Wednesday, June 6, 2018

NINJA III: THE DOMINATION (1984) (Scream Factory Collector's Edition Blu-ray review)


Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 92 Minutes
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Director: Sam Firstenberg
Cast: Shô Kosugi, Lucinda Dickey, Jordan Bennett, David Chung, Dale Ishimoto, James Hong

Synopsis: Aerobic instructor Christie Ryder (Lucinda Dickey, Breakin’, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo) becomes possessed by the spirit of an evil ninja when she comes to his aid after he was shot down. Dominated by the killer’s vicious and relentless rage, she sets out to brutally attack his enemies. Her boyfriend, confused by Christie’s changing personality and afraid that he might be her next victim, enlists the help of Yamada (Shô Kosugi, Enter the Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja). In a life-threatening exorcism and ultimate fight to the death, Yamada proves that he is Christie’s only chance for survival.

Even by Canon standards Ninja III: The Dominion (1984) is a weird entry, the third film in Cannon's then ongoing Ninja series - though this is really a stand-alone film - mashes-up the martial arts action of a 80's ninja film with the supernatural strangeness of something like Poltergeist or The Exorcist with the neon-infused nuttiness of an 80's music video -  sounds awesome, right?

Set just down the road a bit from me in Phoenix, Arizona the film begins with a ninja emerging from a secret cave and then slicing and dicing a scientist and his personal security detail on a municipal golf course. These opening scenes are bursting at the seams with goofy 80's action like you just wouldn't believe, we get about every ninja trick in the book and a few new ones including the ninja car-surfing atop of police cruiser! The sly assassin is taking out motorcycle cops, police cruisers and even a helicopter with qa variety of rope tricks, throwing stars and sword play as the cops give chase through the golf course, it's such a weird setting but the film let's you know right from the start you're about to watch a weird one, sure 'nuff. The action comes fast and hard and is hilarious and awesome, the body count is ridiculously high and the preposterous ninja/possession shenanigans are a fun watch, just a few minutes into it and I was completely on board for Ninja III and whatever weirdness would follow, and trust me, this film is only just getting started-up.

Despite his masterful martial arts skills our evil ninja is mortally wounded, dying he stumbles across an 80's coiffed telephone repairman named Christie (Lucinda Dickey, Breakin') who also moonlights as an aerobics instructor, it's the 80's, so why not, right?  His dying act is to perform some kind of mind transference on the unsuspecting 80's hottie, possessing her with his evil ninja spirit. Now possessed Lucinda sets about killing the cops responsible for the ninja's death, shes gained all of the assassin's skills and his insatiable thirst for revenge. Christie throws a wrench into the works when she falls for one of the officers involved, the super-cheesy Officer Billy Secord (Jordan Bennett), as you can imagine it's hard to nurture a new love when the evil ninja inside of you wants him dead, it definitely presents it's share of problems.

There's some great possession scenes early on, by great I mean so weird, they arrive like an early 80's music video with neon-colored lighting effects, the wind and fog machines are in full force, plus we get an eerie glowing samurai sword and an 80's arcade game that delivers a laser-light show that would make Pink Floyd envious. It's hilarious when Christie attempts to thwart the possession by dancing it off, yeah, that'll work! Of course, any film with a possession scene must by cinematic law have an exorcism, and this one is a whopper, performed by none other than James Hong from Big Trouble in Little China!

Now having watched this aerobicized ninja ass-kicker twice before I was still not fully prepared for the infamous V8 seduction scene and it does not disappoint in anyway, it boggles the mind that this was not only considered during the making of the film bit that everyone went along with it, it's a serious WTF moment. In an attempt to seduce Billy, Christie pours a can of V8 down her neck and chest, slurp it up lover, slurp it up! Perhaps the weirdest product placement you've ever seen and definitely the act of a woman possessed by an evil Japanese Ninja, those Asians are a kinky bunch!

