12/31/2013

Collision Course (1989)

Collision Course (1989)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Lewis Teague

Starring: Jay Leno, Pat Morita, Ernie Hudson, John Hancock, Chris Sarandon, Mike Starr, Soon Teck Oh, Tom Noonan, and Randall Tex Cobb












Tony Costas (Jay “Men are like this, but women are like this” Leno) is a Detroit Police Detective, as you might expect. Fujitsuka Natsuo (Morita) is a “Detective First Class” in Japan. When his chief, Kitao (Oh), sends him to Detroit to investigate the corporate intrigue behind a very special car part that could revolutionize the auto industry, he immediately thinks of Jay Leno and tells him to find him. So while, initially, according to the back of the VHS box, the two men are “as different as hot dogs and sushi”, they eventually learn to work together, despite cultural differences and Jay Leno’s annoying presence. An impressive list of excellent names orbits the wacky goings-on, including the great Noonan, Sarandon, Cobb, Hudson, Starr and others. Will Costas and Natsuo get to the bottom of the matter before being killed by the baddies? No matter what, you’re - again quoting the box - “guaranteed a lot of action. But you’re guaranteed a lot of laughs!”

Well, it finally happened. The day you knew was coming finally arrived. The ultimate action star, Jay Leno, has been set loose, has a gun, and is running around Detroit savagely murdering people. Okay, well, maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement, but as you can clearly see above, he does indeed have a gun. And he doesn’t seem to be afraid to use it. The terms “Jay Leno” and “weaponry” should always be used together, and here they finally have a harmonious home. Naturally thanks to the greatest casting decision of all time. (Or at least since Art Garfunkel had a Short Fuse).


But really, this is your classic 80’s buddy cop/action/comedy we’ve come to be very familiar with, very much in a similar vein to Action Jackson (1988) for the automobile-related intrigue in Detroit, but also Red Heat (1988) for the “wisecracking cop teaming up with a fish out of water from another country” theme. Jay Leno probably only agreed to be in it because the subject matter involves cars. Don’t be afraid of his high-pitched squeakings; in actual fact, Collision Course is highly entertaining. It stacks one nutty scenario on top of another for pretty much the entire running time. For an action comedy that’s 80’s through and through, Collision Course definitively delivers the goods.

It’s even fascinating to watch as a time capsule, because it was set in a time when Japan was considered a major threat and rival. And because Jay Leno is a cop who plays by his own rules and occasionally flouts the law himself, and lets fly with some classic casual racism, and goes up to any woman he sees and asks for their “home number”, through the wildly PC eyes of 2013, Jay Leno would be seen as a fascist, womanizing racist. But it was all in good fun back then. Plus, at any moment you think he’s going to tell the audience it’s okay because “crunch all you want, we’ll make more.” It’s a shame Leno gave up his budding career as an action star and chose to be the host of the Jay Leno Show (not The Tonight Show. The Jay Leno Show).  What a waste.


Yet more silliness ensues when Pat Morita is onscreen and stereotypically “Asian” music plays. You want to scream “we get it, he’s Asian!!!”. And when asked his name, Natsuo says “Dwayne Johnson”, predating The Rock by many years. Also there is a missile gun, fruit cart chases, sax AND funk on the soundtrack, and not just a freeze-frame, a split freeze frame. There’s also a top-notch BYC (Black Yelling Chief), played brilliantly by John Hancock, who signs this movie with a huge signature (sorry about that, but it‘s true). The icing on the cake is an ad after the movie is over, informing us that if we weren’t fully entertained, we could send in our “rental receipt” and get a full refund! Now who on God’s green earth would do that? They must have been fully confident in the ability of Jay Leno to delight and amuse, even though lawsuits prevented the movie from being released on VHS for about six years (it was shot in 1986 and didn’t come out on VHS until 1992. Presumably this was strategically timed for Jay Leno to be crowned victorious in the Late Night Wars of the early 90s. Whether people thought this would help or hurt his chances in said Wars remains unclear).


So for unabashed silliness that’s a lot more entertaining than you might think, give Collision Course a try. Also, if you want to know what a “hard PG” looks like, here it is. After all, this may be your only chance to see Jay Leno brutally executing his rivals.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out write-ups by: The Unknown Movies, and Explosive Action!

12/30/2013

Ninja Warriors (1985)

Ninja Warriors (1985)- * * *

Directed by: John Lloyd

Starring: Ron Marchini, Romano Kristoff, Mike Monty and Paul Vance









One-man wrecking crew and national treasure/hero Ron Marchini returns! This time he’s in the Philippines fighting ninjas. There’s some sort of secret scientific formula, and the baddies want it to take over the world. Lt. Kevin Washington (Vance), naturally, suspects ninjas are involved, so he goes to his friend Steve (Marchini) because he studied Martial Arts in Japan and is familiar with the ways of the ninja. Soon, bands of black-pajama’d assassins are tumbling around attempting to kill Steve. While Captain Henry Marlowe (Monty) doesn’t understand or approve (they never seem to, do they?), Steve realizes that in order to defeat the ninja, he must become the ninja. Who will be victorious - the ninja...or Steve?

