"You mean you went all the way to my aerobics class just to tell me that?"
Talk about working on your slice! (Thanks. I'm here all week. Don't forget to tip your waitress.)
So, yeah: another day, another ninja assault on a golf course. Everything seems to be going according to keikaku with this assassination, but it turns out the cops around these parts aren't so much the type to dilly-dally. Before you can say "sayonara, sucker", a half-battalion of the boys in blue are out in full force. Despite emptying an entire military weapons depot worth of ammunition into the guy, this nameless ninja still manages to slink away. Meanwhile, Christie (Lucinda Dickey) is a lineman for
Oh, Ninja III: The Domination...! You had me at "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo's Lucinda Dickey is possessed by a vengeful ninja's ghost". With a log line like that, do you really need to suffer through a full-length review? You're either in or you're not. Lemme sweeten the pot, though. We're talking about a ninja movie where neon spandex is more plentiful than shozoku. There's an '80s-as-hail Jazzercise sequence, complete with its own "Hot Hips"-from-Perfect-esque dance number. This ninja has a thing for crushing balls from a variety of sports. Christie is effectively kidnapped 'cause Billy is hankering for a date. The legendary Shô Kosugi shows up as the Good Ninja, rocking a dragon eyepatch and a Cosby sweater. Tormented by turkey gobbling chants, Christie slaps her fridge and shouts "damn you!" Of the nigh-invincible Sinister Ninja's mightiest powers is the ability to spin around super-fast and drill into the earth: one "eeeehhhh, what's up Doc?" away from a Looney Tunes short.
The curse of the so-bad-it's-good crowd is that there tend to be a handful of batshit insane moments, but the rest will too often wind up being an interminable slog of tedium and filler. No need to fret about anything like that here, though. Ninja III is the decade's only martial arts film with an exorcism sequence that starts off with a wizened old sage (your hero and mine, James Hong) making Christie take a puff from one of those long, skinny pipes while his young assistant bangs on a gong because Japan...and then she goes full-on Linda Blair, spews noxious gas in a gravelly voice, and, instead of her head spinning, her whole body flips violently around like...like...I don't even know. I can also honestly say you'll never look at a can of V8 again the same way after an adult-size dose of Ninja III.
I guess what I'm getting at is that this isn't one of those reviews that'll drone on and on about themes or metaphors or sprinkle in mildly pretentious jargon in French. I'm not going to say something like "oh, when the ghost starts shooting lasers from the 'Bouncer' arcade game to hypnotize Christie before his floating sword wobbles around the room, that represents the dichotomy between ancient martial arts and modern-day technology." Nope! We're just talking about an unapologetically ridiculous, thick-cut slice of '80s cheese with clunky performances, hopelessly stilted dialogue, epic battles royale that almost cut together coherently, and one nonsensical idea after another steamrolling right into one another. It's cornball, yeah, but there really is something infectiously fun packed into just about every last scene throughout Ninja III. No matter how often the movie misses the marks it's aiming for, the ambition on display here is undeniable, and it's so gosh-darn earnest that its many shortcomings still wind up being awfully endearing.
I had a blast when Scream Factory introduced me to Ninja III: The Domination back in 2013, and I guess its fusion of martial arts action, fantasy, horror, and even a little romance won over enough of you for them to assemble this lovely, new Collector's Edition. Ninja III has been remastered in 4K, and the extensive slate of new extras run longer than the film itself. Highly Recommended.
You're no doubt aching to learn how this shiny, new 4K remaster stacks up against the 2013 Blu-ray you know and love, so brace yourself for the obligatory barrage of screenshot comparisons. Scream Factory's original 2013 release is on the left, and the remaster is on...well, the only other side it could be:
First of all, there's obviously a bit of letterboxing in this remaster to more accurately reflect Ninja III's theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The bitrate of the AVC encode is around 8.5% higher on this updated disc, and Scream Factory's authoring has improved greatly in the years since besides, so artifacting and the like are far less of an issue. As giddy as I was with the initial release back in 2013, the image does strike me as having a slightly oversharpened and somewhat digital appearance these days. The new remaster, meanwhile, is considerably more filmic.
Contrast and color timing are very different this time around. As I cycled back and forth between these discs in different players, I couldn't shake the feeling that the original release's colors now look thin and dull. From the verdant lushness of the golf course to the piercing blues of the police cruisers, the remaster's colors pack much more of a wallop. There are individual shots that the video conspiracy theorist in me thought looked perhaps a hair too revisionist or inconsistent within a scene, but I overwhelmingly prefer this new disc – not just its color timing but in every other respect as well – to the original.
This 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio stereo track didn't leave a whole lotta room for complaint when I first reviewed Ninja III back in 2013, and I'm every bit as thrilled with it now. The synth-centric score remains big and booming. Bass response is substantial even without a discrete LFE to play with. C'mon, when Christie shoves that rocky coffin lid off the weapons cache in the cave...? Massive. Marvel at the distinctness and clarity of Secord's M&Ms spilling all over that police station hallway. Stereo separation frequently impresses as well, such as the demonic ping-ponging during the exorcism sequence or when the cops do to this ninja what they did to Michael Myers at the end of Halloween 4. Dialogue is often on the edgy side, but it's still perfectly listenable throughout.
The original Blu-ray release didn't have any subtitles, but this Collector's Edition is rocking a set of optional English subs. Also, both of the alternate audio tracks – a commentary and isolated score selections – get the 24-bit lossless treatment as well.
Nearly all of the extras – the overwhelming majority produced by Michael Felsher's Red Shirt Pictures – are exclusive to this newly-minted Collector's Edition.
The Factory giveth, and the Factory taketh away. This collector's edition of Ninja III isn't a combo pack, so you lose out on the DVD from the original release. You do score a slipcover with newly painted artwork and a reversible cover, though, so I feel like we've come out on top here.
The Final Word
There's so-bad-it's-good, and then there's Ninja III: The Domination. Tapping into America's long-unsated hunger for supernaturally Jazzercised martial arts action, Ninja III is entrancingly bizarre and '80s action schlock of the highest order. I fell head over heels with Scream Factory's initial release back in 2013, but with a slew of new extras and this improved presentation...? Highly Recommended and then some.