If it was Cannon, it was the 1980s and there were probably a lot of Ninjas running about. Ninja III: The Domination was pure Golan/Globus hokum through and through. One part ninja movie, one part Exorcist ripoff, this horror/action flick has not aged at all well - which is a good thing. Ninja III: The Domination has grown into a cult classic becoming a mainstay of the modern midnight movie circuit. It's so ridiculous you have to see it to believe it. Scream Factory has gone back to the well for Ninja III: The Domination not only giving the film a fresh new 4K scan but also dredging up an incredible assortment of hilarious and informative bonus features about the film giving it true Collector's Edition status. I don't often love double dipping on titles, but kudos to Scream Factory for putting in the work to make this one worthwhile. Highly Recommended.
"Only a ninja…can destroy a ninja."
What more can one say about a movie so legendarily bonkers as Ninja III: The Domination? The film has absolutely nothing to do with Enter the Ninja or Revenge of the Ninja. It's a bad splice job of two different popular film genres; horror and martial arts. The acting is subpar. The plot is ridiculous. And true to form it features 80s ninja maestro Shô Kosugi (The Master) playing yet another new character within the franchise. Directed by B-movie legend Sam Firstenberg and produced by the incomparable Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, Ninja III: The Domination is every bit the definition of a true cult classic - so terrible as to be amazing, it's just waiting for the day when Hollywood produces an Oscar-worthy making-of film about it.
The plot - what there is of it - centers around a diabolical ninja (David Chung) who after assassinating some random guy, his girlfriend, his security detail, and about a dozen other cops, is finally fatally wounded in a hail of gunfire. Nearby, a hip and with it working girl by the name of Christie (Lucinda Dickey) witnesses the ninja stumbling around near death. When she attempts to help the man, the ninja passes her his sword and infecting her with his evil ninja spirit. From beyond the grave, he will possess Christie so that he can exact his revenge upon each of the hard-working police officers who killed him. Only Christie's new cop boyfriend Secord (Jordan Bennett) is determined to help her, even if that means turning her over to the mysterious ninja assassin Yamada (Shô Kosugi).
Not that you actually needed a recap of this movie in order to "get it," I just hoped that ridiculous plot rundown would inspire you to check it out! This is a true Cannon film in the purest sense. Known for their penny-pinching ways while promoting their films as would-be blockbusters, Golan/Globus really stuck it to Ninja III: The Domination. It's a decidedly low budget affair with all of the cheap trappings that were a hallmark of their catalog while aiming for larger-than-life entertainment value.
Cheap sets, bad acting, worse visual effects - that's the Cannon way! It's quite clear early on that everything featured in this film - right down to an unreleased arcade game called "Bouncer" - was intended to piggyback on what was already successful in popular culture. Working-girl Flashdance lead character knock off - check. Aerobics class music video sequence featuring hip cool rock music with fit people - check. Ninjas killing random guys with any number of implements - check. Demonic possession because those movies were still popular - check. You can practically see Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus running down the marketing checklist with an enthusiastic swipe of their pen without regard to whether or not it made sense for the film.
To the film's credit, the cast and crew go for broke. Shot before Breakin' and Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, Lucinda Dickey was a fresh attractive young face and Menahem Golan was pushing to make her a star by strategically rolling out a series of films in a 5-picture deal prominently featuring Dickey. Lucinda is clearly eager and ready to show the world what she had to offer. Unfortunately, this film effectively killed Cannon's "Ninja" franchise forcing them to reboot with the classic American Ninja run featuring golden boy Michael Dudikoff. At the same time, you can see Shô Kosugi desperately trying to salvage things with his typically impressive stunt work lending an ounce of respectability - even going so far as to body double for Dickey as the possessed Black Ninja when necessary. Jordan Bennett does what he can to ground the film as the "everyman" boyfriend, but the script just doesn't allow for much movement beyond standing around wide-eyed with his mouth frequently agape.
Ninja III: The Domination only works because nothing about it works. Through chaos there is order. All of the worst elements of this film come together to create one of the best movies to watch with a crowd of people. You can certainly enjoy it on your own, but the more the merrier. One of the best theater-going experiences I've ever had was catching this film at a midnight screening with a packed house. The energy, the laughter, everyone feeds off this film and it's an unintentional delight. To that point, if you can't get to the theater, make sure you invite plenty of friends over. It's the best way to enjoy Ninja III: The Domination. You'll never look at a can of V-8 the same way ever again.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Ninja III: The Domination possesses Blu-ray once again thanks to Shout!'s Scream Factory imprint. Forgoing the DVD disc, this is a new single-disc Blu-ray release pressed onto a Region A BD-50 disc. The disc is housed in a sturdy case with newly commissioned cover artwork and identical slipcover. The inside artwork is reversible to showcase the original theatrical artwork. The disc loads to an animated main menu featuring traditional navigation options.
