The Heroin Busters (1977)

The Heroin Busters (1977)- * * * *

Directed by: Enzo G. Castellari

Starring: Fabio Testi and David Hemmings

International heroin smugglers are traveling between Colombia, Hong Kong, Amsterdam, New York and Rome plying their sinister trade. Mike Hamilton (Hemmings) is an Interpol agent obsessed with stemming the tide of drugs from these professional narcotics-smuggling gangs. But he’s in his office. On the actual streets is Fabio (Testi), an undercover cop who makes plenty of enemies in the underworld. It all comes to a head when said baddies all come after Fabio, and he has to use all his wits to get away with his life. Can he do it?

There seems to be no end to the amazing contributions of Enzo G. Castellari to the world of filmed entertainment. From Light Blast (1985) to his post-apocalyptic Video Store Classics 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982) and The New Barbarians (1983), to his Westerns like Any Gun Can Play (1967), to his trilogy of top-notch Poliziotteschi, Street Law (1974), The Big Racket (1976) and, this, The Heroin Busters, the list goes on and on. Is there anything he can’t do? When you’re adept at so many genres, that level of talent opens you up to new audiences, and many different types of film fans have a special place in their hearts for Enzo. We certainly do.

Everything is top-notch here, from the way it’s shot and edited, to the acting, clothing, set design, etc., it’s firing on all cylinders. Enzo seemed to really want to show the grossness and evil of drugs, showing the subculture not as glamorous and exciting, but as disgusting and dingy. David Hemmings puts in an energetic performance, and the icing on the cake is the typically-stellar Goblin soundtrack.

But truly the man of the hour is Fabio Testi. He seems so effortlessly cool in everything he does, and pretty much the last half-hour of this movie is him doing a lot of super-awesome things. Enzo just stacks ingenious on top of ingenious until the audience is overwhelmed. If you’ve seen it , you know what we mean, and if you haven’t, the excellent Blue Underground DVD is available, now at an all-new low price. You can’t afford to NOT see it.

The Heroin Busters is yet another jewel in the crown of Enzo, as well as everyone else involved with this fine production.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Also check out a write-up from our buddies at 10k Bullets!


Cyber Ninja (1988)

Cyber Ninja (1988)- * * *

Directed by: Keita Amemiya

Starring: Shohei Yamamoto, Masaaki Emori, Eri Morishita, and Hanbei Kawai

When Raimei Dark Bishop (Yamamoto) creates “the perfect cyber ninja to please Dark Overlord’s birthday” (Dark Overlord is a menacing vision on a screen played by Masaaki Emori, by the by) , he doesn’t realize he has set in motion the ultimate battle between human ninja/samurai, and the kind of the cybernetic variety. When Princess Saki (Morishita) is kidnapped, bounty hunter Akagi (Kawai) snaps into action. Told he will be paid for every Cyber Ninja head he brings back to his master, he ends up teaming up with the aforementioned “perfect Cyber Ninja”, who laments the loss of his human soul. Henceforth a wild, unmanageable and messy battle ensues. Will humans come out victorious in the war between them and their mecha-ninja assailants? Find out today...?

Well, here’s a movie that delivers on its promises. It offers cybernetic ninjas, and indeed cybernetic ninjas are what you get. This is a movie that is completely Japanese, with absolutely no concessions made for any Western audiences. It’s certainly the “most Japanese” thing we’ve witnessed in some time: seemingly out of nowhere huge robots appear, seemingly ultra-futuristic but with traditional Japanese home architecture affixed to the front of their panels (!!!), then Japanese men in traditional garb swordfight against constant volleys of “pew-pew” lasers, then a beautiful princess is kidnapped by a guy named “Raimei Dark Bishop”, whose costume seems to fuse Kabuki makeup with modern updates like stylized insect-like tines sprouting out his back. Then ninjas have helmets that stream Japanese writing in their field of vision. Then a creature who looks like a cross between Predator and Terl named Shoki appears, who has a tiny face on top of a huge mass of snakelike wires...I think you get the idea. If you’re looking for anything remotely resembling coherency, run screaming in the other direction. If you’re looking for something weird and Japanese, this is the movie for you.

The movie plays like a live-action Anime, and contains all the insanity an attempt like that may create. Apparently it was based on a Japanese video game, which again is not surprising. Normal movie-watchers are used to seeing the Paramount or Columbia logos before the movie starts. Cyber Ninja begins with the Namco logo complete with a smiling Pac-Man giving us the thumbs-up. You know before the movie even begins that if it’s a Namco production, you’re in for something...unusual. But surely that makes this one of the very first video game movies. The Japanese are always ahead of us.

Even though the film starts with a couple of silent movie-style intertitles “explaining” what’s going on, not only do the explanations make no sense, the fact that they’re done in that style just adds to the confusion. The overall concept seems to be “old school meets new school” in a mix of crazy inventions, swords, lasers and explosions. But the visuals are very strong, and whoever created the costumes and special effects should be commended. Not only does the movie have funny dubbing, it also has funny running, as the ninjas have their own way of moving which in itself is very amusing, which you just have to see, it’s too hard to explain.

Amazingly, this movie was released in the U.S. by Fox Lorber Home Video. Cyber Ninja is seemingly incomprehensible to us round-eyes, and we’re not even sure if the video game it’s based off of, Mirai Ninja, was even released here. Presumably this would have come out on Nintendo...any guesses? But the bottom line is that while the movie itself is utterly nonsensical, it is strong visually and has that wacky sensibility with a lot of creative inventions that show effort and energy. If that appeals to you, do go off and seek this movie out. If you’re obsessed with coherency, you probably wouldn’t be considering Cyber Ninja anyway, so, everybody wins.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, The Video Vacuum!