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Enter the Ninja
Following hot on the heels of the success of 1980's The Octagon, in which Chuck Norris takes on a clan of echoey sounding ninjas who spend a lot of time in trees, was 1981's Cannon Films' Enter The Ninja. Shot almost entirely on location in Manila, the film stars Franco Nero (Django, Hitch-Hike) as Cole, the first Westerner to finish ninja training. His ninja master even gives him a license that proclaims his ‘ninjatude' (their words, not mine). It's not all cake and champagne once Cole finishes his training though, because Hasegawa (Sho Kosugi of Revenge Of The Ninja) is pretty pissed off that Cole has been given the dubious honor of complete ninjaness, especially since Hasegawa comes from a long line of Japanese warriors and Cole is just another goofy mustachioed American (albeit one that's played by an Italian).
After Cole has finished his training, he heads off to the Philippines to help out his old war buddy, Frank (Alex Courtney of Zombie Death House). He and his lovely wife Mary Ann (Susan George of Straw Dogs) have been having some trouble keeping their employees working at their plantation, as a local crime lord, Charles Venarius (Christopher George of Pieces), and his thugs have been threatening them to get them to sell their plantation to him. It seems there is some oil underneath Frank's land, and Venarius will stop at nothing to get it.
Good thing Cole has come down to visit Frank then, huh? Cole, being a ninja master, quickly shows those thugs that it doesn't pay to mess with his buddies. Venarius' number one bruiser, a fat and sweaty German man with a hook for an arm named Siegfried (Zachi Noy of Tobe Hooper's Night Terrors), learns the hard way that screwing around with ninjas isn't good for your health. But Venarius won't take no for an answer and he heads out to get his own ninja to stop Cole and Frank once and for all - Cole's old ninja school pal, Hasegawa!
Enter The Ninja is one of the films that kick started the ninja movie craze of the 1980s. Followed by Revenge Of The Ninja and the infamous Ninja III: Domination, it was the first of the Cannon ninja movies and the first time Franco Nero would play a master of the martial arts. An odd casting choice for a ninja, Nero and his stunt double (martial arts choreographer Mike Stone, who also co-wrote the film and was originally slated for the lead role) smack, punch, kick and ninja their way through Venarius' toughs like it's no big thing and they do it with style. Clad in a shiny white ninja suit (probably to make sure he stands out against the red and black ninjas in the opening scene), Cole is a formidable hero. Keeping this in mind, it's no wonder that Frank basically gives him permission to bang his hot wife because he's no longer able to get it up for her because of his drinking problem - Cole is just that cool.
Sho Kosugi looks great on screen, he's menacing, and tough looking and has a sinister vibe working for him that really goes a long way to legitimizing his character's presence. Despite the fact that he doesn't really do much except to show up and get his ass beat hard by Cole, it's a testament to his screen presence that he's as memorable as he is in this film.
The final show down between Cole (obviously Stone and NOT Nero under the hood) and Hasegawa is the closest thing to a real martial arts bout that the movie contains but it's not executed too badly. Stone and Kosugi are obviously the real deal and it's painfully obvious when Stone is under the hood and when Nero is handling the chores as all Nero really does is punch people, occasionally kicking them. Add to the fact that Stone and Nero don't exactly look alike, if you pay attention it isn't too difficult to see which scenes are actor, and which ones are stunt double. The direction is simple and basic, the plot is cliché ridden and not very original, and the comic relief is terrible at best but Enter The Ninja succeeds in spite of itself by providing plenty of action and a likeable, if unbelievable, hero.The Blu-ray:
Enter The Ninja debuts on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed properly in a 1.85.1 widescreen aspect ratio. There's some minor print damage evident throughout the movie, mostly small specks and what not rather than serious scratches or big nasty blemishes, but for the most part the image is very clean on this disc. Colors are reproduced beautifully, skin tones look nice and lifelike and black levels are strong throughout. Detail easily trumps the previous MGM MOD/DVD-R release though there are a few scenes that do look a bit soft. Overall though, this is a pretty solid transfer with nice colors and texture and close up shots really show a solid advancement over standard definition. There are no problems with any compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction and all in all, the movie looks quite good on Blu-ray.Sound:
An English language audio option is provided in DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio and by and large this is a pretty solid mix. The dialogue is easy to understand and quite clear while the levels are remain nicely balanced. Sound effects have some noticeable punch behind them and the bongo-heavy score has a fair bit more depth and presence than you might expect. The music used in the opening credits sequence sounds great too. This isn't as enveloping as a new surround sound mix might be, obviously, but for an older mix it sounds just fine.Extras:
The only extra on the disc is the film's theatrical trailer. Static menus and chapter selection are also found on the disc.Final Thoughts:
Enter The Ninja holds up well. Nero and Kosugi are great together and this one remains a really entertaining action film, particularly if you dig eighties ninja movies. Kino's Blu-ray release definitely comes up short on the extras but it offers up the movie in a very nice high definition transfer and with lossless audio. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.