Chalk up another winner for Marchini. Ninja Warriors is a ton of fun, with killer music, lots of ninja action, funny dubbing, and an almost-nonexistent plot that plays out like a slightly more coherent Godfrey Ho film. In many so-called “ninja” movies, the ninjas themselves don’t do very much. Not so here. The ninjas are all over the place, rolling underground like Bugs Bunny (one of our favorite ninja moves), wearing gas masks, throwing stars and ball bearings, digging holes, jumping out of trees and so much more. You definitely get a lot of bang for your ninja buck, and with the mandate to make a ninja movie, director Lloyd went all out, thus ensuring that Ninja Warriors is at the top of the 80’s Ninja Boom pack.

Plus there are a lot of other little winning details, such as the same framed picture of Ronald Reagan that is in EVERY office building, regardless of where it is...it’s so prominent, it could have been credited as having a supporting role. Mike Monty even picks it up at one point to check it for ninja booby traps! Nick Nicholson’s beard/mustache looks extra-evil here, and there’s a drunk guy who sings the most amazingly soulful version of “Happy Birthday” ever committed to film. And lest we forget Ronald L. Marchini’s wardrobe, featuring the greatest shorts known to man. All these little bits make Ninja Warriors a winning addition to anyone’s collection.

Apparently this was part of the “Sybil Danning’s Adventure Video” series, but ours did not have the Danning intro/outro, sadly. If you do pick up the VHS, try and make sure that’s included, but we’re not sure how to ensure that. Nevertheless, Ninja Warriors is a gem. Let said warriors cartwheel their way into your heart.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, Fist Of B-List!

12/27/2013

Ninja Empire (1990)

Ninja Empire (1990)- * *1\2

Directed by: Godfrey Ho

Starring: Mike Abbott



“Alan, go and take revenge!”







Heaven help us all, it’s Godfrey Ho time once again. In this nutty, wacky, nonsensical ninja outing, an evil baddie named Morris is using ninjas to smuggle Russian arms to the Middle East. You have a better way? But when two Hong Kong businessmen named Mr. Wong and Mr. Chan begin vying  for the arms-trading deal with the Arabs, and a Korean assassin named Burt enters the picture, things quickly spiral out of control. Come to think of it, things were never in control in the first place. Knowing the full volatility of the situation, a Sgt. Glenn sends a man code named “Condor” (though it sounds like they call him “Condo” which would indeed confuse anyone who heard it) to HK to meet up with a woman named Christine, code named Yellow Bird. Together, the two crimefighters do their darndest to stamp out arms deals, nefarious ninjas, and other world ills. Can they do it?

All of Godfrey Ho’s (or as he is known this time around, “Bruce Lambert”) trademarks are once again on display here: dubbing that does more harm than good, a confusing patchwork of different movies/plots/characters, funny abrupt cuts, and more silliness and absurdity than you can shake a ninja stick at. Truly this type of cinema is not for everyone - heck, we’re not entirely sure it’s for us - but fans should be comforted that there is no deviation whatsoever from the formula that they know and love.

The opening credits alone provide some laffs, what with the computer-generated title “Ninja Empire” appearing on an out-of-place black screen looking awkward, along with a bunch of seemingly misspelled names in the credits such as “Joff” and “Duncean”. So far, so ridiculous. But there are minimal ninjas in this one. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is a matter of interpretation, but the movie is called Ninja Empire. No Ninja Empire is ever actually seen, but maybe it’s an allusion to the Ninja Empire in our minds, hearts and souls. Hey, if I don’t stretch, who will? But there are some excellent “ninja transformations”, when people magically go from their street clothes to their ninja duds, and a ninja walks upside down on monkey bars using only his feet. So what ninja goods we get are noteworthy. But there should have been more of them.

But because of the dearth of ninjas, it’s easy to forget this one. Outside of what we just mentioned, nothing really stands out. Besides footage of an airplane landing matched with sound effects sounding like a teapot whistling. This teapot airplane, or “Teaplane” will surely be studied by sound effects students and aviation fanatics for years to come. And at 78 minutes, Ninja Empire is a decent return on your time investment, but know you’re getting into something pretty inconsequential. As long as that doesn’t bother you, there is some fun to be had with Ninja Empire.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

12/23/2013

Ninja Kill (1987)

Ninja Kill (1987)- * * *

Directed by: Godfrey Ho

Starring: Richard Harrison and Stuart Smith



 "Break Ninja Law....Suffer Ninja Justice!"










