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Blu-Ray Review: Kino Lorber’s Enter the Ninja (KL Studio Classics) 

Enter the Ninja

Franco Nero is a … Ninja??? Yes, that’s right… Menahem Golan’s deliriously wild Enter the Ninja is back on Blu-ray with a wonderful transfer and extras thanks to Kino Lorber

The Film 

This is the point where Cannon Films became CANNON FILMS.  The one that everyone – of a certain age – remembers with either fondness or disdain.  No matter what you think of Golan and Globus, the sheer willpower and moxie it took to push from jokes to actual force to be reckoned with has been covered in documentaries and books.  Enter the Ninja is the sort of subject case study in the lunacy that is Cannon Films and what we know of it.  

A ninja movie wouldn’t be complete if it wasn’t about a … white dude.  Yes, not just any white dude but one played by FRANCO NERO.  Nero going from Lancelot to Django to Ninja seems like a natural progression.  But not just any Ninja, a Vietnam vet who was so good he bested Sho Kosugi during his testing.  Let me repeat that – because Sho Kaosugi is the ninjas of ninjas.  He’s the poster child for ninjas.  I guess they wanted to ensure that we thought Nero was NINJA (all in caps).  Nero’s Cole after completing his training wants nothing more than a peaceful life.  Really dude?  You trained as a ninja and you just want to kick it in the Philippines? 

Well, that’s where Cole finds himself into an ever-increasingly difficult situation with his best friend Frank (Alex Courtney) and Frank’s wife Mary-Ann (Susan George).  Frank’s a drunken idiot that the Springsteen song “Glory Days” was meant for.  Mary-Ann his wife is the one burdened with all the work and has an eye for Cole.  Well, there’s some sort of land war with Charles Venarius (Christopher George at his non-animals-attack best) who wants their land because of what else … oil (I’m sure Uncle Marty watched this as prep for Killers of the Flower Moon).  

Cole and Frank get their kick-ass on which causes Venarius to “find his own ninja” which he does.  Does it surprise anyone it’s Sho Kosugi’s Hasegawa?  Well, it shouldn’t.  Cole vows vengeance after Hasegawa kills Frank and kidnaps Mary-Ann – donning becoming both literally and figuratively the white ninja.  It all ends as you think it does with the face-off and ultimate happy ending for Cole.  Not so much for the Filipino people who’ve been duped by both the “good” white people and the “bad” white people.  

The wildest story point to occur in Enter the Ninja isn’t anything described above or anything that occurs in the film at all.  It’s Menahem Golan the producer fired the original star and director and hired himself (as the director) and Franco Nero as the star.  Basically, changing and damaging Western martial arts films for the rest of eternity.  Hiring Nero essentially gave him box office but Nero having zero martial arts skills opened the floodgates for all the ninja and non-ninja martial arts movies of the 1980s and most of the 1990s.  Yes, Golan would make the sequels platforms for Sho Kasugi in the hands of the far more capable director Sam Firstenberg but what did it matter when none of that moved the needle?  It didn’t. 

That aside every decision made by Golan in Enter the Ninja is wrong in some way or fashion. That doesn’t necessarily make the film unwatchable. It’s quite the opposite. The film because of Golan’s lack of any kind of taste or understanding of storytelling creates a wild film experience one won’t soon forget. Like his equally terrible but compulsively watchable The Apple there is nothing that even approaches competent.

Anything that is competently done like action scenes is more attributed to the stunt team, cinematographer, and editing.  Even the action scenes seem determined to be ruined by Golan’s sense of story and what he thinks is entertainment.  It’s these WTF moments that unintentionally give the film energy but not for the better.  There’s no tongue-in-cheek flavor to the film a sense of play, Golan’s direction is such that he means everything.  E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G is sincerely meant.  Even the ending with Nero looking directly at the camera and winking.  

Enter the Ninja isn’t a good film.  Though it is a highly entertaining one.  One to watch with your favorite libation and friends.  One to cheer and mock.  One to be played at the highest possible decibel and on the biggest screen.  If anything, Enter the Ninja is cinema at its trashiest and stupidest.  The very definition of B-Movie buttery goodness.  

The Transfer

Kino Lorber delivers another exemplary transfer for a Cannon Film.  Enter the Ninja has never looked better than on this Blu-ray.  The image is consistently sharp and attractive.   The colors pop and the black levels are well defined as to never even bordering close to the dreaded crushed blacks.  The transfer mimics a freshly printed 35mm archival print.  

The Extras

They include the following;

  • NEW Audio Commentary by Action Film Historians Mike Leeder and Arne Venema
  • Theatrical Trailer

The all-new Audio Commentary by Action Film Historians Mike Leeder and Arne Venema opens with their excited introduction to the film’s opening credit sequence and their first experience with Ninja on screen.  Some of the details include the origins of the project from screenwriter and original star Mike Stone – who was replaced with Franco Nero; the original production – how Golan fired the original director and hired himself; how they were able to cast Franco Nero; the multi-colored Ninja how it was originated here; a great/hilarious story of Leeder’s personal experience with trying to be a ninja as a teenager; the rise of the “Ninja Masters” in the 1980s; a discussion of star Franco Nero’s personal history, career, and work here; the various ninja movies – including some wild sounding entries; the work here and her career of Susan George – including a discussion of Straw Dogs; a hilarious discussion of Nero’s use of nunchucks; a discussion of the Lemon Popsicles series – which were directed by Golan – how they set up Golan and Globus to move to US and purchase Cannon; the dubbing of all the actors – specifically Nero’s being upset they did not use his usual dubbing actor; a conversation about Sam Firstenberg vs Menahem Golan as action directors; the reason why Golan directed Enter the Ninja; the work and personal history of Christopher George; the stunt doubling of Franco Nero; the work of editor Mark Goldblatt – and a discussion of his editing and directing career beyond Enter the Ninja; a side discussion of Takeshi Miike favorite film; a lengthy discussion of the work and the career of Sho Kosugi – including a great personal anecdotes about Kosugi; a lengthy discussion of the work and the career of Mike Stone – including a wild story about Stone and why he moved from America and the Philippines that involved Elvis; why so many Ninja movies came out and were developed during this era beyond the success of the this film; and much more. It cannot be stated enough that Leeder and Venema are the best at what they do and their track for Enter the Ninja is no exception.  The wealth of information, humor, and anecdotes – both personal and from the production – is as enlightening and entertaining as any in the movie itself.  Required listening.  

Rounding out the special features are trailers for Enter the Ninja (2:54); Revenge of the Ninja (1:42); The Challenge(2:14) American Ninja (1:50); The Octagon (2:29); Ghost Warrior [Swordkill] (3:00)

The Final Thought 

Enter the Ninja is the film that started it all (it being the Ninja craze in the Western World).  Kino Lorber has furnished us with an excellent special edition. Recommended!!! 

Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray edition of Enter the Ninja is out now

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