Ninja Terminator (1986)
Director: Godfrey Ho
Writers: Godfrey Ho
Starring: Richard Harrison, Hwang Jang Lee, Phillip Ko and Jack Lam

The Plot: In contemporary-era Japan, we are introduced to the Golden Ninja Empire. The Empire is a secret sect of ninjas that have been turned evil in recent years, mostly because their master has allowed his ninja-powers to go to his head. This master has developed The Supreme Ninja Spirit, which simply means that he is invulnerable to sword strikes. This power is given to him because he is in possession of all three parts of a very special Golden Ninja Warrior statue. Three of his best pupils, however, have been disgusted by the recent tactics of the Empire. Lead by Harry (Richard Harrison), this group decides to steal the Golden Ninja Warrior statue and split it up into three pieces in order to cripple the Golden Ninja Empire. Although this is a good idea on paper, it doesn’t take long for the Empire to start tracking this trio down… One by one, it seems as if these ninjas are going to be killed off. Harry still has one trick left up his sleeve, though: Jaguar Wong (Jack Lam). Jaguar is a agent friend of Harry’s who agrees to help him take on the Golden Ninja Empire. Together, in spirit since they never share any screen time because Jack Lam’s character has been edited into this movie, these two are going to help eliminate the Golden Ninja Empire once and for all!

The Review
There are many things that can be said about Godfrey Ho, but I think the word that best describes him is “opportunist.” Not a fan of treating cinema like it were an artform, this disturbed “director” was best known for his cut-and-paste films that he put together with his IFD Studios. For those of you who don’t know the skinny, basically Godfrey Ho jumped on the “ninja” craze during the 80s by splicing together films made outside of Hong Kong that IFD had purchased the distribution rights for. He assembled a group of Western actors who he quickly dressed in ninja costume (along with requisite bandanas that said the word “NINJA”) and unleashed upon the world a hodge-podge of poorly produced martial art films that rarely ever seemed to make sense. Ninja Terminator is likely one of the most famous films to come from this sordid situation, and it stands out from the crowd for numerous reasons. First of all, Ninja Terminator is a pretty brilliant title. Unfortunately, aside from a two-foot-high gumball machine, this movie doesn’t feature any robots. The best example of why this movie is a success, over the likes of The Ultimate Ninja – this movie almost seems to have a logical plot. Almost.

First of all, I feel I owe a huge “thank you” to Kenneth, who is lead-writer on (make sure to check out his review of the movie too!) and a main host on the Podcast on Fire Netork, for pointing this movie out to me. Although I have already reviewed two separate Godfrey Ho titles, which is a shame since I’ve never reviewed one Fellini movie and only one title from Akira Kurosawa’s catalog, this is not one of my favorite directors. Not even remotely close in any way, shape, or form. My disapproval of his methods are one thing, but the two movies that I had seen from Ho previous to Ninja Terminator were nearly incomprehensible. I had heard stories about a maverick, albeit crappy, director who had a penchant for the bizarre, but all I had found were movies with very little in the way of story. Ninja Terminator, however, stands up as the film that I had always hoped for from Godfrey Ho. Ridiculous in nearly every way, and featuring a bare-bones plot that makes at least SOME sense, this is the “white ninja” movie that I had always hoped to find. When you throw Hwang Jang Lee into the mix (who wears a horrible blonde wig), the resulting concoction turns out to be pure movie magic.

Make no bones about it, this is one horrible movie. From the over-the-top ninja sequences right down to the incoherent “subplot” that follows Jaguar Wong, this movie is all over the place. The movie, however, is not to be judged by regular standards of good or bad. Indeed, the way I finally started to realize my adoration for the movie was through the semi-nostalgic atmosphere that it creates surrounding all of this preposterous ninja action. If you’re vaguely interested in the “idea” of what Godfrey Ho did, if the very concept of a corrupt producer ripping movies apart and sticking them together like bubble gum intrigues you, then Ninja Terminator turns out to be one of the very best examples of what these films could do. When mixing the South Korean martial arts title The Uninvited Guest of the Star Ferry in with his newly shot footage, this one time Godfrey Ho almost gets it “right.” And almost is more than any one person can ask for in a Godfrey Ho movie. Featuring both more “white ninja” footage than can normally be found in a IFD ninja flick and more of the “zany” ideas that should have been prevalent in movies like this, Ninja Terminator turns out to be one of the very best combinations that the genre would ever see.

Ninja Terminator, in its very brisk running time, gives birth to many humorous ideas. The silly fashion found in the film is just the start of what makes this psychotic piece of cinema so very enjoyable. The ridiculous ninja outfits, that despite their camouflage never seem to blend in with their surroundings, along with Hwang Jang-Lee’s spectacular wig, make up a good number of the laughs that heartily escaped my mouth. The further the plot progresses, the weirder the movie tends to get. Although the mix of footage found here, between the South Korean martial arts film and the tale of white ninjas on the hunt for a Golden Ninja Warrior, are probably as close to “seamless” as Godfrey Ho likely ever was, that doesn’t mean that we’re not dealing with a movie filled to the brim with weird stuff. In the South Korean story, which is the most disjointed section, we watch as the awkwardly-titled Jaguar Wong progresses through several adventures. Casually, Wong seems to wander from one fight scene to the next, showing off his kicking skills along the way. In our primary (or secondary) Ninja-focused movie, we watch as Richard Harrison has some extremely stilted conversations with his wife while also doing battle with gumball-robots that dispense poisonous gas and deliver ominous VHS-taped torture sessions. It is hard to even call this a “movie,” but the project stays incredibly watchable throughout its entire runtime.

The Conclusion
As goofy as this movie is, it seems that there are a million things to say about it. I haven’t even mentioned the Garfield telephones, nor the drunken crabs! I could write until I am blue in the face about it, but there is nothing that can replace the experience of actually watching the movie yourself. Is it good? No, not at all, but good golly is it a fun ride. I give it a surprising four out of five. No quality to be found here, but it is plenty entertaining!