It’s Godfrey Ho ninja time once again...and while Ninja Kill is technically credited to Joseph Lai, the mark of Ho reigns supreme for all to witness and behold. In this particular pajama’d jaunt, Ninja Master Gordon (Harrison in his usual role in these things) takes it upon himself to stop some planned political assassinations in Thailand. Of course, said assassinations are done by ninjas, so ol’ Gordy must, in his words, “Kill the ninja killers!” On the ninjas’ hit list are a senator Lam from Thailand, plus two people named Springfield and Ryan. And as far as we can tell, that is not the name of an 80’s sitcom. Helping out NMG is a special agent named David. While working undercover as a farmer for some reason (maybe it’s just fun) David meets and falls for a girl named Rose. Romance aside, who is the real villain? Is it token White-guy ninja named Stuart (as all decent ninjas are), is it a man named Cuba, or could it be a mysterious mayoral candidate known only as “Miss Littleton”? If you’re not puzzled enough already, check it out today!

Ah, Godfrey Ho, where would the 80’s Ninja Boom be without his tireless efforts? He was integral to the Ninja Boom, and for proof, look no further than the killer big box VHS from TransWorld Entertainment. How could you resist it? It’s big, bold, brash, in your face, and extra ninja-y. Now imagine a whole shelf full of these bad boys. Oh yeah. If you’re familiar with other Godfrey Ho movies, you’ll recognize the cut-and-splice style, making plot and characters nigh-on impossible to decipher. One minute, an (interestingly mustache-less) Harrison is talking to an Oates lookalike named Pedro (of all things), then the next minute in the other plot (there’s usually at least two: ninja and non-ninja. Whether or not they fit together is incidental) David is talking to his buddy Mickey, a superstitious guy who wears “spirit tags” and something called a Soul Vest. Of course, David didn’t even want to take on the assignment in the first place, whining to NMG, “I don’t even know where Thailand is!” Presumably he’s from Hong Kong, even though women are named Miss Littleton, places are called things like Wakefield Alley, and, dubbing-wise, people speak a deafening and upsetting version of English.

This one has more car chases and gun-shooting than a lot of its ninja brethren, but there’s plenty of filler and it gets boring periodically. But on the bright side, there’s the prerequisite Final Field Fight, sax on the soundtrack, and NMG wears a purple outfit this time and fights the baddies with cymbals. Cymbals. They always seem to give him one different ninja novelty per film, but there’s been so many over the years. Now he’s fighting off assailants with percussion. What’s next, a cowbell? Hopefully.

As they have done in the past, the Lai/Ho team (not to be confused with Alexi Laiho) outright steal Kraftwerk’s Trans Europe Express and use it for background music. It makes about as much sense as anything else you’ll see or hear, like a pudgy blonde ninja with a long blonde beard. And finally, the headbands are out in force, informing us, the delightfully confused viewer, that a “ninja” is battling a “nin -- ja”. Classic.

If you just can’t get enough ninja madness, Ninja Kill will always be here for you.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

12/20/2013

Ninja Protector (1986)

Ninja Protector (1986)- * * *

Directed by: Godfrey Ho

Starring: Richard Harrison, Andy Chorowsky, and David Bowles












 By day, Ninja Master Gordon Anderson - which is actually his credit (Harrison, of course) - runs an Interpol division of agents who chase down and arrest forgers. He even wears a slick white jacket while doing so. By later in the day, Gordon puts on his camouflage ninja outfit and takes down the forgers the classic ninja way. The team thinks they’re doing a great job, little realizing that the ninja cleansing the town of forgers is really their boss. In the spliced-in subplot, a guy named Warren is pursuing a modeling career, but his affair with the head of the modeling agency is destroying his relationship with a woman named Judy. There’s a chance a woman named Susan is involved in the forgery ring and posing as a higher-up in the modeling agency. But we’re not entirely sure, because here’s where things really start to get confusing: the main villain of the piece appears to be a bearded White guy in a red ninja suit named Lead Villain Bruce (Bowles), and how he fits into all this is unclear. Then the jumble begins. Naturally the only thing that can set things straight is a good old fashioned ninja battle. Is there anything a good old fashioned ninja battle can’t solve? Find out today...

Ninja Protector, or Ninja THE Protector, or THE Ninja Protector, or Project Ninja Daredevils, or whatever ninja-based title happens to be slapped on, is certainly the shortest Godfrey Ho outing we’ve seen to date, clocking in at a mere 68 minutes. Perhaps due to the constant chopping and slicing throughout his career, sometimes a shorter piece is left over, kind of like how sometimes after a pizza is divided with a pizza cutter, there’s a really skinny sliver of a slice left. That being said, Ninja Protector feels longer than its stated running time. Everything gets started on an up note however, with a jaunty instrumental theme song that sounds like it belongs on an early-80’s game show. At any moment during the credits, you think a voice will suddenly say, “and now your host, Peter Tomarken!!”


Sadly, Tomarken is nowhere to be seen (though an abrasively-overdubbed Tomarken doing ninja moves and swordfights would be mind-bogglingly awesome) but in his place we do have the legendary Richard Harrison. He probably shot about two films’ worth of footage for Mr. Ho, but has appeared in like ninety. From whatever source it may have come from, we do get (only) one rather extended scene of a shirtless Harrison flexing while holding a sword. And this is towards the end of the movie when his ninja credentials have been firmly established. It’s just so gratuitous it’s really funny. He also illustrates that in order to be a true ninja, you never walk when you can cartwheel. Just to cover a very short distance in a field that any of us non-ninjas would have walked a few steps, Ninja Master Gordon Anderson flips like a short order cook’s burgers. Seems like a waste of energy, but we’re not Ninja Master Gordon Anderson.

