Color, 1985, 90 mins. 44 secs.
Directed by Godfrey Ho, Kim Shi-hyun
Starring Richard Harrison, Wong Cheng Li, Jonathan Wattis, Maria Francesca, Philip Ko
Neon Eagle (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

Anyone who roamed through the Ninja Terminatorwilderness of ninja movies on VHS in the '80s and '90s couldn't help but run into the baffling and Ninja Terminatoroften delirious films of Godfrey Ho. An insanely prolific Hong Kong filmmaker, he created a cottage industry out of crafting action films (especially martial arts ones) often by taking preexisting features (from Korea, Taiwan, or Hong Kong) and augmenting them with new footage and plotlines, many featuring onetime Euro cult star Richard Harrison (Vengeance, His Name Was King). One of his most beloved and notorious achievements is Ninja Terminator, a fast-paced and often inscrutable party movie par excellence mixing new footage (some of its surprisingly stylish) including Harrison with about half of a 1984 Korean action film, The Uninvited Guest of the Star Ferry, directed by Kim Si-hyun (Mission for the Dragon, 5 Pattern Dragon Claws).

Our story beings with a group of ninjas (two of them Caucasian, including Mr. Harrison) celebrating "the 20th anniversary of our ninja empire" by collecting the top fighters for a ceremony with their most prized possession, the powerful and mystical Golden Ninja Warrior statue. Members Harry, Baron, and Ninja TerminatorTomashi abscond with the spray-painted golden prize, which separates into three convenient parts and can grant its owner an imperviousness to attacks. Poor Tomashi is "found dead under Ninja Terminatormysterious circumstances" and has left his part of the statue to his brother Ecaza and sister Machico, who form the recycled footage portion of our program. Cue lots of snipers, ninjas, yelling, exploding powder, crab cruelty, and incoherent plot turns, none of which can hold a candle to Harrison's swanky Garfield phone.

Released on VHS and other formats in a slew of really crummy full-frame editions around the world over the years, Ninja Terminator has been given a remarkable resuscitation on Blu-ray from Neon Eagle as a two-disc set in the label's ongoing mission to revive the unique catalog of Ho's IFD Films Arts and Services. The new transfer from the original negative is a real sight to behold, with the restoration of the full scope framing, vivid color schemes, and lack of element damage at least making this look and sound like a professional film even when it's completely out of its mind. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 English mono track is true to the source, completely cobbled together after the fact in a recording studio, and optional English subtitles are provided for maximum amusement. The film also comes with two solid audio commentaries, the first with Kenneth Brorsson and Phil Gillon of the Podcast on Fire Network chatting about the eccentricity of the ninja scenes here in this early outing compared to later, more formulaic IFD entries, the placement of the music cues, the IFD legacy on worldwide home video, and much more. A second track by by Asian film experts Arne Venema and Mike Leeder Ninja Terminatorwho enthuse about this favorite entry in Ho's "cut and paste" cinema, the influence of Sho Kosugi's ninja movie cycle, the ninja fad of the '80s, and the story of how these films managed to get assembled and marketed in the first place. Also on the first disc is an interview with Ho (16m34s) about this film, the creation and height of IFD, his background at Shaw Brothers, and his prior directorial work. In "Golden Ninja Dubs" (17m4s), Ninja TerminatorHo and dubber Simon Broadon explain how the English tracks for these films were assembled to not only create a (more or less) linear plot but tie together footage from multiple language sources. In "Ninjathon: How Ninjas Invaded the West" (19m4s), These Fists Break Bricks co-author Chris Poggiali examines the '80s ninja craze that ran through numerous Cannon releases (including American Ninja and its unofficial offshoots like Invasion U.S.A.), the rise of IFD and its aggressive presence at international film markets, and the success of harvesting any ninja-related project from Eastern filmmakers spread across a number of countries. A standard def full frame trailer is also included.

But wait! The second Blu-ray in the limited edition is devoted to The Uninvited Guest of the Star Ferry (90m36s), which has been pretty much impossible to see in any sort of watchable condition before and is presented here from an ultra-rare 16mm print. Presented in full scope and "as is" condition complete with scuffs, scratches, and dirt, it's a fascinating experience to see in Korean with English subtitles (and a great, funky soundtrack that's very different from the main feature we all know and love). Obviously the storyline is completely different, here set in a Koreatown neighborhood in Hong Kong where the family-run Treasure Restaurant becomes a hotbed of treachery, crime, and a ton of martial arts after the owner is murdered. Some of the extreme hairstyles and fashions here were completely omitted from Ninja Terminator, so you really owe it to yourself to check this out, too. (And that's not even mentioned a few other surprises that pop up.) Also included on this disc is a massive (44m50s) IFD trailer reel including Ninja Knight Thunder Fox, the incredible Rage of a Ninja, Challenge the Ninja, Cobra Against Ninja, Ninja Champion, Ninja Commandments, Ninja Dragon, Ninja Hunt, Ninja Kill, Ninja Operation 2: Way of Challenge, Ninja Operation 3: Licensed to Terminate, Ninja Operation 4: Thunderbolt Angels, Ninja Operation 5: Godfather the Master, Ninja Operation 6: Champion on Fire, The Ninja Showdown, The Ninja Squad, Ninja Terminator, The Ultimate Ninja, and Diamond Ninja Force. The set comes in a rigid side load slipcase with artwork by Justin Coffee, plus an exclusive 40-page book with new essays by Jesus Perez Manuel Molina and David Zuzelo.


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Reviewed on May 3, 2024.