Two of my favorite kung-fu-based ninja-sploitation flicks are the Taiwan via Hong Kong oddities Deadly Life of a Ninja and Challenge of the Lady Ninja, both featuring the delightful Elsa Yeung.
While Deadly Life features a bizarre pro-wrestling element that will always chime with my DNA, Lady is probably the “better” of the two, if such a term is appropriate.
While a bit less fleshy, it’s perhaps more bat-shit crazy with the outre female “martial arts training” (aka mud wrestling and sexy aerobics) and in particular the weird gimmick villains.
Typical of her films, Elsa is put through the ringer with torturous training, fights against multiple male opponents, and all sorts of wacky kunoichi seduction business.
Here’s the inside of the brochure, with bilingual summaries:
Yeah, I’m thinking that pic is of one of Elsa’s myriad male stunt doubles… from “Igay School.”
I just adore (in all the wrong ways) the fact that Lady is period-set during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai, yet makes ZERO attempt at fealty to that era. Modern cars and interiors abound, nevermind theover-the-top80′s fashions and big hair. Evidently Shanghai had a mall with a Chess King back in the 1940s!
Challenge of the Lady Ninja was a staple of cheap VHS at the tail end of the 80s craze, and has also been released in various formats and countries as Never Kiss A Ninja and the completely misleading Chinese Super Ninjas II. As much as a dig this flick, it’s NO sequel to Five Element Ninjas.
There are dozens of tumblrs out there dedicated to babes-n-blades, and they could really all be called Women Holding Katana Wrong, Hot Chicks About to Maim Themselves or This Thing Isn’t Actually Sharp Is It, Tony? as it seems neither model nor photographer has any clue as to how said blades should be held.
And it’s unforgivable, too. What, you couldn’t find any reference anywhere? An old Red Sonja magazine drawn by Frank Thorne or five minutes of Crouching Tiger streaming on Netflix? No???
Well, in an effort to back Maria’s crusade, here’s some stills from the VN Sword Girlsarchive. These are from Japanese film and TV, where actresses were coached on brazenly theatrical pre-parry and/or post-strike poses based on centuries of stage and illustration traditions. The ways blades were held were not only credible (in a cinematic suspension of martial disbelief way, admittedly), they actually built character. A pile of thought was put into these grips, poses, and movements, and the effort shows.
Take notes, babe-n-blade-buffoons:
Yuriko Hoshi from SENGOKU YARO strikes a confident “I’m a woman and I KNOW how to use this chisa-katana dammit!” pose that makes a band of ninja think about their next move for a second before rushing into their inevitable deaths.
This is Sonny Chiba’s well-schooled action-star daughter Juri Manase, striking a gorgeous ‘Z’ pose. Note how safely AWAY FROM HER DAMN BODY that blade is, gents.
Akiko Kujo in the LION MARU television series used her athleticism and dancer-honed posing to create an equally attractive and deadly female warrior that spent more time killing skull-ninja than she did suffering the usual capture predicaments and damsel-in-distress nonsense seemingly required in TV sidekicks.
Hizuno Takachiho from CASTLE OF OWLS block a full-on katana strike from a man twice her size using a firm grip and the sheath from her hidden umbrella blade for leverage.
Junko Miyazono’s post-strike posing was just phenomenal in the QUICK DRAW OKATSU flicks. Nice extension and follow through…
Reiko Oshida’s character in the same film specializes in breaking up gambling dens, thus she uses a short sword and firm reverse grip for close quarters combat. And looks damn cute doing it, too!
This one… this one’s from PORN! Even porn stars have better blade skills than you, you dweebs! NINJA PUSSY CAT knows how to plant a tanto in your bitch ass.
See, not that hard people. You can embrace either proper martial arts, OR proper cinematic posing geared for dramatic composition. Either one is going to yield a result better than a katana sheathed in cleavage, edge-side-inward. Oy…
2001s Red Shadow (aka Akakage) is the sort of remake/adaptation that watches fine if you are TOTALLY unfamiliar with the source property. That way, you’re not aware of the squandered opportunity for a modern digital-age superhero ninja vs. monster romp.
Ignorance can be bliss though, especially when the costumes are this cool. And like or hate this movie based on your literacy of its tokusatsu roots, who can argue with the replacement of the annoying kid with a hot kunoichi in leather and fishnets?
These scans are from the somewhat poorly photographed studio press book, although the photographer over-lighting the subjects does bring out some of the great textures and details of these video game-inspired costume updates.
What happens to props like this? Is it on the director’s lawn or floating in the producers pool or something? Or maybe some prop house is saving it for re-purposing in an Inframan remake?
Your adorable little action-oriented commercial has been around for what, SIX WEEKS or more now?
I’ve been glued to my TV, watching for your Akakage-inspired red mask, contemporary urban take on fighting gear and “I’m a Hoodie Ninja” bopping theme song, all the while scoffing at the other “To Each Their Own” characters like the zombie or masked wrestler.
I’ve clearly shown MY loyalty. And clearly I’m the most qualified ninja super fan in the land. And clearly I’ve remained available for dating, steadfastly refusing the advances of the nubile female fan base a site like this generates for a bachelor.
You have not called. Not written. Haven’t stealthily invaded my chambers late at night, or sprung from a ceiling tile in my bathroom while I’m in the shower, all shocked and coyly embarrassed and shit.
This is obviously a tragic oversight on your part, as you are denying yourself the life that only two similarly shadow-mided souls can share. Don’t do this to yourself. Don’t be afraid to cross that nightingale floor to my heart, or summon the giant toad that will be our love.
I will give you two more weeks to rectify this situation, then… I’m moving on. *sniff*
Keith J. Rainville
BONUS VIDEO – a fan put together this great shinobi-cinema collage to the MC Chris “Hoodie Ninja” jam:
Dig around the CG art community haven Deviant Art for a while and you come accross some serious talent!
These digitally-painted sword girls are from Japanese artist GETABO Hagiwara. He’s a sword instructor as well, and it shows in the authenticity of the blades and posing in his work. He might be a Ray Harryhausen fan, too, judging from all the Jason and the Argonauts-like skeletons some of the girls are fending off.
Just gorgeous! Prints are for sale at the DA link, and you can see more at the Japanese site Creative Works PURE (go to Gallery – Private).