Here’s another important lesson we learned from NMGA: No guyliner = normal everyday dude. Guyliner = ninja master. Why guyliner is an integral part of the ninja transformation we do not yet know. But maybe it plays in to the fact that NMGA has to keep not just his secret identity under wraps, but the entire concept of ninjas as well. After a ninja tells a not-too-bright and pudgy man named Andy (Chworowsky) the classic line “only a ninja can defeat a ninja”, Andy’s response is “what’s a ninja?” - and after continually asking what ninjas are, NMGA has to convince him that they’re nothing more than the stuff of legend, presumably to maintain his job security.

In the end, Ninja Protector is incoherent ninja nonsense of the type that only Mr. Ho can provide. Either his wacky style appeals to you or it doesn’t. Regardless, if you’re thinking about watching one of his movies for the first time, don’t start here. Try Clash of the Ninjas (1986) instead.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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

12/18/2013

Ninja Champion (1985)

Ninja Champion (1985)- * * *

Directed by: Godfrey Ho

Starring: Bruce Baron, Richard Harrison, and Jack Lam













When a woman named Rose is attacked in the woods and raped, she makes it her mission to track down her assailants one by one and get violent revenge. After killing one of them, she’s on the run from the law, mainly represented by Interpol agents Donald (Baron) and George (Lam), though she and George continue to see each other on the sly. But the Interpol agents are also interested in these dastardly characters because they just so happen to be a gang of international diamond smugglers. Aren’t they all. Presumably this is where Richard Harrison, playing a guy named Richard, comes into the picture and some warring ninjas face off in acrobatic duels, but it’s hard to tell. Will Rose get her revenge? And what are all these ninjas doing here? Find out today...?

By Godfrey Ho standards, this particular outing is relatively straightforward. By any other standard of moviemaking, it’s still a silly, nonsensical oddity, but what we have here is more or less a revenge drama with a couple of spliced-in ninja moments. Maybe Ho and the gang injected the ninjas simply because it was the Ninja Boom of the 80’s and in order to get your movie in video stores, it had to have the word “ninja” in the title somewhere. And being the honest man that he is, he wouldn’t give the public a movie called Ninja Champion and deprive it of ninjas. (Though to get really specific, it’s not exactly clear who the “champion” refers to, but that’s neither here nor there.) The movie would have worked just as well without said ninjas, however, and as a revenge drama it more or less works, if Godfrey Ho’s style means anything to you.


Of course, the loud, abrasive dubbing is here, but to counteract that the clothes the characters wear and the home decor are truly something to behold, as they usually are in Mr. Ho’s works. While George is an “Interpol agent with a license to kill”, and Bruce Baron, who has had an interesting career in low budget movies, is there to back him up (though he does look a lot like Richard Harrison, so his casting adds yet more unnecessary confusion to the proceedings), and of course Harrison is here, from some other movie no doubt, but the most welcome re-appearance is the Garfield phone (first seen in Diamond Ninja Force). It’s back! Fans must have demanded it, and it was nice to see.

Then a guy in a Michael Jackson jacket fights a guy with a bowtie wielding a sword. Or, as an abbreviation, MJ Jacket vs. Bowtie Sword. And including the aforementioned Baron and Harrison, the whole movie is a cavalcade of admirable mustaches. The baddies wear very weird clown makeup at random times, and of course our ninjas wear headbands that say “ninja” on them. Naturally, it all ends up at an abandoned warehouse, and by Ho standards the ending isn’t even that abrupt.

So if you know and love the nutty cinematic stylings of Mr. Ho, here you will get what you’re used to.

Others will probably be confused, but likely still reasonably entertained.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


12/16/2013

Ninja Destroyer (1986)

Ninja Destroyer (1986)- * * *

Directed by: Godfrey Ho

Starring: Stuart Smith












Attempting to describe the plot of a Godfrey Ho film is very much like playing a game of Jenga, so hopefully this can happen without anything falling to pieces...apparently an old lady’s late husband left her a lucrative gem mine. “Rebels” in the area want to take control of the mine, so an agent named Chester takes a job there to go undercover and get information about said rebels, which are led by a man named Michael. These baddies are terrorizing villagers near the Thailand border, so an American Captain named Byron (who is “The Best”, naturally) attempts to take control of the situation. He has history with Michael due to their military service, but Michael defected to the baddies. Then the ninjas come parading in, led by a White guy named Harold, who has a compound where he trains his fellows in the Ninja arts. Harold wants control of a gem mine run by a girl named Julie, and there is a group known as the Black Knights who also want gem mine money - all leading up to ninjas flipping around in the air for a while. What the heck is going on?

