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Justice Ninja Style (VHShitfest) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Justice Ninja Style (VHShitfest) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: VHShitfest
    Released on: April 25th, 2023.
    Director: Parvin Tramel
    Cast: Ron D. White, Brent Bell, William R. Johnson, Rick Rykart
    Year: 1986
    Purchase From Amazon

    Justice Ninja Style – Movie Review:

    Director Parvin Tramel’s 1986 feature film, Justice Ninja Style, opens with a Star Wars style text scrawl that educates us with a brief history of the ninja before alerting us to the fact that they’ve been extinct… until now!

    From here, we meet a few cops. One of these cops is named George (Rick Rykart) and he’s not a good cop at all – in fact, he’s got an attitude problem that’s as bad as his moustache. When he and his partner come across two ladies dealing with a flat tire, George gets fresh with one of them, Shelly (linda Garrison), while the other, Carol (Victoria Mann ), goes off to try and get a tow truck. This lady clearly has a past with George and when she rejects his advances, he smacks her. She falls down, hits her head and dies.

    Thankfully for George, Brad Tolan (Brent Bell), who has just set up a new karate school in town, walks by. He has brad give him a demonstration with his baton, thus getting Brad’s finger prints all over it, and proceeds to frame him for the murder. Brad gets locked in the town jail but isn’t there for long because a mysterious ninja (played by Ron D. White, 9th Don) shows up and frees him. From here, Brad goes on the run and hides in a barn while the ninja shows up and fights people from time to time.

    When Dan (Dan McManness), Brad’s pal, finds Brad hiding behind a bush and learns that happened, he wants to help prove his innocence. Dan doesn’t need any fucking sleeves and drives a Chevy Citation so you know he’s not one to mess with. The ninja, however, is very sloppy and leaves throwing stars around all willy-nilly like no one would find them and use them against their own enemies. Anyway, Brad winds up in a gals house. This gal is Carol from the beginning of the movie and she pulls a gun on him – he’s wanted! But she likes him. You know right off the bat they’re going to fall for each other.

    While all of this is going on, George holds a town hall meeting, a Japanese guy(?) runs around going “neenja neenja neena.” Brad hides out in culverts a lot and then goes to the park. Here the ninja fights guys while a Willie Nelson impersonator hangs out in the park jamming with his pal. George, realizing the walls are closing in on him, decides to use the full force and fury of the Desoto, Missouri PD to stop ninja and Brad – but will it be enough?

    At just over seventy minutes, Justice Ninja Style is a pretty breezy watch. This is a movie where the hero has a big forehead and everyone else has a moustache. Well, at least all the men. There isn’t any character development. George sucks. Dan is alright though. He seems pretty cool, actually. But then, people jump over shrubs for now reason and the movie redeems itself. Guns fire off screen probably because there was no money for blanks. There are lots of fights and a really cool synth score.

    One disappointment? The movie sets up Nick Nixon - country and western star – by having him appear in the movie and showing in on a marquee but he never sings in the film, he just sort of appears and then leaves. Sad face!

    Otherwise, however, Justice Ninja Style delivers all of the weird local flavor you’d expect from a micro-budgeted SOV ninja movie made in a small town in Missouri. Plenty of locals pop up as extras or supporting players, local businesses obviously had a role in making it happen, and it’s consistently quirky in both idea and execution. The acting is never better than passable, but that’s somehow perfect for a movie like this.

    Justice Ninja Style – Blu-ray Review:

    Justice Ninja Style arrives on Blu-ray from VHShitfest in an AVC encoded 1080i high definition transfer framed at 1.33.1 fullframe, which would be its original aspect ratio given that it was shot on video back in 1985 or so. The region free disc as good as the obviously limited source material will allow for. Understandably, detail is limited by the film’s analogue origins but for a tape-sourced presentation, this actually looks pretty solid. Colors aren’t bad at all, especially when compared to other SOV productions of the same era, and compression is handled well.

    The only audio option on the disc is a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track in English with optional subtitles provided in English only. Audio quality is on par with the video quality in that it is imperfect but an accurate representation of the source material. Dialogue is generally pretty easy to follow, the track is balanced well enough and the score sounds decent, but clarity is limited.

