Friday, June 5, 2015

Film Review: NINJA III: THE DOMINATION (1984, Sam Firstenberg)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 92 minutes.
Tag-line: "He's the ultimate killer, she's the perfect weapon."
Notable Cast or Crew: Sho Kosugi (9 DEATHS OF THE NINJA, REVENGE OF THE NINJA, ENTER THE NINJA), Lucinda Dickey (BREAKIN', BREAKIN' 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO), James Hong (BLADE RUNNER, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA), David Chung (REPO MAN, MISSING IN ACTION 2: THE BEGINNING), Earl W. Smith (THE VILLAIN, DEATH VALLEY).  Produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus.  Written by James R. Silke (KING SOLOMON'S MINES, REVENGE OF THE NINJA).  Directed by Sam Firstenberg (AMERICAN NINJA, AMERICAN NINJA 2: THE CONFRONTATION).
Best One-liner: "I don't use soft drinks!"

NINJA III: THE DOMINATION is many things to many people, but above all, I have concluded that NINJA III: THE DOMINATION is a panacea for the soul.  It is a thing to be ingested––a glowing, Cannon-logo-shaped pill.

This time around, the logo shimmers and then launches itself into the depths of space-time.  That's an actual star-field.  I can't remember that ever having happened before.

Ostensibly the third film in a series (whose previous offerings included ENTER THE NINJA and REVENGE OF THE NINJA), the only unifying element among the three is the aforementioned Cannon Films logo and the inimitable presence of martial arts hero Sho Kosugi (as a different character in each film).

The best way to describe NINJA III: THE DOMINATION is as an untamable amalgamation of REVENGE OF THE NINJA, THE EXORCIST, BREAKIN' 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO, JASON GOES TO HELL, POLTERGEIST, PERFECT, DEATH WISH 3, and a commercial for V8 Juice.

Already, I can sense you're having difficulty wrapping your head around this magical ninja elixir, so allow me to describe the premise in greater detail:

There is a secret ninja cave underneath an Arizona golf course.

"No smoking in the ninja cave."

An evil, eye-liner-wearing ninja uses this as his base of operations for golf course-ninja attacks.  He pops out on the sixteenth hole and crushes a golf ball with his bare hands, just to let everybody know he's not messing around.


This website has always been an authority on brutal ball squeezing.

He goes on a murderous rampage, killing the country club's security team and this sweater-luvin' preppy:

who is later referred to as "a prominent scientist."  Okay.  This leads to a massive police response

In these films, it's always generic "POLICE" forces who don't answer to any particular jurisdiction––they only show up when the crimes are ninja-related.

and a manhunt, so as a riposte the evil ninja sends a bunch of cops, DUKES OF HAZZARD-style, right into the water hazards.

Perhaps a missed opportunity for a "mulligan" related one-liner.

He takes out a helicopter with the cold-blooded deftness of Jaws the Shark:

and I daresay nearly succeeds in killing every cop in Arizona
before succumbing to his own injuries after an extended, slo-mo BONNIE AND CLYDE-style bloodbath.  So now the evil ninja is dead.  ...Or is he?

Cut to:  Lucinda Dickey––alluring, breakout star of BREAKIN' and BREAKIN' 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO.  She's listening to knock-off Pat Benatar and repairing a power line.   

She works full-time for the city as a line installer, but she also works part-time as an aerobics instructor:

Needless to say, she's an industrious young woman.  Anyway, she climbs down and finds herself face-to-face with a ninja.  Yes––the same wounded, evil ninja as before: the cops did not do their due diligence re: confirming the deadness of the evil ninja corpse.  After a supernatural eye-lock, the ninja imbues her with his consciousness––using the power of his magic ninja sword––before he dies "kind of for real this time."


Lucinda Dickey: now adding "part-time evil ninja" to the the resume.

If this feels like a lot of exposition,  I might remind you that we're only thirteen minutes into the film.

While filing her statement at the police station, she meets flirtatious, candy-snackin' cop Billy Second  (Jordan Bennett):

He offers her lukewarm, half-drank Coke as a come-on, to which she responds with the classic line: "I don't use soft drinks."