Godfrey Ho nuttiness abounds with yet another ridiculous, silly, nonsensical, but not un-worthwhile VHS ninja fest. If you’re familiar with his work, this is very much in keeping with the rest of his catalogue. If you’re not, expect to be confused, but reasonably entertained. Many of Ho’s trademarks are present and accounted for: loud dubbing from people with implacable, quasi-British-but-not-really-sounding accents, White guys in strange “ninja” outfits, fast, gravity-defying choreography, many scenes in forests, the time-honored headband that says “ninja” on it, the stop-on-a-dime ending, and of course the Final Field Fight.


But while the trademarks are here, it’s certainly not a case of “seen one, seen ‘em all”, because there are always new things Mr. Ho is throwing at our faces. This time around, it’s an almost Phantom Soldiers (1987)-style raid on a village, with many exploding huts and guard-tower falls (you gotta feel sorry for those guys in the guard towers - they must know they’re going to come flailing down from their post at some point). Of course, a scene like this wouldn’t be complete without at least one guy screaming while shooting his machine gun. Also there are a lot more horses in this scene, and later on, than in other Ho movies. Another difference comes during the aforementioned FFF, where graffiti is seen on a wall saying “Body Rock” and “Break”. While Breakin’ (1984) is an integral part of ninja tradition, it’s fascinating to think Godfrey Ho and his compatriots were watching Chilly D do his thang and that it was a possible influence. We would love to see a Ho-directed dance movie from the 80’s.

There’s someone listed in the credits whose name is Boston Ram. This is an actual person’s name. A tip to any potential parents with the last name Ram: Boston makes a great first name for either a boy or a girl. Anyway, Ninja Destroyer is a broken pinata of scenes of mindless shooting, an impenetrable plotline, and what we’re all here to see, highly absurd ninja action. If this mixture appeals to you, by all means seek out Ninja Destroyer.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

12/13/2013

Ninja: The Battalion (1988)

Ninja: The Battalion (1988)- * * * 

Directed by: Godfrey Ho

Starring: Roger Crawford, Alexander Lau, and Liza Dunwell







 
 Four Chinese scientists that are experts in germ warfare have been kidnapped by the evil Japanese, headed by a man named Nakamura. He’s using his Mitsui Company as a cover for Japanese agents and espionage in Shanghai, China. A man named Ken Yong, who introduces himself to new people he meets by saying he’s the “number one secret agent!” is on the case. He’s also a snappy dresser, never without a fedora and bow tie. Yong gets his two best agents, a man named Alex (presumably Alexander Lou) and his partner, a blonde Westerner named Steven, to unravel what’s going on and save the scientists. But it’s going to prove complicated (very, very complicated) because the Russians are involved, as well as an all-female mercenary group known as The Tigresses, and naturally the way to settle the disputes of all involved, in the interest of international negotiations, is ninja, ninja, ninja! Watch in amazement as the indefatigable Godfrey Ho churns out another mishmash of entertainment...

Somehow, we never get tired of the works of Godfrey Ho. Just as he himself never gets tired of creating them. They have an unorthodox, demented style all their own. And TransWorld entertainment never seemed to tire of releasing them to video stores during the 80’s Ninja Boom. So we’ll just keep talking about them until we run out of Ninja Boom movies to talk about (which will be never). Ninja: The Battalion features all the impressive physical feats and completely absurd dubbing we’ve come to know and love. The movie’s insistence on anglicizing all the names certainly adds to the ridiculousness: not only was it directed by “Victor Sears”, but the head of the Tigresses is named “Ruth Brooks”, they kidnap a man named “Jimmy”, and a dude named “Clay” is head of one of the espionage groups. Who did they think they were fooling? But it all adds to the fun.

It has some great opening freeze frames (yes, more than one). We’re always talking about how much we love when people walk away coolly from an explosion, preferably in slow motion and/or while wearing sunglasses (bonus points if they’re smoking). What never gets discussed are freeze-frame explosions. “Victor Sears” tries to set the record straight. The movie has some of the other time-honored moments we always see: the disco scene, the Prerequisite Torture, the fights in the woods, and, because Godfrey Ho is the director, his classic Final Field Fight. He also makes sure to include his crawling ninjas, as well as his ninjas that defy the laws of physics and gravity, which spice things up and make everything fun to watch. The plot strand that involved The Tigresses was one of the more interesting ones in this Gordian Knot, and anytime they were on screen, things seemed to pick up. Further weirdness ensues, as if more was necessary, when characters communicate via hand symbols while a song that sounds a lot like “New York Groove” plays repeatedly on the soundtrack. But if you didn’t want nonsensical weirdness, you wouldn’t be watching this in the first place.

