Diamond Ninja Force (1986)
Director: Godfrey Ho
Writers: Godfrey Ho
Starring: Richard Harrison, Melvin Pitcher, Andy Chrorowsky, Pierre Tremblay, and Kong Do

The Plot: Diamond Ninja Force tells the story of an ancient battle between ninja sects… kinda. In a previous ninja war, the Diamond Ninja Force had defeated the nefarious Black Ninja Clan. After the war concluded, the Black Ninja Clan had their dead buried in a secluded area that has went undisturbed for numerous years. In the present, however, this hidden graveyard is in the process of being dug into by a wealthy land owner. The Black Ninja Clan, who desperately wants this land, decide to kill off the land owner by unleashing a curse on him. This curse somehow transfers to the land owner’s daughter who is now being haunted after she, her husband, and their son Bobo have moved into a new home. They call up their good friend Gordon (Richard Harrison), who also happens to be a member of the Diamond Ninja Force, who steps in to attempt to rid them of these evil spirits.

The Review
My God, how a title can sell a movie. For every ninjasploitation movie that is ever covered here on Varied Celluloid, I’ll probably have to mention how amazing the titles are for these movies. In the case of this movie, it was labeled as “Ghost Ninja” on the version reviewed, but for the sake of being easily identified, it will be referred to as its most common name: Diamond Ninja Force. Like a gang of ninjas led by Liberace, the Diamond Ninja Force of the film’s title are a group of good ninjas within this very weird mythos created by Godfrey Ho. A mythos this is indeed, because I’m starting to see strange patterns within the world of Godfrey Ho’s ninja movies. Believe it or not, these impossible-to-understand ninja (or “ninjer” as the dubbed over voices would lead you to believe) movies can be rather entertaining once you have an understanding of exactly what it is that you are watching. So, for those of you who are bigger newbies than I am, I will try to give a quick little Godfrey Ho primer.

During the 80s, ninjas were hot. For whatever reason, the concept of the “ninja” became something that westerners (though predominately Americans) were fascinated with. Although few who would go out and rent ninja movies could tell you about the history of Ninjitsu, everyone seemed to love those black uniforms and deadly shurikens. So, during the eighties, there lived a man in Hong Kong named Godfrey Ho. He was a director with a past working for the famed Shaw Bros. studio, but from all the random impressions that are out there about this filmmaker, he did not take much of the professionalism that Chang Cheh displayed during his time with the Shaw studio. It was during this period in the 80s that Godfrey Ho and Joseph Lai, the producer behind the IFD studio, somehow persuaded American actor Richard Harrison to star in some of their movies. Harrison claims to have only went to Hong Kong once and claimed to be under the impression that he was only filming one movie, but some months later he was made aware that the footage he had shot was spliced into dozens of other films. There is some argument as to how many times Harrison was actually filmed by Ho and his cohorts, but there’s no question that Harrison could have never imagined just how many ninja movies he would be spliced into. You see, IFD would purchase numerous genre films from all over Asia, but Mostly from Taiwan and Thailand. They would then take a few hours worth of footage featuring western actors fighting inside of ninja uniforms, then they would try so splice those ninja segments into various other genre films in order to produce new “ninja” movies. This led to one angry Richard Harrison, a great deal of money in Godfrey Ho’s pocket, and a lot of very angry people who were duped into thinking they were renting a decent ninja movie, but in actuality they were getting an awful cut-and-paste flick that probably didn’t make any sense. This brings us to Diamond Ninja Force!

Godfrey Ho and the folks over at IFD were nothing if not ambitious. Truly, it takes some ambition to buy up the rights to a Taiwanese horror movie and say, “You know what, logic be damned, we’re going to make this into a ninja movie.” That’s precisely what they did to make Diamond Ninja Force, aka Ghost Ninja… and the results are pretty amazing. See, judging a good ninjasploitation movie isn’t as easy as judging a movie based purely on its good or bad qualities. It seems that all of these movies are atrociously bad, but a viewer’s potential enjoyment of the film is significantly raised whenever something very weird is happening onscreen. These are movies that are made up of tiny moments. It is always helpful when IFD tried their best to actually integrate the Westerners into the films, rather than seemingly just throwing a few dancing ninjas in at random, but the bread and butter of these movies comes when the weirdness stars to pile high. Diamond Ninja Force, due to its horror-movie roots, definitely throws out some pretty bizarre stuff. An endless series of “what the…” moments that add up to a movie that only barely makes any kind of logical sense, this certainly stacks up as one of the best IFD films that I have seen thus far.

