While visiting old pal Frank Landers (Alex Courtney) in the Philippines, master ninja Cole (Franco Nero) is approached by villain Charles Venarius (Christopher George). Coveting Lander's plantation, Venarius tries to strong-arm Cole into turning against his friend. Our Hero refuses, whereupon Venarius brings in his own ninja Hasegawa (Sho Kosugi), the first step towards the battle-royal climax.
In 1979, Cannon Films was sold to Israeli filmmakers/cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. As told in Mark Hartley's authoritative and entertaining documentary 'Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films', the duo made quite a name for themselves during the '80s. They started by exploiting the low-budget exploitation market with softcore movies, such as 'The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood' and 'Lady Chatterley's Lover', and horror films, like 'Schizoid' and 'New Year's Evil'
Directed by Golan, 'Enter the Ninja' was their first martial arts film and was such a success it led to other ninja-related releases. 'Revenge of the Ninja' and 'Ninja III: The Domination' soon followed. All three have actor Sho Kosugi in the cast, but he plays different characters, so it's not clear how it is considered a trilogy beyond a cheap marketing ploy to call them a trilogy. What also is unclear is how 'Enter the Ninja' became a success because it's pretty bad. Unfortunately, it never rises to the level of being so bad it becomes entertaining in the way, for example, 'Miami Connection' does.
The movie opens with a sequence featuring a ninja dressed in white pursued by others ninjas, several dressed in red and one dressed in black. As is eventually revealed, the white ninja is Cole (Franco Nero) and what the audience witnessed was his final test to become a ninja. It may come as a surprise because one would normally expect a final exam that didn’t result in the death of so many fellow students. Everyone celebrates his graduation except Hasegawa (Sho Kosugi), the ninja in black, because the filmmakers wanted to make sure the audience could tell he was a bad guy.
Cole leaves Japan for the Philippines to visit Frank Landers (Alex Courtney), an old friend from the Angolan War. Frank needs Cole's help and his particular set of skills because Charles Venarius (Christopher George) is trying to force him and his wife Mary Ann (Susan George) to sell their land. Hired goons scare off the farm workers by beating them and discourage others from joining. Cole is able to stop Venarius' harassment, leading the villainous CEO to get his own ninja, one that wears black.
For a low-budget movie like 'Enter the Ninja', bad writing and bad acting are expected. The latter of which is compounded by being dubbed. particularly Nero by another actor, . It's almost laughable though how the script tries to show what a stud Cole is by having Mary Ann show up in his bedroom shortly after Frank reveals he has performance issues, but the scene cuts to black before anything happens. Unfortunately, when the action and fight scenes are forgettable, there's not much point in watching, especially nowadays when there's access to so much content.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Kino Lorber Studio Classics releases 'Enter the Ninja' comes on a 25 GB Region A Blu-ray disc in a standard blue case. The discs boot up directly to the menu screen without any promotional advertisements.
The video has been given a 1080p/AVC-MPEG-4 encoded transfer displayed at 1.85:1. White and black specks can be seen from the beginning, and so can occasional damage marks to the print. The image appears sharp in well-lit close-ups, but the clarity diminishes in scenes with long shots and less light, such as during the nighttime exteriors where the shadow delineation decreases. The scene in Mary Ann's studio finds the light coming in through the window being too bright and washing out some of the detail.
The colors tended to be strong and bright. In the opening sequence, there's a noticeable difference in the red hues as seen in the ninjas wearing red and their blood from the damage done by Cole. The green and brown foliage appear in rich hues. Contrast frequently looks good. Film grain is noticeable and the image appears free from digital artifacts.
The original mono audio is available as a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. The dubbed dialogue is clear, but sounds flat from the lack of ambiance. It is part of a well-balanced mix alongside the adequate effects and the score. The track offers a satisfying dynamic range.
Those who grew up with 'Enter the Ninja' might want to re-experience it, but I can't recommend it to any newcomers. The HD presentation is what one would expect for a low-budget film from the '80s that is in need of a restoration. Only offering the trailer as an extra is a disappointment.