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Ninja III: The Domination(1984)
The body of a sexy aerobics instructor is invaded by the evil spirit of a dying ninja. At first, changes in her behavior is limited to having strange interactions with an arcade game, doing sexy things with V8 juice, and being attracted to an unusually hairy police officer. But soon enough, she's systematically killing, ninja-style, the officers responsible for the ninja's death, and can only be stopped by another ninja!
For more about Ninja III: The Domination and the Ninja III: The Domination Blu-ray release, see Ninja III: The Domination Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on June 6, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Shô Kosugi, Lucinda Dickey, Jordan Bennett, David Chung, Dale Ishimoto
Director: Sam Firstenberg
» See full cast & crew
Ninja III: The Domination Blu-ray Review
She is a lineman for the—ow!!
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, June 6, 2013
When is a sequel not a sequel? Well, that question could spark a doctoral thesis or two, but for argument's (and brevity's) sake, look no further than Ninja III: The Domination. Though ostensibly the third panel in a triptych that includes 1981's Enter the Ninja and 1983's Revenge of the Ninja, Ninja III: The Domination is very much its own entity (for better or worse), with little linkage to its putative antecedents. Though all three films have a kind of through line with featured player Sho Kosugi, they're three totally disparate films with little else to link them than the word Ninja. Even that word may not be especially salient with regard to Ninja III: The Domination, for this is one of the most deliriously genre bashing films of its era (and quite probably beyond). Imagine a little bit of The Exorcist mixed with just a touch of Flashdance (and, no, I'm not kidding) and you might have at least a glimmer of the madness that is at hand in virtually every frame of this silly, but often outrageously funny (intentionally or unintentionally), feature. Now there will be some who lament Ninja III: The Domination as a brainless, chaotic entry in a genre that is typically all about action and less about, well, a telephone repair woman who also loves aerobics and who just happens to become possessed by an evil spirit. But for those with a certain skewed perspective that finds entertainment in some patently unusual places, Ninja III: The Domination is (to say the least) a one of a kind experience that is so ridiculously hyperbolic it defies any portentous criticism.
My wife, who is typically a much more incisive critic than I, aptly summed up the manic insanity of Ninja III: The Domination with a classic (to me, anyway) question as she watched the opening sequence of the film: "What's a ninja doing on a golf course?" That salient query was followed by a declarative statement which is nonetheless as unanswerable in its own way as her first inquiry: "Someone actually made this movie". Yes, yes, they did, and while sneering cynics may deride Ninja III: The Domination as pure, unfettered cheese (can cheese be unfettered?), for those who get a kick out of purely ludicrous characters and situations, opportunities abound (and then some) with this bizarre little outing.
The film does in fact start with an extended sequence on a golf course where a ninja magically appears and begins giving a whole new meaning to "slicing" on the fairway, quickly dispatching some guy who's evidently some kind of bigwig, as well as his looming bodyguards, not to mention his comely wife or girlfriend. That in turn quickly turns into a police chase (after two armed security guards show up on a golf cart to survey the initial carnage—how many golf courses have you played with armed guards tooling about the greens?). The chase scene that ensues may provoke unbridled giddiness in those with a certain sense of humor. The ninja runs quickly while one police car zooms after him (abetted by some fast motion footage which is hysterical), and then, in a classic moment, two motorcycle cops approach from the other direction, supposedly heading the ninja off at the veritable pass—except, he just runs in between them. D'oh. (One of the funniest elements to this escapade is the cops communicating on their two way radios, calling out all sorts of code numbers for what's going on, as if they have predetermined categories for a marauding ninja on a golf course.)
Not to be thwarted by such a tricky maneuver, the cops bring in a horde of supporting troops, including helicopters, ultimately surrounding the ninja. The ninja still manages to take out virtually all of the policeman with a variety of moves, even after he's been shot—repeatedly (and I do mean repeatedly). The ninja has one last move in his bag of tracks, setting off a flash grenade which allows him to "disappear". The cops disburse to search for him (one policeman utters the classic line "We need to find this dude!"), at which point it's revealed the ninja has stayed put—buried in a sand trap. If you're not laughing by now, perhaps Citizen Kane is more up your alley of "classic" film.