Maybe I'm a bit cynical, or maybe I'm a bit of a realist, but I honestly didn't think the image quality could get much better for Ninja III: The Domination than what was provided for the original 2013 Blu-ray release. That release while it exhibited a little artificial sharpening and banding and a couple spots of speckling was actually a very strong transfer. Impressively enough, this new 4K scan does offer up some improvements. While perhaps slight and difficult to notice at first, after doing some disc swapping, you start to see the differences. Detailing was already strong, but now things appear a bit more refined. Clothing, skin texture, Jordan Bennett's carpet-like body hair, all get a little fine tuning and improved clarity. Film grain is apparent but never noisy or intrusive and is perhaps a bit more even.
Colors also saturate just a bit better as well. Flesh tones are little healthier; primaries have a stronger vibrancy, especially blues and reds. There is less of a dull purple quality to the image than there was in the previous release without becoming overly teal/orange. Color's important because it's the defining characteristic of the spirit of the Black Ninja, so when that sword starts glowing bright orange it's a nice visual treat - as is the gymnastically hilarious exorcism sequence. Black levels are solid offering a nice sense of depth to the image even providing stronger shadow details when the glowing sword flies out of the closet (yes that is a thing that happens in the movie). The only iffy spots are around a few optical effects, the Temple On The Hill for example, but those are cooked into the elements. While I wouldn't call this a "vast improvement" over the previous release transfer, I will state that it is a notable one. What was already good was made better. But in all honesty, Shout!/Scream really needs to jump into the 4K UHD game if they're going to be punching out quality transfers like this! This movie with a nice HDR grade or (gasp!) a Dolby Vision pass would be amazing!
Near as I can feature, this is the exact same English DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo mix as on the 2013 release. Which isn't a problem at all. I'm actually glad that Scream Factory didn't feel the need to rework it or blow it up to an unnecessary 5.1 mix as those have exhibited some unfortunate softness issues on other releases. The dialog is clean and clear throughout most of the film. The loud and active exorcism sequence has a little muddled dialog, but nothing too severe to nitpick about. You're not really missing much. Scoring by Udi Harpaz and Misha Segal is delightfully 80s camp material and fits the mix nicely. Free of any hiss, or age-related goop, this is still a clean and effective audio mix that serves this film's evil intentions nicely.
While Scream Factory's A/V presentation for Ninja III: The Domination is a standout, the newly assembled bonus features package is the real reason to entice people to double dip. Included with the previous Audio Commentary are a bunch of new cast and crew interviews, an Isolated Score track, and a bunch of other great material that's well worth pawing over!
Audio Commentary featuring director Sam Firstenberg and stunt coordinator Steve Lambert. This is the same commentary as the previous release and it's a gas. If you love Cannon movies this offers up a nice insider look at the making of one of their best.
(NEW) Isolated Score Sections also features audio interviews with composer Misha Segal and production designer Elliot Ellentruck. This music is a silly synth mess and it's great to hear the interviews discussing the various parts they played with the production.
(NEW) Interview with Lucinda Dickey (HD 18:24) This is a great interview with lead actress Lucinda Dickey. She offers up a lot of great behind the scenes material and has plenty of great stories to offer up. It's a bit melancholy at times as it sounds like this film killed a dream for her, but she's a good sport about it and gives a few good laughs.
(NEW) Interview with Jordan Bennett (HD 10:25) Like Dickey, Jordan Bennett has a lot of great stories to tell, I just wish he had more time to share! What's here is pretty great and is thoroughly entertaining.
(NEW) Interview with Fight Choreographer Alan Amiel (HD 11:47) Amiel was in on the ground floor working on a number of Cannon shows as a fight Choreographer so he's got some fun stories to tell here. You can tell the man wanted the film to be better than it was, but like DIckey he seems happy that it's found its audience - even if they love it ironically.
Trailers From Hell (HD 1:57) Josh Olson gets only a couple short minutes to talk about one of his favorite films.
Still Photo Gallery (HD 3:07)
Behind the Scenes Gallery (HD 4:10)
Theatrical Trailer (HD 1:37)
80s action movies were practically defined by Golan Globus and the Cannon group - for better or worse. While they may have offered up a couple decent gems in their time, most of their films were off the rails schlock. Ninja III: The Domination is a highlight of just how nuts The Cannon Way of filmmaking could get. It's complete and utter nonsense of the finest order as it fails to blend a variety of genres and pop culture happenings into a bizarre horror/action hybrid. As bad as it is, it is endlessly entertaining 35 years later! Scream Factory upgrades the film to "Collector's Edition" status with terrific results. This disc sports a fresh new 4K scan of the negative that offers up a cleaner picture with improved colors while utilizing the same strong audio mix. But the standout here is the impressive selection of bonus features that fans won't want to miss. I usually don't like double dips, but if you've never bought this film or are a Cannon completionist, this Collector's Edition Blu-ray release of Ninja III: The Domination is Highly Recommended.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.