As a child of the 80's (and having the luck of a friend with the movie channels), I grew-up on a mixture of horror flicks, dopey T&A comedies, and (usually) godawful low-budget action movies. It was during these formative years I grew an attachment to Golan-Globus and their Cannon imprint. It was also thanks to Cannon that I was first exposed to Sho Kosugi when I happened upon Ninja III: The Domination on late night television. Yet, up until this week I had never seen what one could argue is his most well known film - 9 Deaths Of The Ninja.
Opening with a cheap action sequence (which thankfully just turns out to be a training exercise), we meet Spike Shinobi (Kosugi) and his American sidekick, the smirky, apparent "ladies man" Steve Gordon (Brent Huff) as they take out some Arab baddies as part of the fake scenario.
At about the same time in Manila, a tour bus filled with a senator, some kids (one who has a heart condition - haven't seen that before!), and various other Americans are taken hostage by a group of terrorists who have staged a fake wedding in order to storm the bus with machine guns and multiple threats.
Looks like the hostage taking was the work of the wheelchair bound, monkey pet owning German they call "Alby the Cruel" (an over-the-top Blackie Dammett sporting one of the worst foreign accents I've heard - check out when he pronounces the word harmed as "harm-ed") who threatens to kill off his captives unless they release one of his fellow terrorists from prison.
This being more of an outright ridiculous action movie than a hostage drama you just know they're going to call in Spike, Steve, and the "brains" of the operation Jennifer (Emilia Lesniak) to try and track down Alby, his Amazon-like henchwomen, and the hostages in order to save the day - oh, and also take out the constantly laughing, kids balloon popping, and "quick to choke" now free prisoner.
9 Deaths Of The Ninja truly has to be seen to be believed. At first you almost begin to think that writer-director Emmett Alston was attempting for some kind of outrageously silly spoof of martial arts movies, but then you realize he was dead serious - however, I guess he wasn't serious enough to put in a title sequence that has Kosugi dancing around with a samurai sword as various ballerinas gyrate to a bad 80's pop song.
Suffice it to say if you like really crappy, and I mean REALLY crappy, martial arts movies from the 80's, you'll find this watchable. It's your typical low-rent, Philippines shot flick that's loaded with poorly staged action sequences (including Kosugi fighting a gang of midgets!), a dopey musical score with a TV movie vibe, and a script that's all over the damn place. And, in case you're worried, it also throws out the various "gadgets" you've come to expect from this type of thing (Kosugi has a crossbow that shoots tiny bombs and there's an "epoxy gun" that shoots glue at people).
Completely inane and giving us very little of the "9 Deaths" or "Ninja" of the title, this is only for those looking for unintentional laughs, silly action scenes, and Alby's priceless finish in the final reel. It's a movie that's managed to gather a cult following over the years and remains Alston's claim to B-movie fame, even if it's not very good.
This marked Ashok Amritraj's first producing gig and he'd go on to be involved with tons of direct-to-video junk (like the Night Eyes series and various action flicks starring people like Billy Blanks and Jeff Wincott) before going on to produce such Hollywood fare as Bringing Down The House and Walking Tall. (Chris Hartley, 6/11/06)
Directed By: Emmett Alston.
Written By: Emmett Alston.
Starring: Sho Kosugi, Brent Huff, Emilia Lesniak, Regina Richardson.