You thought you were safe from improptu last minute Godfrey Ho ninjas, just because it’s dicember? How sweet, how naive, that’s how the ninjas get you.
That and cut-n-paste editing.
Yeah, sorry to having to bust out these rewrites, but all the major cinema releases i’m interested in basically release all together in a few days, so let’s a quick ninja dip before we talk of the lesser Spider Man multiverse movie hitting theathers.
This one happens to be one of the few Ho ninja flicks released on the DVD in the UK under the “ Hollywood Video” and-or “The Ninja Collection” labels. “Few” given how of these fuckin things there are, you think you have seen-covered most, then do a quick search on IMDB and – BAM – at least 5 more flicks (often with two alternative titles each, because it is “ninja law”) always surface.
As with a good 50 % of these Ho/Lai ninja movies, “Movie A” it’s a gangster movie/criminal drama affair, this one being 1982 Taiwanese film “Hei juan tao”, written and directed by Yung-Chang Li, a very typical story of mob succession struggles and backstabbing, when the role should actually fall to the daughter of the previous boss.
You can discern this much despite the english redub making these Shangai people living in Shangai get called with names like “Fat Ronald”, “Benjamin Chang”, “Fox Chan”, and others i’m honestly not even sure what they are or supposed to be, with the usual crappy, almost cartoony, cheesy dub making even those hard to hear, sometimes making it almost impossible even on focused replays.
This is one of the cases where i’m honestly kinda glad Godfrey Ho operated his cheap magic on a random ass taiwanese gangster drama, since “ Film A” this time happens to kinda gel with the ridiculous ninja action, and that in itself easily slips into plain ludicrous territory, as every single mafioso sports a Borsalino-style hat, they keep throwing each other in traps that seem designed by a Mac Callister freshly forced through a Saw marathon, when people just bleed & die by gently scraping (or getting scraped) alongside a rocky or glassy surface.
After all, this is a movie where the main guy called Dragon (not that one) just simply decides NOT to check the face of the killer wearing a ski mask, only because he bashed his head on a rock…. not even that hard, i’ll have to just fill the gaps myself and say those rocks were also laden with corrosive acid. It’s a good excuse as any to cheap out on anything, like the “casinò” shoot out scene, in itself very badly coreographed and acted, made worse because the “casinò” it’s just one of the rooms we’ve seen in a previous scene, they just removed the chairs and that’s it, guess it was too expensive to put up an old beaten up slot machine or just a couple of signs, just shoot the shit and have the character says what the place is supposed to be, make believe is awesome. And free.
But what about the ninjas? Somebody has to fed the poor things, after all.
Sadly this is one where the ninja footage is slightly less abundant than usual, and it’s definitely some of the worse Ho filmed, even by his “standards”, even the original ninja action scenes were clearly shot in different moments then edited together for what it’s supposed to be a single battle, and in a way are funnier than usual because they’re so cheap and lazy, like, i understand using stunt doubles for Richard Harrison (of course he’s into this one as well, regardless if he wanted to), but come on, you really had to rewind the footage to make some the characters perform “ninja jumps”?
Come on Ho, even 70s Turkish cinema figured the cheap solution to that: the mighty trampoline.
The original footage it’s still fun as you want/hope, but i wanna stress how often they feel completely pointless, some consisting of Harrison just flexing his sword skills to no one in particular, the way the footage it’s inserted into the plot of “Film A” makes one feel like Ho remembered at the very last minute he was supposed to edit ninja there.
But you know what, it’s still fun to see people from “Film A” and “Film B” trying to shoot at each other via the editing, and the icing on the cake is Harrison annoying his target with a frigging slingshot like Dennis The Menace, before killing him with a toy crossbow won at a luna park.
That said, it seems “Film A” doesn’t want to lose in ridiculousness to the new ninja footage, because – as said before – it has some genuinely ridiculous shit of its own, from slapfights that almost erupt in a Three Stoges routine, assassins with knives so excessively big that would fit right into Minecraft, or a random thief kid, dressed like a dandy Oliver Twist escaped from a Gamera set.
You might have noticed how i didn’t touch upon the overall plot this dang thing was supposed to have in the end, but due to usual incompetence at play, it’s a non-issue, as the two plots really aren’t connected at all, they didn’t even try with this one to make the two plots connect, until the last 20 minutes, with the usual spliced phone call of actors from “Film A” and “Film B”.
If you don’t read the synopsis beforehand, you won’t have the slightest idea of why Richard Harrison is going around and killing other ninjas… though, that might be the case anyway, since the one on IMDB it’s still vague, itself copied from another Godfrey Ho ninja flick….and – more importantly not correct. Some revisions are long overdue.
So for clarity i will summarize the actual plot of the movie myself here, really quick.
Richard Harrison plays Gordon (i guess it really was a clause in his contract), a shady bank owner who decides to settle the score when his card playing pals murder, tired of always losing, kill his business partner Ronald. Meanwhile, a turf war erupts between Ronald’s gang, now led by his daughter, and Fox Chan, Ronald’s lifelong enemy, leading to plenty of dull gangster shootouts.
It just happens Gordon and his “card buddies” are all ninjas.
Overall, while it’s not the worst or the least interesting of IDF Filmarts ninja hodgepotches, the trashy fun parts with the ninjas don’t change the fact the taiwanese gangster drama this one it’s loosely stitched to… it’s pretty tedious, aside from goofy and ridiculous things that stand out, but there are not enough of those overall to recommend it even to the initiated, though i’d say give it a watch anyway, you most likely have seen even worse ninja hack jobs from this company and era.
I have reviewed some that would fit the description, but still, there isn’t much cheese to squeeze out of this Ninja Dragon, even if you are knee deep into this nonsense as i am.