masterly master lee

a home for forgotten and famous korean pulp, its heroes, its heroines, and its pulpeteers

American Ninja The Magnificent 아라한 1986/1988 review

khsMaster Lee is pissed off. He really is. He just went into a well-known thugs den to pick a fight (well, not just one to be honest), beat a few thugs up, get rid of some frustration and cool down a bit. He was anticipating spending an evening at home, working out, felling some trees with his bare hands and watching a new DVD he just received: American Ninja The Magnificent. A South Korean-Hong Kong-US cooperation he was told. Well, it is not. And now the Master is irate! What it is, is a 1986 SK-HK cooperation starring Elton Chong 정진화 (you know, the one from “Saturday night’s alright for fighting’ and ‘Smoke bomb in the wind’) about crooked officials running a mine and exploiting the people with scenes edited in starring (not sure whether this verb is the right one here, seeing that the actors about to be introduced are rubbish wrapped in trash inside doggy poo) Pierry Kirby (from Zombie vs Ninja and Full Metal Ninja fame) and Danny Raisebeck (they also worked together on Thunder Of Gigantic Serpent; the Master was rooting for the serpent) as Yellow and Purple Ninja respectively.

The action, you ask? Elton Chong is decent enough but our friendly neighbourhood Ninja from the US would have trouble cleaning up their own nose, let alone the evil Ninja empire (consisting of a bunch of white-clad Ninja who couldn’t win a kicking contest with my 95-year old great aunt). They move like beached giant squid, sword-fight like  geriatric patients and kick like assess. They do make nice somersaults, though.

vlcsnap-2009-11-11-12h05m29s95The story then, you ask? Again, the Elton Chong story is decent enough, but our US cousins made a bit of a mess of it. And that’s putting it mildly. NOT SOMETHING THE MASTER IS INCLINED TO DO AT THE MOMENT! It’s utter, utter, utter bullshit, acting is so bad it isn’t even acting anymore (‘this is so not right, it isn’t even wrong anymore’ to paraphrase a once well-known physicist) and the dialogues (dubbed… in English, can you believe it? How bad does a native speaker have to be to dub him in his own language?), well, here’s a sample:

“You old fool! I built an entire Ninja empire behind your back. I’ll be invincible once I get rid of you.’

‘I misjudged you, Ross. Your ability has a flaw. Evil is never invincible. You can never succeed.’

vlcsnap-2009-11-11-12h07m32s46After this deadly insult to all members of the acting fraternity, the Master (who misjudged Ross) is well-deservedly slain, although we have to wait till the final minute to see the same well-deserved fate befall the evil Ninja.

Just a few factoids for your continued edification:

  • Ninja wear yellow headbands with ‘Ninja’ (in English) written on them, just so you know it’s Ninja you’re dealing with in case the suits, swords and ninja-esque moves and jumps hadn’t alerted you to this fact.
  • Pathbreaking special effects. The Ninja actually disappear before their smoke bombs explode, hurling the device just thrown with this very goal in mind into an abyss of existential Angst, since it just lost its whole purpose of being.
  • Ninja don’t walk. They make backwards or forwards somersaults to get where they want to go.
  • When the master instructs his pupils, he always sit on a rock at the top of a hill. Always.

The director (Charles Lee? Looks like Godfrey Ho to the Master; he churned out more of these interchangeable Ninja-wearing-headbands-with-English-and-conspicuously-colored-suits-movies after all) edited American scenes into the old footage of a movie set in the Qing and a movie with a Korean potter held captive by samurai (or is that the same movie? The Master can’t be bothered). The dialogues between the evil Ninja chief (who btw looks like a 16-year old high All American high school student and goes by the überevil name of Ross) and assassin Old Fox (Asian, bearded, gray hair: the Platonic idea of Hwang Jang Lee AKA Silver Fox) are positively atrocious! There are no shots with the two of them on the screen at the same time. The same goes for Kichi the Samurai and the meeting between Elton Chong and Farris (I shit you not) the Yellow Ninja. Their dialogue is of course dubbed and they don’t appear in the same shot (even the background slightly changes). This movie was badly edited together from left-overs. It’s got no heart, no soul, no story. It is a Frankenmovie. And this affects the Master! Thumbs down from the Master. This non-effort is a serious embarrassment for pulp, cannibalizing a perfectly good movie to join the Ninja band wagon in the 80s. If you don’t do the work, you don’t get to eat, so sayeth the Master. He’d better not meet the director (or the color-coded Ninja) in this mood. He’d color-code them black and blue.

PS there was no female love interest in the movie, so the Master decided to put in a picture of Kim Hyesu 김혜수 (his all-time favorite actress) to make him feel a little better.


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