Now here's the real punch line: that is just the opening few minutes of Ninja III: The Domination, and things are just barely getting warmed up. Next we meet the actual focal character of the film, a lineman (or is that linewoman) for the county (to quote a certain Jimmy Webb tune) who is mounting (so to speak) a telephone pole when she notices the odd sight of a badly wounded ninja stumbling through the scrub. Being a kind soul, she dismounts the telephone pole and goes searching for the guy, only to be accosted by him to the blaring sounds of this film's really annoying synthesizer score. She obviously thinks she's about to be raped, and fights back, actually getting away, but then the ninja works some kind of mind meld on her (ninjas can do that, can't they?), at which point she walks, quasi-hypnotized, back to the dying man, grabs hold of his sword (that is not a euphemism) and proceeds to undergo a one way Freaky Friday-esque transmigration of the soul. We know the ninja's spirit has entered Christie (Lucinda Dickey, who bears a rather striking resemblance to Dana Delany) because we suddenly see her seeing the ninja getting slaughtered by those nasty cops on the golf course.
Does it even really matter what happens next in Ninja III: The Domination? Christie manages to work in several good ass kickings in between her busy schedule of aerobics instruction and arcade game playing, while she also gets hot and heavy with a young cop named Billy Secord (Jordan Bennett), even if her "ninja self" is just slightly suspicious that Billy might have been one of the cops who shot him—er, her. (One of the funnier little moments partway through the film is when Christie's ninja spirit takes over when some street thugs start threatening her, while Billy—a policeman and all—just stands there, slack jawed, waiting for Christie to finish taking care of business. Like any good gentleman, he then proceeds to arrest her.)
Christie's possession starts to get pretty nasty, to the point that she's committing some pretty ugly murders (always under the influence, of course), and leading to one of the film's weirdest scenes when the redoubtable James Hong, as a kind of mystic Eastern elder, attempts to exorcize the spirit. There's another great scene when the ninja spirit communicates with Christie through her arcade game, replete with "state of the art" laser effects. Yet another ninja shows up to wreak havoc, at which point a third ninja appears (played by Sho Kosugi), who can hopefully set everything right.
Don't come to Ninja III: The Domination expecting anything that makes even one whit of sense. Don't come to Ninja III: The Domination looking for brilliant performances or even spectacularly staged fight scenes (the latter element is passable, but pretty clunky a lot of the time, including hilarious foley effects and obvious "missed him by a mile" kicks and punches). Don't even come to Ninja III: The Domination in search of a post-Modern irony-fest where you can dismissively intone about the film's many flaws whilst sipping a martini and simultaneously perusing your Facebook news feed. Ninja III: The Domination is pure, unadulterated gonzo weirdness, and it has to be experienced, and perhaps even loved, on its own very special terms.
Ninja III: The Domination Blu-ray, Video Quality
Ninja III: The Domination is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Shout! Factory's imprint Scream Factory with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. Aside from some passing anomalies due mostly to opticals, this is a surprisingly pristine and crisp looking transfer that will probably amaze people who have only seen the film in badly faded and damaged broadcast prints. Colors are really beautifully saturated and while there has perhaps been some very minor sharpening done here (a couple of shots reveal just slight ringing), overall this is a fantastic looking high definition presentation that offers abundant fine detail in close-ups. Midrange and wide shots are relatively soft sometimes, at least by comparison, but everything looks nicely filmic. This is yet another winner from Shout! Factory of a film that few probably thought would ever make the transition to Blu-ray.
Ninja III: The Domination Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Ninja III: The Domination features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that ably supports the films dialogue and foley effects, and unfortunately (at least in this professional musician's not so humble opinion), the pretty annoying score that features several songs that sound like rejects from Flashdance or Fame. In fact it's the all synth score that may drive some people nuts about this mix, as the cues are virtually nonstop through the film (I imagine the "spotting" session to have consisted of two phrases: "Start here" as the film opened and "you can stop here" at the final fade out). There's some ridiculously bad synch problems at times that I am more or less certain stem from shoddy post-looping (again, I imagine a hapless ADR director shouting out after one take, "Oh, what the hell? Who's gonna see this mess, anyway?").
Ninja III: The Domination Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Ninja III: The Domination Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
By most objective standards, Ninja III: The Domination is simply perfect fodder for a "very special episode" of Mystery Science Theater 3000. But there's such a goofy earnestness to the insanity here that it's hard to come down too vociferously on it. Just sit back with a big bag of popcorn and enjoy, but make sure to take any needed cholesterol medication first, because you're about to inhale one gargantuan amount of unfettered (yes, unfettered) cheese. Recommended.
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