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October 13, 2013

Movie Review: Ninja III: The Domination (1984, Blu-ray)

There was a time around the mid-1980's when the ninja sub-genre ruled theaters and cable television. My biggest exposure to Cannon Films' ninja output usually came late at night when the parents were asleep and graphic violence won over Skin-amax. The films that made the biggest impact on me as a kid were the awfully dubbed but infinitely awesome Franco Nero classic Enter the Ninja and the gory Sho Kosugi vehicle Revenge of the Ninja. For some reason the recent Scream Factory release of Ninja III: The Domination evaded me much like the mysterious silent assassins. It's out now on a Blu-ray / DVD Combo pack, and oh boy, is it a bit of a departure from the other films mentioned.

Cannon regular Sam Firstenberg (American Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja) directs this tale of demonic possession, aerobics and flying shurikens. A ninja storms a golf course on a desert and proceeds to murder everyone in his way. Bloodying Polo's left and right, the seemingly unstoppable killer is brought down by police in a furious onslaught of flying bullets. The cops finally do him in... but is he really dead? 

Christine (Lucinda Dickey, Breakin', and Cheerleader Camp) is walking near where the ninja took his final stand against the cops and becomes overcome by his spirit. She takes his shiny ninja sword and becomes thoroughly captivated by the blade that she has to takes it back to her aerobics studio to show off to the girls like it’s a new Gucci. It isn’t long before Christine becomes a one woman wrecking crew as she inherits all the abilities of the ninja – including his thirst for vengeance against the law that took him down. 

The action scenes, sword fights and FX range from good to downright awful. When the ninja goes on his golf course rampage he barely grazes his victims with what are supposedly deadly slashes from his sword. I also thought Christine’s possession scene was quite funny because it’s so off-the-wall. I won’t describe it, you just have to see it. Wow.  Naturally, Sho Kosugi is a bright spot here as the ninja-hunting, Yamada.  Unlike some of his co-stars, his grace and overall ability to be an all-out bad-ass is hard to top and really fun to watch here.

Scream Factory has added some extras to the mix that include a nice photo gallery that feature alternate posters, lobby cards and other promotional bits. You also get an audio commentary so somebody can give some kind of explanation as to what you just watched. Director Sam Firstenberg and Stunt Co-ordinator Steve Lambert are on hand to talk about the film, and while being quite pleasant, both are pretty serious about the film. We find out the biggest influence on Ninja III: The Domination is actually Poltergeist and that it is part of a trilogy with Revenge of the Ninja and Enter the Ninja. Oddly enough, I did not know that it was linked to those films even with the “III” in the title. It’s a fun listen and a great addition to the overall package. Again, I can’t stress it enough, for a movie like this it was very much needed.

Ninja III: The Domination’s transfer is jaw-dropingly clear, colorful and without noticeable wear. Scream Factory did a beautiful job here and on the audio. This might be one of the better transfers Scream Factory has done, at least to my eye-balls. Ninja III: The Domination is a big treat for horror and action fans alike who don’t take either genres seriously all the time. It’s certainly unique, but most importantly entertaining. Recommended.

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