This is the sort of Cannon greatness we've been led to expect from  Mssrs. Golan and Globus, and it's beautifully rendered.  On the whole, this might be the most "Cannon" Cannon Film ever made.  It truly has it all.  Speaking of which––

"Make it burn!"

Aerobicise nearly turns to aerobicide when Lucinda Dickey is jumped in the alley during her post-workout cooldown by a gang of DEATH WISH 3-style, racially integrated rapists

who, inexplicably, decide to make their move in front of a crowd of forty people, including the off-duty cop Billy Second who does not interfere.  Luckily, Lucinda Dickey kicks them in the dick (and does her own stunts) using jazzercise and gymnastic moves. 

Eventually, among the halls of history and in the annals of English language, "Lucinda Dickey kicks them in the dick" will receive its proper due as a quintessential turn of phrase.

One of the miscreants ends up sailing through the air into a dumpster; others are comically knocked out by an oversized metal pole.  NINJA III, ladies and gentlemen.

For some reason, she still ends up going out on a date with Billy the Cop, despite the fact that he didn't help defend her against the rapists, and he furthermore insinuates that she might get charged with assault for kicking their asses.

One thing leads to another, as they do, and she ends up seducing him at her apartment by pouring V8 Juice all over her body in perhaps the least sexy seduction since the "Beguiling Corn Maneuver" from TROLL 2:


I can't decide whether this is:
A. The worst advertisement for V8 Juice ever committed to film
B. An ill-advised homage to the FLASHDANCE "bucket of water" scene, or
C. An earnest attempt to merge food and lovemaking that's a little more IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES than 9 1/2 WEEKS.

In any event, it is humorous and macabre in equal measure, and indeed demonstrates the veracity of her previous statement: "I don't use soft drinks."

Shortly thereafter, she wanders into her ninja-haunted closet and has an encounter with the floating magic ninja sword


in a sequence designed to remind us about the ninja possession plotline.  Apparently, she is not yet "fully possessed," however, as soon enough she has an experience that defies worldly explanation.  In her apartment, Lucinda has a full, arcade-sized machine for "BOUNCER," a rarely-seen TAPPER-style bar game.

In the witching hour, the BOUNCER machine comes alive with supernatural chittering
and blasts fog-machine fog.

It proceeds to shoot a Pink Floyd laser-lite-show directly at her face

and therefore completes the ninja possession.  I don't fully understand this, and I don't think we're meant to.  It marks the only time (as far as I know) in film history that an undead ninja has completed the demonic possession of an aerobics instructor by commandeering the prototype of an unreleased arcade game and using it to shoot fog and lasers at her face.  If you don't believe me, you can see it all here for yourself:

Now she is "full ninja" and no longer in control of her actions.  It took three possessions (the eye-lock, the floating sword, and the arcade lasers) for it to "take," I suppose.  She begins killing the evil ninja's enemies, and in case there was any doubt, she squeezes a billiard ball to death with her hands.

A missed opportunity for a one-liner like, "I'm calling it––your face in the corner pocket!"

She has no memory of these episodes but Billy becomes convinced that something weird is going on, insisting (no joke) that they might be about to enlist the help of "an officer from the Asiatic division." There's a wonderful moment when a medical professional says, via stilted line delivery:

"Dr. Bowen, the psychiatrist you saw, says there's nothing out of the ordinary aside from your excellent extra-sensory perception and your preoccupation with Japanese culture." 

Er...whaat?!  Though it explains a lot that, in the NINJA III universe, ESP is a standard, naturally-occurring phenomenon.

Also, Sho Kosugi shows up–– he has a score to settle with the evil ninja.  He wears an eyepatch with a suspicious hole in it.

It's almost as if Sho Kosugi didn't want to film an entire ninja movie with compromised depth perception.  (So why didn't they just lose the eyepatch?)

Also, just like in Sho Kosugi movies REVENGE OF THE NINJA and BLIND FURY, there is a ninja attack in a hot tub.  Three films officially makes it a ninja film "trope."
So Lucinda traipses into the jacuzzi and murders some guy and two Miller High Life-swilling floozies with a poisoned pearl ring.


