A reader recently sent me these VHS shell inserts from Croatian market ninja releases. Click to enlarge the glory of the good bad art…
Tags: VHS art
A reader recently sent me these VHS shell inserts from Croatian market ninja releases. Click to enlarge the glory of the good bad art…
Tags: VHS art
The Ninja Murders?
Yeah, I never heard of it either…
Sadly, this is not a mis-cast adaptation of Andrew B. Suhrer’s book of the same name that explores assassinations in the Japanese feudal era.
Rather it’s a 1993 ‘true-crime’ TV movie, retitled to a variety of different things when it actually aired, based on the murders of a West LA couple in 1985. Witnesses claimed an assailant in ninja-like garb fled the scene, hence the nickname of the terrible event.
So yeah, no shinobi content here.
Similar names have been tagged to murders in other states (like, hmmm, FLORIDA! gosh…) where over-the-counter ninja-wear has been used for nefarious purposes.
Quit giving the hoods a bad rep, damn perps!
Tags: THE NINJA MURDERS
A recent score, this 7-inch generic from the 80s is a rare knock-off the famed action figure body from Mego — the company that defined the 8-inch scale in the 70s, giving us The World’s Greatest Superheroes, Planet of the Apes and myriad other properties. (read more at The Mego Museum)
This slightly shrunken version has the same articulation and construction of the originals, but with zero markings, no production year, nothing… we’re just guessing at who produced this and when.
Nice weapons though.
And I really love these molded tabi with ‘putee’ straps. This sort of detail is not common in no-name knock-offs like this.
I know there’s some Mego collectors out there that’ll be able to ID this head in a heartbeat. Chime in friends…
The Dutch-language comic strip and graphic novel series Der Rode Ridder (The Red Knight) features a King Arthur-like crusading swordsman getting into all sorts of historical trouble, often thanks to the meddling of wizards like Merlin. The second era of Belgium’s version of Prince Valiant saw the adventures take a more fantasy and action stance, with the character battling hydras, the Loch Ness monster and yes, because it was 1985 and they wanted to sell the hell out of copies, NINJA!
Artist/writer Karel Biddeloo did some homework on shinobi but the results run hot and cold in that charming sort of way 80′s Western comics often achieved (see also this post on DC’s Kana). The costuming is close to Japanese conventions, but vague on some of the finer points, and then the weapons get strangely European in translation.
The rest of the Japanese characters range from samurai-ish, if you squint, to dowright stereotypical Chinese.
Although this was the only ninja-centric adventure, for more on the Red Knight there’s an official website here.
Tags: Der Rode Ridder
Renowned customizer of Star Wars and G.I.Joe 3.75″ figures “Obi Shinobi“ created this great Sho Kosugi figure from the finale of Pray for Death.
Love the dragon helmet’s articulation!
Obi Shinobi also crafted this nifty scale diorama of a classic ninja vs. samurai encounter.
I have a hard enough time making 12″ kit-bashed figures look half-decent, and am just blown away by the folks who can do this smaller toys in such detail.
There’s no better way to celebrate the birth of the USA than by looking back at a low-budget exploitation flick based on a Japanese martial art, produced by Israelis, shot in the Philippines.
READ ON, FELLOW PATRIOTS:
The seminal film reviewed by us here.
Who was the real “American Ninja” - Dudikoff, Kosugi or Norris???
Read Matt Wallace‘s take on American Ninja 5 here.
See the amazing African version of the movie poster here.
And check out some licensed merchandise for kids here.
If I had a bigger pad, I’d do nothing but trawl used bookstores and paperback collector shows for vintage martial arts pulps. Fill an entire wall like it was an old Walden Books from Shopper’s World in Framingham. (apologies for the nostalgic homer ref)
Barring that, here’s some choice faves I’ve still picked up over the years, even with trying to keep my spending habits in check.
Feeding on what American audiences saw in Shogun, Ninja: Clan of Death was one of the early craze publications that propagated that notion of ninja as mercenary death cults.
A couple of the 16 or more macho revenge tomes written by Ric Meyers as ‘Wade Barker’ during the craze.
Curious there were never any hoods on these “Brett Wallace” covers. Thinking the publisher was pushing them more towards the long-standing Executioner/Destroyer older fan-base vs. us ninja-crazed kids.
