(US - 1984)
Directed by Sam Firstenberg. Written by James R. Silke. Cast: Sho Kosugi, Lucinda Dickey, Jordan Bennett, David Chung, James Hong, Dale Ishimoto, Roy Padilla, John LaMotta, Bob Craig, Ron Foster, Steve Lambert. (R, 93 mins)
The mainstreaming of the "ninja" subgenre ranks pretty high on the list of Cannon's 1980s accomplishments. NINJA III: THE DOMINATION, recently released in a superb Blu-ray edition by Shout! Factory, was the final entry in a loosely-connected trilogy that introduced Japanese martial artist Sho Kosugi to American action movie audiences. Kosugi had inconsequential bit parts in films ranging from THE BAD NEWS BEARS GO TO JAPAN to BRUCE LEE FIGHTS BACK FROM THE GRAVE (both 1978), but when Cannon chief Menahem Golan cast him as the lethal "black ninja" in his 1981 film ENTER THE NINJA, he finally achieved success with martial arts audiences. Kosugi was promoted to hero for the 1983 sequel REVENGE OF THE NINJA, and both films proved successful enough to warrant Kosugi's return in NINJA III: THE DOMINATION. REVENGE wasn't really a direct sequel to ENTER, but NINJA III goes completely off the rails, fusing the ninja and horror genres for a wild tale of a young woman possessed by the spirit of an evil "black ninja."
The aforementioned evil "black ninja" (David Chung) goes on a killing spree at a Phoenix golf course and is gunned down by what seems like the entire police force. He still manages to somehow survive and encounters sexy powerline technician Christie (Lucinda Dickey) and promptly transfers his spirit into her body before dying. With the Black Ninja's sword in tow, Christie, who also works as an aerobics instructor because it's a movie made in 1984, seeks his revenge on the cops who killed him, except Billy Secord (Jordan Bennett), the incredibly hirsute one that she's dating. Meanwhile, one-eyed master ninja Yamada (Kosugi) arrives from Japan in pursuit of the Black Ninja (because only a ninja can stop a ninja!) and gets drawn into the EXORCIST-inspired evil as the possessed Christie offs the cops involved one by one.
|NINJA III's Italian distributor was
clearly given some incorrect information.
|Sam Firstenberg on the set of
BREAKIN' 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO
BREAKIN' 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO, co-starred in the 1988 slasher film CHEERLEADER CAMP, and appeared in a 1990 PERRY MASON TV-movie, retiring from acting that same year after marrying reality-TV producer Craig Piligian, whose many credits include SURVIVOR, GHOST HUNTERS, AMERICAN CHOPPER, SWAMP LOGGERS, and ONLY IN AMERICA WITH LARRY THE CABLE GUY.
AMERICAN NINJA and Kosugi went on to co-star as the antagonist Okasa in Lee Van Cleef's short-lived 1984 NBC ninja series THE MASTER before starring in several ninja movies with his young sons Kane and Shane. Dad and sons appeared in such video store and cable favorites as 9 DEATHS OF THE NINJA and PRAY FOR DEATH (both 1985), and 1988's BLACK EAGLE (where Kosugi took on a villainous Jean Claude Van Damme, fresh off of his BLOODSPORT breakthrough). Kosugi also starred in 1987's RAGE OF HONOR, had a rare dramatic supporting role in 1988's ALOHA SUMMER and also appeared in the awesome 1989 Rutger Hauer-as-a-blind-swordsman cult film BLIND FURY. Working with PRAY FOR DEATH and RAGE OF HONOR director Gordon Hessler, Kosugi wrote and produced the $10 million 1992 shogun period piece JOURNEY OF HONOR, co-starring Christopher Lee, John Rhys-Davies, and Toshiro Mifune. Kosugi's ambitious pet project flopped worldwide and went straight-to-video in the US. He concentrated on anime voice work after that and left the business by the late 1990s. He was coaxed out of retirement by the Wachowskis (THE MATRIX), co-starring as the villain in the big-budget 2009 ninja throwback actioner NINJA ASSASSIN. The film was a critical and commercial disappointment (despite a great opening sequence) and failed to reignite a new ninja craze, but Kosugi's welcome presence gave the cartoonishly CGI-heavy film some much-needed credibility and he's easily the best thing about it. Now 65, Kosugi appears to have quietly drifted back into a low-profile retirement. Is there some reason he hasn't been talked into doing THE EXPENDABLES 3?