While Ninja November sadly will not happen, it’s sunday, so time for a rewrite-revision on one of Godfrey Ho’ “ninja classics”, The Ninja Squad, because i really don’t think you need more reviews on Ninja Terminator and Golden Ninja Warrior.
At least not when doing a “simple” rewrite, i guess we’ll have to get to them eventually.
This time we have caucasian ninjas footage bolted onto a 1984 filipino movie called “ Hatulan si baby angustia”, directed by Rey Malonzo, which according to IMDB also directed two other movies that also served as “bases” for other Ho ninja flicks. Fate can be quite cruel, indeed.
“Film A” is about a guy that comes back to his poor family, vexed by the local criminal gangs to pay for protection, even more now since there’s one more family member, and they promise to kill him and all his family if they don’t pay.
I said “a guy” because in the redubbed footage this filipino person is called “Billy” and “Film B” implies that Billy trained from young age in the way of the ninja by a Richard Harrison looking like he’s dead inside, probably as consentient as Beatrix Kiddo about being put into this film.
Starting with the positives, in this istance the plot of “Film A” is more coherent than usual, even with the butchering and repurposing of footage to fit the “Ho treatment” you can actually follow the basic plot of that movie.
Problem is, this makes even more obvious how “Film A” never had anything to do with ninjas, even in similar cut n paste flicks the basic criminal story setup was used slighly better to “justify the ninjaaaah”, here there’s a lot more shooting, like a lot of overly long scenes of people shooting at each other, and they’re so well done they basically seem birthed by crossbreeding of a very boring Grand Theft Auto mission and Time Crisis.
When it’s not that, it’s the ninja footage and stuff like the editing setting up a love story between “Billy” and Lisa (i did not, etc) despite sharing a total of 3 minutes together in the story, a subplot made more confusing since “Billy boy” also is involved with two other women that honestly look very similar, the english dub job doesn’t help either, nor does the lighting or the video “quality”.
In the intro i mentioned that Billy was trained as a youngling by Master Ninja Gordon, aka Richard Harrison. So you’d think they would at least obscure the face of the kid playing the young version of Billy in the “Film B” footage, as to mask the fact it’s definitely not a filipino kid, but nope, at the very beginning we have a flashback showing Master Ninja Harrison training him (with methods that make the Senran Kagura ninja schools seem orthodox)… and you can clearly see it’s some white american kid or something, they don’t try to not show his face.
Hilariously, later in the movie there are flashbacks of Harrison training “Billy” under a pagoda of sorts, to give it a more “mystical” tone and use the shadow the obscure the face of the young ninja trainee. I’m not joking, and only god knows why the hell they didn’t swap the order of these flashback sequences, but i would guess it’s just Ho and company not giving a quarter of a shit.
Maybe i’m expecting too much out of a movie that treats his main character having gone to – and i directly quote – “Ninja school” and hence not able to get a regular job like the others… as a genuine plot point, when we later find out he might actually have trained at the same highschool of Sousuke Sagara, given how oddly proficient with AK 47 is this “ninja graduate”.
The plot of the main movie being mostly coherent comes at the expenses of less “colorful ninja fights” footage, with the plot of “Film B” being about an evil ninja (his headband says “Nin Ja”, so you know he’s evil) called Ivan The Red that challenges Master Ninja Gordon (played by Harrison, as previously stated) to a battle for ninja supremacy or some bullshit like that, Gordon refuses, so Ivan in revenge starts hunting down former ninja students of Gordon’s, after facing them in 30 seconds long Ho style ninja clashes steals their bandanas like this is Afro Samurai.
Only 1 hour in Gordon and Ivan meet up to shout some hilarious “tough ninja phrases”, kinda necessary they shitalk each other as “Film A” needs to end first (and what a cliched ending, btw), so this easily avoidable massacre goes on (even more avoidable as Gordon didn’t had fuck all to do, so he might as well fought Ivan and killed him early on, but whatever), and the final ninja showdown as usual takes up the last 3-5 minutes of the movie, with Ivan and Gordon trasforming into their ninja attire Sailor Moon style, make swords fly with ninja magic, pirouette like ice skaters, summon the cartoon sound effects of swords clashing, Gordon wins, THE END.
At the very least there’s more variety in the weapons the “jumpsuit ninjas” use, it helps cope with the small amount of new ninja footage Ho and crew used here.
Music as usual it’s cool but “lifted” most likely without permission, this time from a forgotten british post-punk band called Dif Juz, which broke up in 1986, a pure coincidence i feel, i doubt Godfrey Ho was a seer on this specific musical genre, or had much in the way of precognition.
Then again, i feel Ho might have used-acquired this filipino movie easily as that one in itself used Billie Jean on the soundtrack… without actually crediting the song. Of course.
Overall, The Ninja Squad is nothing special for a “ninjaxploitation” cut and paste affair from Ho and company, but it’s also somewhat an oddity.
The plot of the filipino film used as “base” is better preserved, less butchered and so more coherent in itself (despite the filipino charactes now named stuff like “Billy” and “Lisa”), but that movie itself fits even less with the new “colorful ninjas footage”, being mostly a crime action flick where people shoots lead at each other like in a regular GTA mission, so “Billy” coming back from a ninja school – aside being even more improbable in context – wouldn’t have mattered since he already knew the power of semi-automatic rifles. The gun is deadlier than the sword, so whatever.
Also, it’s hilarious how they immediatly flub any semblance of making you believe Richard Harrison’s footage of training a young boy to ninja arts connects to the 30 years old filipino man with moustache redubbed as “Billy”… since the movie begins with a flashback where we see the face of “young Billy”, being one of a very caucasian american kid. They could have edited some seconds to fix this, or used one of the later flashbacks where we don’t see its face, but didn’t. XD
In hindsight it’s extra funny how this movie has more shooting that the frigging gangster movie used as base for Ninja Dragon, but it’s also way more clichè, amounting to a fairly forgettable action movie about a guy that come back home and has to fight criminals extorting his poor family for protection money, becoming in the process a mix between Rambo and a filipino Paul Kersey.
The other downside to the plot of “Film A” being better preserved is less ninja footage, though it might just have been Ho just deciding to economize further on the new footage, which has the usual gagle of caucasian guys in ridiculous colorful jumpsuit fighting with plastic katanas, cartwheels and the “editing” ninpo, and at the very least you have a lot of very short ninja fights and the usual laughable “badass” ninja dialogues, making for some fun trashy cinema bits.
I’d recommend just searching on Youtube the few minutes of “ninja footage” for The Ninja Squad, not so much watching the whole thing.
Ninja Dragon was more enjoyable, this you can skip easily.