A reader sent me these pics – an assortment of vintage Henshin Ninja Arashi vinyls. Have no clue where they originated, but I’d love to give credit where credit is due, so if they’re yours, lemme know…
Damn this thing is sweet! But some of these villain figures are even better:
Tags: HENSHIN NINJA ARASHI, Monsters and Masks 2011
An oddity among the tokusatsu status quo is the 1973 12-episode series Majin Hunter Mitsurugi, mainly for its use of stop-motion animation instead of stuntmen in rubber suits. It has its other quirks too, though, such as the heroes:
Sure, they look like the standard Science Patrol-type trio, but MHM is period-set in the Tokugawa era, so the bike helmets and hand grenades are rather outre choices. Not sure if there’s some sort of time travel gimmick here, but they’ve certainly taken the out-of-time Akakage costuming notions to a whole different level. Their skills are classic TV shinobi though, with shuriken and short swords at the ready.
The Shogunate is under attack from this arch demon…
…his mummy-bandaged horde…
…and the giant monster-of-the-week.
Luckily the heroes have magic swords and a gigantic armor suit of their own.
The creature design on MHM ranged from Ray Harryhausen influenced stuff to some downright Rankin-Bass holiday special looking silly critters. The show’s ambition sometimes outraced their ability to deliver, alas…
While the pimpled dodo-saurus above is a bit of a fail, the Jason and the Argonauts-inspired skeletal colossus is a major win!
And while this bastard love child of Reptilicus and The Giant Claw is a bit laughable…
…these insectiod hybrid creature remind me a lot of Micronauts. Too cool!
Seriously, how can you not love the day-glow green half-tarantula, half-skeleton unicorn hook-handed web spewer?
I love all these monsters, but it does seem multiple designers were involved, and someone didn’t get the memo that the rest of the show look was dark and moody, with bandaged swordsmen getting hacked up by grenade-throwing ninja. There are some very kid-y designs mixed in with the more legit monsters.
I’m also not sure they were up to the challenge of stop motion. Rubber suit shoots have a fraction of the shooting and production time, and the animation looks rushed and tragically under-budgeted.
Majin Hunter Mitsurugi is well worth seeking out. I dig the heroes, and the concepts are great. Any shortcomings in creature execution and animation are made-up for by the awesome villains, too.
Tags: Majin Hunter Mitsurugi, Monsters and Masks 2011, tokusatsu
These stills from a Turkish/Yugoslav/Romanian market press kit are pretty low in quality, but some are variants from the usual lot seen in American kits.
People don’t give Ninja III: The Domination enough credit. It’s a smart as hell release, blending two familiar genre, with ghostly possession and martial arts fights in equal amounts.
Or did it suffer from its mixed pedigree? It certainly lies more in the MA genre than horror, and you don’t see it listed alongside the Exorcists and Poltergeists in books or articles about retro possession cinema. Maybe there’s too much kicking and stunt work and not enough outright scares?
Maybe its largely overlooked because it’s had no life beyond the VHS era. WHY!?!?!?
Tags: Monsters and Masks 2011, Ninja III: The Domination
Found this crazy image on tumblr and was immediately struck by similarities to one of my favorite pieces of movie marketing ever:
This publicity still from The Abominable Dr. Phibes – and if you’ve never seen this 1971 Vincent Price classic do so NOW NOW NOW – is just beyond great. The mix of 30s fashion and modern creature make-up, the notion of a girl and the monster she loves. Shucks…
But maybe it was inspired by a much older piece of Japanese art? Or not…
Now in proper tumblr fashion, no credit to the artist was given and no source of the image cited, so I don’t know a thing about. Yay “freedom of information.”
But at least you can take a gander at more uses of the famous monster smooch over at Wrong Side of the Art.
Tags: Monsters and Masks 2011
Earlier this year Marvel had a one-off vampire comic set in Japan’s feudal era. Was artist Goran Parlov just going for stylized over-folding of the material on this shadowy agent of a samurai vampire, or are we looking at some kind of mummy ninja?
I’m digging it! Even if this isn’t a literal bandage-wrapped ninja, it evokes classical Universal Monster and traditional ninja garb in equal amounts. Well done.
Tags: Monsters and Masks 2011, Tomb of Dracula: Throne of Blood
It was one of the few Japanese ninja movies that actually made it to U.S. shores in the 80s, and what a weird choice. Full of fantasy special effects, bizarre super powered evil monks, sadism and rape and decapitated girls walking around, it was an exploitation feast for teenaged cable addicts, even if there was nary a black hood to be seen. It was Kadokawa’s big budget Iga Ninpocho, known here as Ninja Wars.
And this was the US press press book from 1983:
This painting was the U.S. poster and sometimes VHS clamshell package. Painted in 1982, it's still pretty 70's.
I could never quite make out this detail back when I had the VHS.
Back cover of the book featured Henry Sanada over the more familiar in the U.S. Sonny Chiba.
Sanada and pop-star Noriko Watanabe in her first film were BANK in Japan.
Chiba had a small but important role, and his Japan Action Club was responsible for fights and stunts galore.
Mikio Narita as the evil wizard Kashin Koji was our fave character. The dubbed English voice was over-the-top sinister and we used to imitate it all the time.
The "Devil Monks" had surreal super powers and/or signature weapons. They were downright monstrous, and this film bordered on the horror genre at all times.
Pro wrestler Strong Kobayashi as Kongo dwarfed the rest of the cast.
Ninja Wars didn’t get a whole ton of traction during the craze, mostly because of the lack of black hoods in both the film and its marketing. HBO even pushed it as a surreal Japanese art film rather than a martial arts exploitation movie, which wasn’t that huge a stretch…
If Ninja Wars was ‘art’ then it was a demented piece of fantasy art painted on the side of some oversexed pervert’s conversion van. Mutant super monks, bat shit-crazy wizards, undead hotties with transplanted heads, fat chicks on aphrodisiacs gettin’ nekkid, flying gags and crazy stunts, acid barf of doom. Wow…
Ninja Wars may be to 80s shinobi cinema what Lucio Fulci’s Conquest was to Conan knock-offs – the weird bastard stepchild that does and doesn’t belong to the genre, and who can tell if it’s brilliant art or a total piece of shit lost in its own pretension and trying way to hard to shock?
The 2005 Adness DVD of Ninja Wars was the first time it was released uncut, widescreen and in Japanese, and it’s well worth seeking out on the secondary market. But I’ve also kept a public domain DVD and an old clamshell VHS just to have that godawful dub I so loved as a craze-era teen.
Tags: Henry Sanada, Japan Action Club, Monsters and Masks 2011, Ninja Wars, Sonny Chiba
This year, Monsters and Masks Month will also be celebrated at our lucha libre-themed sister site From Parts Unknown, where plenty of masked wrestler vs. monster and Dia de los Muertos inspired mayhem will ensue. The party’s already begun over there, so expand your horizons and step into the ring!
Meanwhile, I’m pretty crushed for time lately, so this may not be nearly a prolific October as the last two. So I encourage y’all to visit the previous years’ celebrations of ninja and horror hybridization:
Monsters and Masks 2009
Monsters and Masks 2010
And return here in a few for our first MaMM 2011 post, featuring my favorite 80′s perverted ninja wizardry effects-laden creep-fest Ninja Wars!
Tags: Monsters and Masks 2011