And here’s some other, slightly off topic entries, but cool nonetheless:
There was a mini-wave of Western-Chambara crossovers both on bookshelves and theater screens in the late 70s-early 80s. Nothing that congealed as dynamically as the ninja boom, but significant entries like the superb Toshiro Mifune/Charles Bronson vehicle Red Sun and Tom (Billy Jack) Laughlin’s curious Goyokin remake The Master Gunfighter inspired all sorts cheap paperbacks.
The 70s Kung-Fu and Karate era had a lot more dime-rack paperback action that the 80s ninja boom. One could fill two walls with this stuff.
Get it? Super Man… Chu! See what they did there? This mid-70s Golden Harvest programmer had better poster art (used for the tie-in novelization above) than production values.
There’s were six or seven books in this K’ing Kung-Fu series I think, with phenomenal covers by Barry Windsor-Smith. Check out a few more here.
Occasionally, what would normally be a 6×9 trade paperback sold out of Black Belt or Inside Kung-Fu would get re-packaged in mass-market paperback size. Made it easier for the Guardian Angels to carry them on the subway…
Last week a horror movie label called Scream Factory released Ninja III: The Domination on Bluray and DVD.
Just going to let that statement slow burn for a second…
Not a label with a large martial arts back catalog, not an Asian cinema-friendly label addressing the East’s influence on the West, but a horror label clinging to The Dom‘s kinship to The Exorcist and Poltergeist. Scream Factory was nearly apologetic on social media to its black t-shirt clad Fangoria/Chiller crowd for pushing the envelope of their mission at hand, but the fan base was surprisingly positive at the announcement. Horror blogs reviewed it with the requsite so-bad-its-good slant [groan], and younger audiences are for the first time finding this staggering time capsule of 80s trash culture — aerobics-sploitation, Chess King sweaters and Nagel prints galore. All is good in the world…
Scream’s release is a stunning transfer of from what I recall is a complete print. The picture is just gorgeous on Bluray (the stills here don’t do it justice), and the accompanying DVD copy is nothing to sneeze at either. I’d call it miles above any previous release, but that’s not saying much as the last time Ninja III was on home video it was a full-frame VHS.
The 80′s ninja boom was represented piss-poorly in the DVD era (which yes, I’m referring to in the past tense), but it seems no film was relegated to limbo longer than this third chapter in the Kosugi/Canon partnership. There were mostly full-frame and “open matte” releases of Revenge of the Ninja, Rage of Honor, the American Ninja flicks, dumped out with little effort and even less fanfare, but for who-knows-why The Dom never made even that cut.
The age of physical media will have now come and gone with no box sets, no deluxe extras, no mind-blowing deleted scenes or making-of docos (save for a business-oriented piece on how The Octagon came together), nor any nostalgic interviews with very alive-and-well stars like Sho Kosugi and sons. (Enter the Ninja and Pray For Death only recently became available either streaming or DVD-on-Demand sans deluxe treatment.)
Even with Ninja Assassin making some waves and the G.I. Joe films putting big-budget ninja action in theaters, no one before Scream Factory saw the audience potential for the now 30 year old material. Kudos to them.
The big extra on the new release is a commentary track with director Sam Firstenberg and stunt coordinator Steve Lambert, which at times is just superb, but at others suffers a bit (for our purposes) from being hosted by a horror guy and aimed at other horror guys. A discussion of Kosugi’s eyepatch never touches on the traditional portrayals of Jubei Yagyu nor Sho Kosugi’s connection to Sonny Chiba and the Japan Action Club. We’re ninja geeks, we want to hear that stuff, even if it’s solely prompted by the moderator.
Still, hearing both these guys gush like proud papas about their work is very endearing. They point out Lucinda Dickey‘s work ethic, the merits of practical stunts and real fights in this post-Matrix world, all sorts of goodness.
Another fantastic bonus is Firstenberg’s own photo collection, with some behind-the-scenes stuff none of us have ever seen before.
It’s also just great to finally see this film in such a pristine, even enhanced state. The MGM cable channel print of Ninja III wasn’t nearly as detail-revealling as this new transfer, especially viewed on Blu. I noticed for the first time Lucinda Dickey is wearing a really bad wig in all the mountain location scenes, which were evidently shot after she started filming Breakin’ with a shorter, more Pat Benatar-inspired haircut. And yes, she did Ninja III first, a revelation from the commentary.