Ninja III offers up plenty of laughs and cheap 80's action from the Cannon Group, it's never less than entertaining and has always kept me coming back for more, a campy and cartoonish ninja film with the added bonus of spiritual possession, now that's hard not to love.  

Audio/Video: Ninja III: The Domination arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory for a second time, originally released back in 2013, they've spruced it up with a new 4K scan of original film elements and host of new extras, most of which were produced by Red Shirt Pictures. Presented in 1080p HD widescreen 1.85:1 the new 4K scan looks great, while I had no beef with the previous release, the new 4K scan is definitely an improvement, offering sharper detail in the close-ups, the colors are nicely saturated and black levels are deep and inky. The  English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, comparing it two the older Blu-ray I couldn't detect any discernible difference, which is just fine, because it clean and crisp, well-balanced and free of any noticeable distortions, optional English subtitles are provided. 

Scream Factory carry-over the audio commentary with director Sam Firstenberg and stunt coordinator Steve Lambert which is moderated by Rob Galluzo, formerly of, now of Shock Waves podcast and a curator at Dread Central Presents. It's a great listen and the trio seem to love the film and recognize it's inherent oddness.

Onto the new stuff we get three new interviews produced by Red Shirt Pictures, an 18-minute interview with star Lucinda Dickey who speaks about how she went from dancing n Grease 2 to starring in this Cannon vehicle, what it was like working with Kosugi and Jordan Bennet, and she goes into that very strange V8 love-making scene of course. Up next is a 10-min interview with co-star Jordan Bennet who begins my talking about his early career as a comedian which ended after his act was cut short by comedy legend Milton Berle! He also peaks about the V8 scene, and how he and some of the actors would steal a utility truck used in the film at night to cruise around Phoenix, Arizona. The last of the new interviews is a 12-min interview with producer/stuntman Alan Amiel who speaks about his role in the film, how he started out and working under Chuck Norris among others.  There's also an audio interviews with Production Designer Elliot Ellentuck And Co-Composer Misha Segal Featuring Isolated Tracks From The Original Score, this is moderated by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures, it's a fun track, the interviews are alright but the good stuff is that cool cheesy 80's synth-score! 

The last of the extras are a trailer, pa Trailers from Hell commentary with screenwriter Josh Olsen, and two image galleries. The single-disc Blu-ray release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a 2-sided sleeve of artwork, the a-side featuring a new illustration from Scream regular contributing artists Joel Robinson, which is bright and 890's gaudy, they cram a lot of imagery from the film onto the artwork, the b-side features the same artwork as the 2013 release. This release also comes with a limited edition slipcover featuring the a-side artwork, as does the disc itself 

Special Features:
- NEW 4K Scan From The Original Film Elements
- NEW Dancing With The Dead: Interview With Actress Lucinda Dickey (18 min) HD
- NEW Secord’s Struggle: Interview With Actor Jordan Bennett (10 min) HD
- NEW Birth of the Ninja: Interview With Producer And Stuntman Alan Amiel (12 min) HD
- NEW Audio Interviews With Production Designer Elliot Ellentuck And Co-Composer Misha Segal Featuring Isolated Tracks From The Original Score
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) HD  

- Trailers From Hell Commentary With Screenwriter Josh Olson (2 min) HD
- Audio Commentary By Director Sam Firstenberg And Stunt Coordinator Steve Lambert

- Still Photo Gallery (3 min) 
- Behind-The-Scenes Gallery (3 min) 

When I first heard that Scream Factory were re-releasing Ninja II: The Domination (1984) I immediately though "cash-grab", but they did good with a new 4K scan and some fun extras that further fuel the love for this incredibly fun genre-blender of a movie, so call up a few friends, pop open a few brews (or a few cans of V8) and let the bizarre 80's awesomeness wash all over you, this is a strange one, highly recommended for lovers of 80's schlock and martial arts action weirdness. 

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