Not really a reason for this.  Ninja hot tub, everybody.

Several events occur after the ninja hot tub, including but not limited to:

BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA's James Hong, wearing a repulsive fake wart and performing a ninja exorcism:


"This beats the ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW."  ––an actual line of dialogue

A glowing, possessed ninja closet blowing unearthly winds and spouting hell-fog, just as in the denouement of POLTERGEIST:



Sho Kosugi spouting the classic line, "Only a ninja can kill a ninja" and kickin' butt while wearing a futuristic sweater that looks like the PAC MAN screen––only without Pac Man, the ghosts, or the pellets:

The reveal that there exists a Ninja Academy, in the middle of nowhere, somewhere outside of Phoenix:

Now accepting applications

The evil ninja's soul escaping Lucinda Dickey and becoming a spirit of pure evil-ninja-energy:

In case you ever needed a visual reference for "pure evil-ninja-energy."

And the evil ninja becoming a full-on zombie ninja and battling Sho Kosugi.  This leads directly to the conclusion of the film which is ridiculous even by Cannon Film's lofty standards. The defeated zombie ninja spins like a top, faster and faster and faster,





drilling himself into the mantle of the earth, where he, quite literally, transforms into an earthquake.


I'm speechless, too, Sho.

In conclusion, I can now say I have witnessed a ninja exorcism.  Pass the V8.  Five stars.

6 comments:

Francisco Gonzalez said...

I need to see this as soon as possible! It looks absolutely insane!

Francisco Gonzalez said...

Funny how so many films from the 80's had an aerobics scene mixed in...ha ha the most cannon cannon film ever made, that sounds so promising. These producers were hilarious, I wonder if they purposely did movies did way...or was it all some magical, yet awesome mistake.

Mike Bradley said...

Oh yeah...this is the stuff! Even in the context of this 3rd entry review series, I wasn't prepared for this level of Cannon craziness. I literally had to take a break to compose myself after "the Asiatic division." Perhaps the only things more perplexing than the apparent plot of this movie are 1) that I haven't seen it, despite 2) knowing of its existence, and 3) myself literally being a person who has seen "Revenge of the Ninja" roughly 1,500 times yet somehow didn't ever realize that "Ninja III" was meant to be a any kind of sequel to it, spiritual or otherwise. Once again, I've clearly got some catchin' up to do! As always, thanks for the good times!

Sean Gill said...

Francisco,

Oh yeah––this is a thing of beauty. And from MURDER ROCK to PERFECT, I have always loved the fusion of aerobics and hilariously bad filmmaking. You'll have to let me know what you think!

Mike,

Very glad you enjoyed––and as a REVENGE OF THE NINJA devotee, I think you need to jump on this one, stat! Also, have you ever seen NINE DEATHS OF THE NINJA? It's a non-Cannon Golan/Globus/Sho Kosugi trashterpiece that defies rational explanation.

J.D. Lafrance said...

I sometimes (not often) wonder if NINJA III convinced Lucinda Dickey to quit acting. Such a shame as she certainly has an appealing presence and is certainly game for the Cannon-esque lunacy of the movies she did for them. But I guess it really is hard to top BREAKIN' 1 and 2, isn't it? It's really all downhill from there, but NINJA III is inspired insanity and manages to outcrazy anything else she did. I used to be obsessed with Sho Kosugi's ninja movies as a kid, even going through a ninja movie phase with a friend of mine. I haven't seen NINE DEATHS OF THE NINJA in ages! But I still appreciate the b-movie-ness of ENTER and REVENGE.

Sean Gill said...

J.D.,

Re: Lucinda Dickey, the thought had crossed my mind, too. I recently got my hands on a bootleg of BLOODY POM POMS (aka CHEERLEADER CAMP), her last leading role in a feature film––but I haven't watched it yet. I see she appears in the new Cannon Films doc ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF CANNON FILMS as a talking head, and I wonder how much light she'll shed on her experiences (I haven't seen it yet, but want to very badly).

Definitely went through a ninja phase myself––and I'd love in particular to revisit AMERICAN NINJA and RAGE OF HONOR, both of which haven't seen in many years.