So you see completists, you need to erase that shitty compressed bit-torrented rip you probably have of this film (that’s what happens when a cult fave languishes out-of-print too long, studio geniuses) and pick up this new Blu. Don’t think of it as double dipping, it’s like a whole new experience now.
I just wish it had come 5-8 years ago and with interviews of Kosugi and Dickey, packaged with all of Canon’s other ninja movies in black box that lights up from within, spews smoke and plays dramatic theme music while you power-up.
I also want six-pack abs, a 10-inch wang and gas to be under $4.00 a gallon. So, yeah…
Seriously. Eight to ten thousand of you read this site every month, you’re all ninja freaks and you’ve all been a pissed off as I am that the 80s craze films never got the deluxe send-up. Now that one has, we need to mobilize, buy the hell out of it and show the other labels what they’ve been missing out on.
Or even just Scream Factory to consider corresponding releases of Enter and Revenge, or Pray for Death with the fabled extra gore?
Hmmm? Think about it guys…
I just adore this article by my pal Maria Alexander — “Why I Hate (Most) Photos and Drawings of Women with Swords.”
Read it. RIGHT NOW. I’ll wait.
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 Girls archive. 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:
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…
Tags: Maria Alexander
Every year we celebrate the site’s birthday by reposting the very first thing we ever did — a look at vintage press still from Akai Kageboshi.
Can a respectable, accomplished beautiful woman from noble samurai family possibly say no to a hooded bedroom invader so clearly superior in his warrior fashion sense? I think not!
I may have started this site just to find a good home for this picture. Seriously.
Said hood is Hashizo Okawa, the shinobi son trying to exact revenge on behalf of his tattooed ninja mom-done-wrong in the 1961 Toei film Akai Kageboshi. It’s part tournament movie, part mulit-generational mystery, part ninja romance – all with a supporting cast of staggering chambara manliness.
It all starts with our old pal Hattori Hanzo, played by Jushiro Konoe of Ninja Hunt and the Yagu Secret Scrolls series, who intercepts a ninja on a castle incursion. During their struggle, he realizes his prey is actually a woman, and the two are so turned-on by each other’s shinobi sex appeal, they have at it on the spot.
Couple decades later, that same lady of the shadows is a bitter and obsessed ninja MILF who has trained her son, the offspring of that fateful encounter, in the family trade. Decked out in all sorts of gorgeous ornate get-ups, he is ‘The Red Shadow’ – the instrument of her revenge.
The plot, from that set-up, is full of twists and turns and amazing characters. Sonny-boy’s mission is to collect 10 swords, one of which has part of a map etched onto it’s handle that when matched up with mom’s killer tats will lead them to a Shogunate treasure and vindicate her failure as a shadow agent. The ten swords, however, are the prizes in a martial arts tournament, so Red has to snatch the blades from the victors every night.
This goes along fine, as long as the winners are old semi-retired swordsmen or young hotties practicing Naginata, but when one of the victors is Jubei F’N Yagu, played by Ryutaro Otomo, it’s a whole different deal!
Red throws everything in his ninja repertoire at Jubei, just to see it all bounce harmlessly off his square jaw. Jubei, meanwhile, butts his way into the intrigue afoot, then Hanzo comes out of retirement, Red falls in love, snakes fall from the ceiling and shuriken sing through the night air…
So yeah, Akai Kegeboshi is a pretty damn essential film, for those of you who haven’t seen it. Grey marketeers and fan-subbers have made it readily available, too, so there’s no excuses. Despite literal translations, would be a good idea to refer to this maybe as “The Crimson Shadow” or “The Scarlet Shadow” or something else, as the name “Red Shadow” has a rather significant pedigree elsewhere…
Here’s a ton of images, like the above, from Thai press kits released contemporary with the film’s original theatrical run.
I’ll wrap this up with some close-up scans of the mission gear. LOVE that mesh soft-armor hood!
Don’t let these sepia-tone and B&W press photos fool you, Akai Kageboshi is a beautiful color film. The print that’s floating about the ‘trading communities’ is probably from TV and is pretty inky, though – but by no means a deal breaker.
On our first birthday in 2010, we did a week-long look at this film, check it all out here.