Honestly, this “review” could turn into a series of “wow, that moment was legendary!” comments, but I’ll try to keep them to three. The first one I would like to mention comes during the opening of the movie. In this, we find Richard Harrison walking along a seaside dock with his oblivious wife. In this scene, three thugs approach Harrison and try to instigate a fight. However, these thugs aren’t your typical Death Wish-esque teenagers. These are grown men with male-pattern-baldness setting in. They are dressed like villains from a Mad Max movie, and they instigate a fight by using two sentences: “Something tells me you’re a ninja! I know how we can tell if you’re a ninja…” cue a fight sequence where Richard Harrison annihilates them. In just a few short minutes the same group meet at a pagoda and the film treats us as if we are being introduced to them for the very first time. Skipping forward, another great moment comes when the Black Ninja Clan visit a sorceress in order to kill off the man who owns the land where the ancient Black Ninja graveyard once existed. We get a hilarious combination of scenes where we see “Black Devil Magic” (honestly, THAT is what it is called in the movie) being put to use and a green ghost-woman attacking the wealthy land owner inside of his limo. This sequence, involving the sorceress, is never brought up again. Apparently the offspring of this wealthy land owner becomes haunted by proxy, but it’s never explained why a sorceress is needed to control the murdering spirit – but the haunting spirit seems to work without the sorceress. And finally, the last great moment that I will mention comes when the spirit that haunts our two main protagonists decides that she must masturbate whilst watching our two leads have sex. Why the ghost is infatuated with the human touch is never explained. Of course.

Watching a Godfrey Ho movie sometimes feels like watching a movie with a subtitle track that lacks a strong foundation in English. Sure, you can kinda put things together in your head, how sentences are supposed to be structured, but for the most part you’re dealing with fragments of the story. This is what you get in a movie like Diamond Ninja Force. The filmmakers tried their best to structure it as if it were a real story, even injecting Richard Harrison into the movie more than a few times, but the overall plot and all of the characters simply come off as appearing strange and distant from the actual plot of the movie. Due to the strange editing of the movie, there are times where the two central parental figures (parents to a child named “Bobo,” a name that should be given to a pet monkey, not a child) know that their child is either in grave danger, or is so ill that he is about to die, but they decide to go out and have a random sexual adventure. There is a minimal chance that the placement of these sex scenes could have been in the original film… but that’s probably giving Godfrey Ho too much credit. Regardless of editing, this original film does appear to have been pretty insane within its own right. Featuring an abundance of nudity, something that is not often expected in these genre outings, as well as some fairly nasty gore, the original exploitation movie underneath all of this ninja craziness seems to have been pretty intriguing by itself.

The Conclusion
These movies are certainly not for everyone. The IFD bug is one that few people seem to catch, but there are select movies within this catalog that many viewers would absolutely enjoy. You don’t have to watch them in a purely ironic sense. There’s no need to watch purely for the sake of laughing at how poorly made these movies are. Although that is certainly fun, there are elements within these movies that act as pure fan service. Granted, Godfrey Ho deserves his “Ed Wood of Asia” title, occasionally he concocted something so weird that others were likely to grow fond of them. Diamond Ninja Force gets a 4 out of 5. Granted, it is a terrible movie, but the entertainment level is extremely high.

For a further view of Diamond Ninja Force, as well as the world of Godfrey Ho, have a look at the sogoodreviews.com video review by my good friend Ken. He is very well versed in the world of IFD, and his site is a treasure trove of information on this world of Taiwanese exploitation and the various Ninja movies that were cobbled out of them.