Can’t believe that we didn’t cover yet (on this blog, anyway) anything from the masterful editing hands of Godfrey Ho and his empire of multi-colored caucausian ninjas, so time to rectify this with a… random one from the huge ninja pile, Ninja Thunderbolt!
A little introduction for those yet unfamiliar with Godfrey Ho’s legendary style of “cut and paste-kata”, as in he took various unfinished, unreleased or copyright dubious films (often from Hong Kong and Taiwan)…. and edited new footage of caucasian actors acting as ninjas in colorful jumpsuit to make a “new” full lenght movie, redubbing and rewriting the dialogues in order to make a somewhat connected – and sometimes almost coherent – plot tie together all the footage.
Even if there are plenty of abrupt cuts, it’s night in a previous shot and in the next it’s clearly footage shot in the afternoon (and of course plenty of day-for-night shots), and the usual stolen music that Ho quite likely never paid the rights for, but used anyway, and plenty of ill-fitting usage of music zingers or the aforementioned lifted tracks.
Needless to say, it was often obvious how the new footage didn’t match the one taken from whatever obscure asian film Ho choose to “operate” on, and how ridiculous the ninja element was in the stories, to say nothing of the pink or red jumpsuits ninjas themselves, sporting a bandana that lets the viewers know if that character is good or evil: good ninjas have “Ninja” written on it, evil ninjas have “Nin Ja” written on it. And yes, there are subtler Sentai shows.
As it’s often the case, the new footage has Richard Harrison in it, and alongside other actors in ninja jumpsuits, with him talking on the phone to actors from “Movie A”, facing off another ninja in an incredibly brief fight in the last 5 minutes of the movie, but to be frank this isn’t a good one if you want to see plenty of multicolored ninja blasting magic spells, throwing shurikens and fighting with swords, as Godfrey Ho didn’t shot much new footage for it, so it’s safe to say much of the 1982 taiwanese crime thriller “Shi Jie” is still here, even if repurposed and redubbed.
At least, i think, i’m fairly sure Ho just choose another bizarre chrime thriller that already had ninjas (or thieves-criminal dressed as such) in it to begin with, as some of the crazier sequences sound like the kind of weird, ridiculous stuff Ho would add, but don’t look different or shot somewhere else years later. Don’t worry though, even the new sequences offer bullshit on par with the absurd crap the original movie most likely already had, like the drug dealer that apparently houses a pocket dimension in his mouth, as he produces an infinite number of joints from it.
The latter is definitely Ho’s work, but regardless of who cooked it up, there’s plenty of absolute insanity and senseless shit happening, from ski chases shot from too far away involving many people dressed the same, car chases often speed up like an old timey comedy or involve two identical looking cars, etcetera.
To say nothing of the rolling skates marauding ninja attacking Harry Wong in his ridiculous bubble car, which are just the chef’s kiss, the extra touch thrown in to bamboozle the viewer with stuff happening all the times, wise choice because any sort of break will make it even easier to realize how senseless the narrative is. It’s one of those Godfrey Ho movies where the plot is kinda hard to follow, even if you red a synopsis beforehand, like, even i was kinda glad and surprised the movie finally revealed (40 minutes in) that Harrison was the escaped ex-ninja.
Of course this can’t happen normally, Richard (yes, this time his character is not called Gordon) has to find a…. music cassette recording sent by the Ninja Empire, still big on Betamax, CD-I and Laserdisc.
Sure, the movie shows him in the prologue with the ninja master, but he never “ninja morphs” when he could for most of the time, and so much shit kept happening, with people fighting, car chases, random sex scenes with full(ish) male and female nudity, the good detective randomly scaring his wife by surprising her at home while wearing a rubber monster mask, that you forget why exactly any of that is happening, who’s who, especially since important information is never told to the viewer.. until way AFTER it’s happened, but by then something else spectacular, stupid or both has already hit your eyes, so it’s doesn’t matter anymore.
The plot isn’t actually that complex. An ex-ninja (now detective) left the Ninja Empire because of the new ninja master , Shima, bringing upon an evil regime, and he enlists a fellow Hong Kong detective named (at least in the dub) Harry/Henry Wong to track him down and end his reign of terror. There’s a theft involving a jade horse statue, a local criminal boss called Jackal-chan and an insurance commissioner, but even with Ho splicing ninjas in it, this doesn’t change things much, and for the most part “Movie A” goes on for huge streches of runtime before being ever so slightly interrupted by “Movie B”, as in the new footage with Harrison and the ninja fights.
Speaking of which, these are sadly very, very brief, even for Ho’s standards, and the last one is kind of a bummer, it’s 2 minutes tops of actual “ninja action”, Harrison wins, spare the evil lady ninja, but she kills herself as she still abides to their code of honor crap. Mightier than the ninja sword is actually the “classic” Godfrey Ho’s editing technique, so the frame is badly sized and its borders accidentally “cut” characters speaking in some wide shots. Classic ninja cinematic spell.
Still, no “thunderbolt ninja” in neither literal or figurative meaning of the word here. There’s a sign that says “tomorrow, our forest – Ninja Thunderbolt” left at Harrison’s place, but i’m not sure it refers to him or is the signature of the female ninja she fights at the end. We may never know.
Despite the fairly stock base crime thriller plot and lack of ninjas in pink jumpsuits or much in the way of Ho’s brand of ninja extravaganza, Ninja Thunderbolt is another fun Z-grade trashy mess, where most often than not you won’t know why exactly stuff happens… but on the upside most of the action scenes are fun, especially the chases, the martial arts scenes could be better, but there’s plenty of incredible scenes, absurdly filmed action scenes of any kind, and it’s all quite fun.
Not a major cult classic piece of ninja trash from the house of Ho like Ninja Terminator or Golden Ninja Warrior, but far from boring!