Godfrey Ho is the master of turning cinematic nonsense into an art, and his movies, once you get into their singular style, become addictive. Though it may seem counterintuitive, we look forward to the next one.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


12/11/2013

Ninja's Extreme Weapons (1988)

Ninja's Extreme Weapons (1988)- * * *

Directed by: Godfrey Ho

Starring: James Gray and Donald Muir











Boss Pierce is an angry, wheelchair-bound drug lord who has made millions on his illegal trade. Doubtless his ace in the hole is that he employs two ninjas, naturally named Claude and Brian, to do his bidding. When a cool dude named James comes along to try to take down the baddies, he tries to enlist the pretty Nancy to help him in his quest, but her brother Steven, who dresses in stylish bathrobes and has a commanding mustache, is against the idea. Meanwhile, James becomes romantically interested in a woman named Angela, but her motives are suspect. But the Boss Pierce ninja gang has their hands full with a “Blue Ninja” who keeps foiling all their plans. Then another underworld figure named Boss Brown comes on the scene. But maybe Boss Pierce can end all this madness with his magical “Ninja Ring”? Get ready for another round of confusion as only Godfrey Ho can weave...

Godfrey Ho’s eighteenth movie of 1988 (that’s not a joke - it’s actually true), Ninja’s Extreme Weapons has all of his trademarks: a cut-and-paste style that is largely nonsensical to viewers (at least viewers seeking rational, linear entertainment, and if you were one of those, you wouldn’t even know who Godfrey Ho was, much less be watching one of his movies), loud dubbing with abrasive, phony-sounding British accents, and ninjas, ninjas, ninjas. The movie might not make any sense, but it doesn’t skimp on the ninja action. The 80’s Ninja Boom that occurred in video stores that we’re always talking about was largely driven by Mr. Ho and his prodigious output. It seems that even in his most confounding films, there’s always something new and cool in the ninja department that we haven’t seen before. And here is no exception.

Outside of the normal high-jumping white guys, disappearing ninjas, swordplay, throwing stars and the like, we also get treated to “ninja massage” and so much more. As for James, the poor man has to go through the entire movie with just about every other character constantly criticizing his “playboy” status. That must make you quite the pariah in Hong Kong. He even laments at one point, “Some people judge me for being a playboy, but I get the job done”. And how could he not fall for Angela, what with her prominently-placed “bowtie bear” on her couch? It’s no rival to the Garfield phone, but it’s something. Sure, it’s all very silly and wacky, but you knew that going in, didn’t you?

As is usually the case in Godfrey Ho-land, the characters wear some very cool clothing, with some very out-there patterns. And the wallpaper is the same. At one point, someone with a large-collared, wild-patterned shirt is standing in front of a wall with a very similar pattern (which by today’s standards might be called an “eyesore” but we beg to differ) and he looks like a floating head. There’s a great scene in a club with a live band that’s playing music completely different from what we hear on the soundtrack. The discrepancy is so obvious, it’s really funny. There are plenty more off-the-wall moments but we don’t want to spoil them for you. But even a movie as off-kilter as this falls prey to a common pitfall: it slows WAY down before the climax. Usually Ho gives us a “Final Field Fight” and here is no exception. And you have to love those stop-on-a-dime endings.

Fans of Godfrey Ho and cinematic wackiness will love Ninja’s Extreme Weapons; snobs and people with no sense of fun will not. And check out that killer box art!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

12/09/2013

Diamond Ninja Force (1988)

Diamond Ninja Force (1988)- * * *

AKA Ghost Ninja

Directed by: Godfrey Ho

Starring: Richard Harrison, Melvin Pitcher, and Maria Francesca










Ninja Master Gordon (Harrison) is a cool dude who just wants to go around Hong Kong taking pictures of his girlfriend Lori (Francesca). But oh no. When an excavation on a building site reveals some bones and human remains, naturally a sinister gang of evil ninjas called the Black Ninja Clan see this as an opening to reassert their dominance, which they believe has only been impeded by good ninjas, called the Diamond Ninja Force. When members of the Black Ninja Clan murder Lori, Gordon dons his red ninja outfit and starts getting revenge one by one. Meanwhile, a family consisting of a father named George, a mother named Fanny and a son named Bobo move into a house. Because the house’s original owner had some connection to the site where the bones were discovered, all manner of scary trickery is employed to frighten the family. Will the Black Ninja Clan end up ruling the world as they so desperately want? Will Bobo and his family ever move out of the haunted house? Will Gordon get revenge? All questions should be answered by the DIAMOND NINJA FORCE...

It’s another work of genius (????) by the master of nonsensical entertainment, Godfrey Ho. We keep going back to Ho’s work because his movies, if nothing else, are original. No one else in the world makes movies like him. He provides a unique form of entertainment that only he seems to understand. Once you get used to his filmmaking style, you want more. Much like how, with Pringles potato chips, once you pop, you can’t stop, here it’s once you Ho, you can’t...go? Well anyway you get the idea. Diamond Ninja Force is more silly fun, with all the loud, crazy dubbing, and nutty goings-on that we’ve all come to know and love. Do the people reading the dubbed dialogue think it makes sense? Or do they know it’s crazy? Do lines like “There are no such things as ghosts. Only ghost ninjas” seem at all normal to anyone? Regardless, we should be happy no one raised any objections, because if it’s zany entertainment you seek, look no further.


