fond of this nonsense. It's really entertaining. Susan George is sexy, Nero is a blast, and Kosugi makes a cool impression. Christopher George almost steals the show as the dandy villain but the fights are great (including a nifty bar brawl) too. Throw in some wacky sexual subtexts and gorgeous Manila sunsets and you have a winner. Kino's disc is barebones but looks and sounds lovely.

    Highly recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

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