    Extras are spread across the two discs in this set as follows:

    Disc One:

    The extras on the first disc start off with an audio commentary from fans (and Desoto locals) Cody Terry and Steven Francis. They give a fairly scene specific talk, covering the text scrawl that opens the movie, who did the awesome synth score in the movie, details on Desoto, Missouri locations, Ron D. White's life and times, how the making of this movie was an absolutely huge deal to Desoto at the time, where locations have changed and where they've stayed the same, details on the movie's release and how the fire seen in the movie had nothing to do with the movie but was filmed anyway and then written into the movie, thoughts on bottled water, how cool Dan's shirt is, the logical issues of using a ninjas who doesn't talk as your main witness when trying to clear your name and lots more.

    Up next is the fifty-nine minute featurette, The Ninja Speaks, which is a lengthy but interesting – and sometimes fairly bizarre – interview with Ron D. White, the man who played the ninja in the movie. He speaks about how he got into martial arts training, what drew him to the fighting styles we see in the movie, getting to train with none other than Elvis Presley (he seems understandably proud of a signed photo given to him by The King) and how he eventually became a ninja himself. He then goes on to talk about how he wrote a book called ‘So You Want To Be A Private Detective’ that wound up on Magnum P.I. before going on to detail the making of Justice Ninja Style, how welcoming De Soto, Missouri was and how many people in the town pitched in, the movie’s low budget, what it was like making the movie and adding reshoots to fill in his character’s back story for the Ultimate Warrior reissue of the movie. He also talks about his appearance in Playgirl Magazine, doing a live ninja demonstration at Six Flags to open their new ninja-themed roller coaster and doing his own ‘How To Become A Ninja’ video. At one point it looks like someone, possibly asleep on the couch in the background, pokes their head up to see what’s going on.

    The ten minute Locations: Then And Now featurette looks at some of the main locations used in the movie and compares how they appear in Justice Ninja Style to how they look in the modern day.

    Ninja: The Ultimate Warrior is the longer, eighty-six minute reissue that includes the lengthy prologue shot later to give White’s ninja character some more depth and a reason for being in De Soto, Missouri in the first place. It does help clarify some of the questions you’ll be left with after watching the original, but it’s almost better having the ninja just sort of appear for no reason.

    Finishing up disc one are trailers for Justice Ninja Style and for Ninja: The Ultimate Warrior as well as menus and chapter selection options.

    Disc Two:

    How To Become A Ninja is the aforementioned video that Ron D. White made. It runs sixty-one minutes and it’s worth the price of the disc alone. In this video, White shows off pretty much all the gear you need to become a ninja yourself, along the way revealing himself to be a master of disguise and a man of questionable fashion sense (at one point he says something to the effect of there being no wrong style of gi to wear, but he does this while wearing an Evel Kneivel style stars and stripes outfit – it’s quite a contradiction). He explains why some of the weapons work the way that they do and gives demonstrations of grappling gear and smoke bombs. It’s really entertaining stuff and an awesome micro-budget time capsule of when ninja-mania ruled America.

    The disc also includes an interesting two minute clip of a local news program covering the making of the film. It’s brief, but it gives a glimpse into the town’s mindset and excitement for the project.

    Up next is thirty-seven minutes of raw footage containing what is presumably all of material shot for the prologue that was added to the longer, reissue. There’s some fun behind the scenes material in here.

    Six Flags Ninja Media Day is the entire forty-three minute presentation done at the theme park where White appeared, dressed in full ninja regalia, in 1989. He shows off some of his sweet ninja moves (and at one point his nunchucks break, but he doesn’t let that phase him because he’s a fucking professional) and the crowd is rightly impressed.

    A Really Good Rocker: The Making Of A Music Video is a thirty-minute piece that features actor Rick Rykart and Ron D. White doing their thing. It’s an amazing look at what went into getting the footage together for the music video for Rick Rykart’s song, A Really Good Rocker, from his album of the same name released by Hot Records. It has as much line dancing in it as you’d expect but also some pretty fun fights. We get to see some raw footage, the video itself, then a look at the post production process and more!

    Finishing up the extras on disc two is an extensive seventeen minute slideshow style image gallery made up of behind the scenes photos, pictures from the movie’s premiere, newspaper clippings and promotional materials.

    This release also comes packaged with some boss reversible cover sleeve art, with a newly created painted design on the front and the original art – essentially a picture of white in his Garb in front of some trees - on the reverse.

    Justice Ninja Style - The Final Word:

    VHShitfest’s two-disc special edition Blu-ray release of Justice Ninja Style is an amazing package, as much a time capsule of a genuinely quirky moment in a small town’s history as it is a movie presentation. That said, the feature itself is seriously entertaining stuff and the amount of extra material included in the set, highlighted by the How To Be A Ninja video, is worth the price of admission alone. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Justice Ninja Style Blu-ray screen caps!

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