Much like how Ninja Brothers of Blood (1988) was one-half ninja outing and one-half romantic drama, here we half a half-and-half combo of ninja-based revenge and Poltergeist (1982) or Amityville Horror (1979)-inspired supernatural haunted house hoo-hah. Harrison’s enemies during his plotline are great. There’s nothing more intimidating than a tubby Caucasian “ninja” prancing about on roller skates. Every single time Harrison dispatches one of the baddies, he pulls down the piece of cloth on his mask that covers the lower half of his nose and his mouth. Every time. Even after he has killed many people. Are we supposed to still be surprised it was him? Or maybe he’s just trying to show that his mustache has, and always will have, dominance over theirs. Also you know Harrison is going into “ninja revenge mode” when he puts on guy-liner. So we can see his eyes are all done up anyway.

Other people out there have mentioned Harrison’s Garfield phone, but it’s so cool: when the receiver is off the hook, his eyes open, and when the receiver is put back, they close again! Though it is somewhat incongruous when Harrison says angry threats using part of Garfield to relay the message. When he says, using the Garfield phone, “you’re on my death list”, does that mean he’s going to kick them off the table like Garfield did to Odie? On the soundtrack front, there are more wonderfully blatant steals from popular songs - this time around musical cues are stolen from The Who’s “Who Are You” and Kraftwerk’s “Trans Europe Express”.  When the opening bars to what you think are these songs start playing either while Harrison is ninja-ing it up or a family is dealing with a haunted house, you know you’re dealing with something special.

While some prints are said to have an unrelated Sho Kosugi opening, many don’t. The version titled Ghost Ninja certainly doesn’t. Even though he was top billed on the artwork, we can safely say he was a no-Sho. We were disappointed, so avoid the version by that title. But even without the Sho intro, the movie does get off to a pumped-up opening, and takes you on another ridiculous ride as only Godfrey Ho can. Whether that’s your cup of tea, only you can judge. But if you’re anti-Ho, you’re missing out, as far as we’re concerned.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


12/06/2013

Ninja Brothers Of Blood (1988)

Ninja Brothers Of Blood (1988)- * *1\2

Directed by: Godfrey Ho

Starring: Mike Abbott














In fairly typical Godfrey Ho fashion, with Ninja Brothers of Blood, Ho takes two unrelated plotlines, keeps them running on parallel tracks, and keeps them both unrelated. In plot #1, a man named Charlie Fong, who’s “not ambitious, he just wants to get ahead!”, and who is known for his “good looks and charm”, ends up working at a desk job at one of those big factories that must be very prevalent in Hong Kong. He strikes up a relationship with pretty factory worker Fonda, and soon the two move in together. But it’s not long before these two lovebirds playing house fall victim to typical domestic spats and squabbling. When Fonda becomes pregnant, it only exacerbates the situation, especially since Fong - and let’s not forget he’s ambitious - sets his sights on the boss’ daughter, a glamorous artist named Sophie Tao. Will it all end in tragedy, or can Charlie and Fonda patch things up? In plot #2, businessmen around a table (seemingly a Ho staple) decide to send “ninjas” (or so their headbands claim) out to do their bidding so their company can rise to the top. Or something like that, it’s basically indecipherable. But does it matter? Only you can be the judge...

With Ninja Brothers of Blood (or Ninja Knight Brothers of Blood as it is also known), we have some classic Ho silliness. If you’ve ever yearned to see what it would look like if Godfrey Ho made a domestic drama along the lines of the Molly Ringwald movie For Keeps (1988) or even a Ho take on The Graduate (1967), yearn no more. But because we’re dealing with the Ninja Boom - that era in video store history when ninjas ruled - Ho had to splice in some unrelated ninja action. Hence the “subplot”, if you even want to call it that. So while there are plenty of scenes of Fonda and Charlie’s talky troubles, and you’re wondering, “this is Ninja Brothers of Blood?”, along comes Mike Abbott and the gang to do some sped-up fights in absurd outfits. The obvious conclusion is: there should have been much more of the Mike Abbott ninja plot, and way less of (or none of) the domestic drama plot.

While the movie has that loud, brash dubbing voiced by people that sound like they’re doing bad British accents, as if that might somehow “class up” NBOB, and it does have some entertaining synthesizer music on the soundtrack, AND Fonda does have a cool Snoopy T-shirt, the sad fact is that a good 2/3 of the movie is bereft of any action at all, be it ninja or otherwise. So to that extent, the box art, title and so forth are somewhat misleading. We wanted to see more of the guy with curly blonde hair and stonewashed jeans doing his ninja-based thing. Our theory as to why there isn’t more of him is that we feel Ho is simply conserving footage. He’s thriftily saving what else he may have of this plot for a rainy day.  So it’s all very nonsensical, but that’s not to say bad. We remain Godfrey Ho fans, and we look forward to seeing more of his stuff. One thing you have to admit (especially based on the ending of this movie, if nothing else) - the guy’s not predictable.

