Welcome to Scream & Shout, a new column that focuses on Blu-ray releases from Shout! Factory and its genre arm, Scream Factory.
An aerobics instructor (Lucinda Dickey – Breakin’, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo) becomes possessed by the spirit of an evil ninja when she crosses his path after he’s been shot down. Dominated by the killer’s vicious and relentless rage, she sets out to brutally attack his enemies. Her new boyfriend, confused by Christie’s changing personality and afraid that he might be her next victim, enlists the aid of Yamada, a martial arts hero. In a life-threatening exorcism and ultimate fight to the death, Yamada proves that he is Christie’s only chance for survival. For only a ninja can kill another ninja!
To understand the level of illogical B-movie fun you’re in for with Ninja III: The Domination, all you have to do is watch the extended opening scene of the movie. The story starts off with a ninja attacking golf course patrons, unprovoked I might add and in bright daylight, and massacres them. There is probably a reason why the filmmakers had the ninja attack these innocent golfers but they fail to really provide a reason to the audience. The ninja then goes on to kill a good portion of an entire police force that attempt to capture him by foot, motorcycle, car and helicopter. The ninja demonstrates great prowess and strength as he takes down cops with ninja stars, punches his fist through the top of a police car and climbs a tree to jump onto a moving helicopter to kill everyone on board before returning to the ground where he finally finds himself surrounded by a large group of cops. They open fire on the ninja, literally pumping him full of hundreds of bullets, and the ninja falls to the ground. But wait! The ninja only acts dead for a few seconds before disappearing through smoke screen. The bewildered cops leave the scene and the ninja reveals himself to be underneath the dirt of the very spot he was shot full of lead. Apparently, in that split second of smoke cover, he managed to dig himself completely underground, all the while still not dying from injuries. He gets up and continues on, stumbling upon a telephone technician/aerobic instructor named Christie and passes his sword and spirit to her before his death. Unbeknownst to Christie, this vengeful ninja will use her to strike back at the cops who killed him.
I like this premise set up, not because of its (lack of) originality, but because the ninja could have been less of a inexplicable douche and avoided his death and need for revenge by simply not murdering tons of people. It’s the story’s askew sense of logic that makes the movie fun to watch. There is a scene where, after an aerobics class, Christie sees a woman being harassed by a group of rapey dudes and intercedes. The guys turn their focus on Christie and start messing with her, all the while the entire aerobics class (including a cop, Billy, who is there to try to persuade Christie to date him) stand there and watch this all happen even though they all outnumber the bad guys 3 to 1. Christie stuns the crowd with her ninja like skills and dispatches the men one by one. Billy looks stunned at what he just saw Christie do and then proceeds to arrest her. But don’t worry, Billy still likes Christie and they hop into bed pretty quickly in one of the more unsexy sexy scenes I’ve seen. At one point, Christie takes a can of V8 that Billy is drinking and pours it down her neck/chest (pictured above). That was enough for me to run out to the grocery store and buy up some V8 for my girlfriend and I to try out later. Oh yeah. Besides, the weird V8 eroticism, Billy also sports some crazy back hair. Sadly, he does not pour V8 down his back. Oh well, missed opportunity.
Soon things start happening to Christie, which include things like a possessed arcade game, a floating sword and laser beams shooting out of Christie’s eyes, but there is a possession scene that I found fun in an alternate-universe-Linda-Blair-Exorcist kind of way. Billy is concerned with Christie’s worsening behavior and takes her to an “exorciser” (get it? She’s an aerobics instructor, he exorcises spirits. Exercise. No?). I may have glossed over how Billy knows about such a man (played by James Hong – Big Trouble in Little China) but it’s also possible they don’t really explain it. Regardless, they tie Christie up by her wrists and she acts all possessed with the whole voice changing routine but instead of pea soup and 360-degree head spinning, her entire body starts flipping 360s. At that moment, I felt it was only natural that an aerobics instructor does that when possessed. Sadly the ninja exorcist cannot help Christie and tells Billy that “only a ninja can kill a ninja.” This new piece of knowledge, which is surely just for the audiences benefit, is what leads to a ninja vs. ninja finale!
The very nature of the movie’s title suggests that it is the third film in a trilogy, which includes Enter the Ninja and Revenge of the Ninja, but this movie has nothing to do with those other films. In some ways, Ninja III is the Troll 2 of ninja movies and is the better for it. It’s a lot of fun to watch the B-grade action and story play out and relish in its 80s charm. After watching the movie, I felt like Ninja III was made by a bunch of pre-pubescent teenagers who thought it would be cool to make a movie about a hot girl who becomes a ninja and then started throwing things into the movie to make it even “cooler,” regardless if those decisions made any sense. However, it wasn’t made by adolescents and was made by full grown men and what we get is unadulterated B-movie insanity. If you like bad movies, Ninja III: The Domination won’t disappoint with its so-bad-it’s-good appeal.
Scream Factory’s Ninja III: The Domination release is a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack with interior artwork that features a few different posters/artwork from the movie’s promotional period. One poster in particular that is featured on the interior that I thought was cool is the Italian variant poster, which sports the title “Trancers” (pictured below). I’m not sure that Trancers makes any sense as a title for this movie but then again, this whole film lacks logic from beginning to end. The video transfer on the Blu-ray looks pretty damn good. Considering the pedigree of the movie, I think it’s safe to assume that Ninja III hasn’t ever been given preferential treatment on home video before but Scream Factory’s presentation of the movie will likely end up being the best you’ll ever see it on home video. Fans of the film will definitely be pleased with the results.
There aren’t a lot of special features on the disc. The only things provided are a photo gallery and a commentary with director Sam Firstenberg and stunt co-ordinator Steve Lambert. The commentary track is pretty entertaining to listen to though and I can certainly understand the lack of behind-the-scenes materials for the film since there may not have been a whole lot produced for the film.
by Ben McBride
Follow Ben on @monsterpopcorn