Is there anything cooler then a ninja? Fun fact, while growing up I used to wish for the day a ninja would be in the Transformers cartoon, and while the Transformers/GI Joe crossover comic satiated this desire somewhat, it really wasn’t what I was after. Just like when Spider-Man guest starred, these shameless cross overs diluted both of these great franchises rather then amplifying them. And while Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes were great and all, they were no substitute for Michael Dudikoff.
The American Ninja franchise has a very special place in my heart. A place that you may not, and can not, sully no matter how hard you might try. Anna hasn’t even seen this place because she is crafty and I have been unable to trick her into watching any of the films. But what are American Ninja films? I’m so glad you asked.
The American Ninja films follow a simple, hard working soldier (Dudikoff) who just so happens to be the only American ninja, like, ever. You would think this would go to his head, but no. He keeps his head down and follows orders until invariably an evil villain set on world domination kidnaps his lady friend and unleashes an army of ninjas to kill our intrepid hero. I’m fairly certain American Ninja 2 differs only in that his best friend is kidnapped, as well as a host of Marines, instead of his girlfriend. Also the evil ninjas are color coded.
Now I was far too young to ever see these movies in the theater (I’m not even sure if they even were released in theaters) but in 1989 something magical happened, the theatrical release of American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt. The stunning twist in this film? Dudikoff is the one captured and a second American ninja (David Bradley) must rescue him. Or was that the plot of the fourth film? No matter. Now of course I was still to young to watch American Ninja 3 in the theater, and since my father had a very anti-ninja (yet pro-Aliens) agenda, I was left to find another means of watching the film.
Thankfully I had an ace up my sleeve, for you see my elder sister worked at the very movie theater that would be showing American Ninja 3, and she didn’t care what I watched. Sure she thought it looked stupid (an opinion I chalk up to her being a girl) but she wasn’t going to waste any effort in stopping me from watching the film. So there I was, at the first showing on opening day, totally excited to watch the latest, greatest American Ninja film. But then something totally unexpected happened.
What Christie (Lucinda Dickey, star of Breakin’ and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo) doesn’t know is that we have secretly replaced her subconscious with an evil ninja (David Chung). Oh sure, during the day she will go about her business of teaching aerobics and dating swarthy policemen none the wiser to what lurks inside her. But at night she turns into a soulless killing machine. Can anyone stop her? And can the one eyed ninja Yamada (Shô Kosugi) save her from herself?
Sure enough the wrong print had been sent to the theater, a print for a film that had been released a full five years earlier. Oh I was angry at first. How could a projectionist not have known the difference between Ninja III and American Ninja 3? It should be perfectly obvious, right? RIGHT?!
But the more of the film that I watched, the more I realized that if I was going to have to unknowingly watch a film that wasn’t American Ninja III, at least I was lucky enough to have this truly bizarre ninja film as its stand in. Besides, how often do you get the chance to watch a movie that channels The Exorcist, Ghostbusters and Footloose all in one beautifully wrapped ninja package. As an extra added bonus Ninja III: The Domination was directed by Sam Firstenberg. Who also directed the first two American Ninja films, and as an extra added bonus of pop culture knowledge, and directed Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo as well. Your mind is blown, isn’t it?
Ninja III: The Domination is a movie that can’t be reviewed, it can only be experienced. Preferably in a large group and with copious amounts of alcohol. From the opening moments of a ninja exciting his cave like cave at dawn to hunt and kill a man trying to put in a quick 9-holes before work you know you are in for something special. Sure it is never explained just why the ninja felt the need to kill the man, his wife and 30,000 guards, nor is it explained how the ninja has super strength, you simply have to just go along with it.
You see once the Black Ninja (Chung) is gunned down by a horde of cops, he vanishes into the ground, only to escape where he runs into Christie. Christie, shocked at finding a ninja, then dances with him for a few moments, more then long enough for the dying ninja to impart his soul into her. And this is when the film gets really weird.
Now imparted with the strength and evilness of a super strong evil ninja, Christie begins to date hirsute men that she hates, beats up a roving rape gang and even begins to systematically kill the individual cops who were responsible for the ninjas death. Whether it be in a hot tub or at a funeral, she is a one woman killing machine.
But what really sets the film apart from your standard ninja fare is the utterly insane possession angle. Curious at Christie’s radically shifting personality, her impossibly hairy boyfriend Billy (Jordan Bennett) takes her to Lo Pan (James Hong) to try and discover just what is wrong with her. Luckily, Christie is not a green eyed Chinese girl, but a Solid Gold dancer so he has no interest in her. But he does discover that a ninja is lurking inside of her, and thus quickly dismisses the unlikely couple from his abode before he angers the spirit ninja.
But wait there is more. Christie, now struggling to maintain her grip on her soul, must now have a spiritual battle with the ninja (who’s ethereal presence is represented by his floating sword). And how does she defend herself from his advances? She, wait for it, dances. That’s right, as her apartment turns against her, as smoke billows out of her closet and as a katana blade advances upon her Christie decides to shake her money maker for all it is worth, knowing full well that a ninja could not resist her streetwise moves. That is until he resists her streetwise moves and fully takes over her body.
Then, when I thought Ninja III: The Domination couldn’t amaze me any more, it pulls out the big guns. Christie wipes out a platoon of cops, goes head to head with her nemesis Yamada, and when he (Yamada) discovers the ninja he has been chasing has inhabited the body of a woman he lets her go. He then concocts an ingenious plan to meet Christie at an abandoned temple in the hills. There Yamada forces the black ninja’s soul out of Christie’s body and back into his own. But what Yamada doesn’t know is that the black ninja has the power to turn the monks who live in the abandoned temple into, I can’t believe I am saying this, ZOMBIE NINJAS!
I freaking love this movie.