As ever with Godfrey Ho, your tolerance for utter nonsense will dictate whether you feel hot or cold towards his work.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

12/04/2013

Ninja Force Of Assassins (1988)

Ninja Force Of Assassins (1988)- * * *

Directed by: Godfrey Ho

Starring: Jim Davis, Mark Tyler, and Michel Stevens














Ninja Force of Assassins is roughly the 312th movie that Godfrey Ho directed in 1988 alone, though that figure could be off by a few hundred. Maybe we’ve seen too much of his output by this point in time, but our heads were really spinning during this particular bout of unfollowable nonsense. We don’t mean that to have negative connotations; Ho makes the concept of “nonsense” his own and truly redefines the term in his own unique way, and it’s not without its charm. Apparently this time around, as if a plot was needed as a pretext for all the cut-and-splice ninja nuttiness, a gangster named Boss Cole is rivals with a White Ninja, meanwhile there’s an Interpol agent who may or may not be a ninja, and there’s something called a Ghost Shadow Squad and this leads to a ton of fighting interspersed with some classic dubbed dialogue. That’s the briefest and most logical way to describe what’s going on, though that may be a lost cause because you can’t apply logic to Mr. Ho’s works, it’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.


While many of the hallmarks of Ho’s filmmaking style are on display here, such as the wacky ninja action with plenty of stunts and tricks, the Final Field Fight, the stop-on-a-dime ending, the musical cues that sound suspiciously like “New York Groove”, and the fact that most of the “ninjas” consist of White guys with bizarre hair, there are some notable differences as well. Firstly, Richard Harrison is nowhere in sight, and secondly, the fight scenes, at least in some of the non-ninja brawls, seem a little grittier and more interesting than usual.

That’s the thing about Ninja Force of Assassins: it has many elements of coolness, and together with some solid action, this could have been one of Godfrey Ho’s best, if it just had more coherence. But, it remains typical Ho, with the standard mumbo-jumbo. But it does have a guy who looks like a more-ratlike version of Kevin McDonald of Kids in the Hall fame, and the time-honored Yelling While Shooting a Machine Gun. So there is fun to be had, if you’re in the right frame of mind and/or a fan of the particular Ho brand of silliness.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

12/02/2013

The Hitman (1991)

The Hitman (1991)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Aaron Norris

Starring: Chuck Norris, Michael Parks, Salim Grant, and Al Waxman













Cliff Garret (Norris) is a no-nonsense cop. When his former partner, Delaney (Parks) tries to kill him because Delaney is actually evil, he thinks he can go on with his criminal life. But what Delaney didn’t count on is that Garret is too tough to die, and he survives. Three years after the incident, Garret is now known by the name Grogan and is working undercover in the mob. Sure, his mullet is a little longer and he wears a bolo tie now, but he’s still the same guy - the type of guy that hates criminal scum. So he cleverly sets the Italian, French and Iranian gangs against each other. In the midst of all this violence, he takes a young boy under his wing. At first he helps Timmy (Grant) build model airplanes, but at the slightest mention, Garret starts teaching him Martial Arts so he can take on the local bully. So he has a sensitive side, but when Delaney comes calling once again, he’ll be put to the ultimate test. Will he survive?

The Hitman is one of the better Chucks we’ve seen to date. It’s not boring and stodgy like a lot of his other work. It has a nice pace, some classic early-90’s political incorrectness, good action scenes, and Chuck has plenty of winning one-liners. Michael Parks is also great as the baddie. He makes a perfect foil for Chuck, just as he did for Charles Bronson in Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994). There are some great “hero shots” of Chuck as he triumphantly appears, looming large on your TV. His long red hair may make you think he looks like a male version of Wendy (from Wendy’s), but you’ll be rooting for Chuck all the way here.


A fun thing to do while watching a Chuck movie is, during a dialogue scene while the person who is not Chuck Norris is speaking, keep your eyes trained on Chuck when he’s not talking. His “listening” or “reacting” facial expressions are priceless. That aside, both he and Parks go line-for-line in the dialogue department, and you know Chuck is serious when he wears his bolo-less bolo tie. Yes, he somehow invented a way to wear a bolo tie with no actual bolo. Now that’s innovation. But you know he’s a sensitive guy at heart because he builds model airplanes and goes to the aquarium and gives facts about dolphins (although he should know better than to tap the glass...even when he’s trying to be sensitive he can’t help being a little bit aggressive).


Another thing we liked about the movie was the jazzy, downbeat musical score. That and the dark cinematography seem to indicate that this a serious, adult Chuck movie for the 90’s, not any kid stuff. We certainly appreciated that, and the violence (including the time-honored Final Factory Fight) would underline that even more. It would appear to contradict the new “PG-13 Crusader” that Chuck has become in recent years. Anyway...Marco Luganni (Waxman) is the head of the Italian mobsters, and he commands what we dubbed the “Beard Patrol” because it seems all his consiglieri are beardos. Is that a requirement for being in the Luganni gang? Also we noted the movie was ahead of its time, as two of its principal concerns are bullying and Iranians, two things heavily in the news today. Just call him Norristradamus.

The Hitman is an entertaining and audience-pleasing movie, completely in keeping with the action product of the early 90’s. In other words, it’s totally worth seeing. 

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

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