Peter’s Retro Movie Review: Revenge of the Ninja (1983)

August 27, 2012

Revenge of the Ninja (1983) posterby Peter Nielsen

Here’s another one of those martial arts flicks Michael and I used to watch so many times it was ridiculous. And this one had two bonuses… Shô Kosugi and ninjas!

Shô Kosugi was born in 1948 in a suburb to Tokyo, Japan and begun training in the martial arts at the tender age of five. He started out with karate, Judo and Kendo, and later he also studied Aikido and Ninjutsu. At the age of 18 he held the title All Japan Karate Champion and a year later he decided to go to USA to study. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and at the same time continued to improve on his martial art skills.

In the 80’s, ninjas were becoming increasingly popular in movies and Shô Kosugi was cast as just that in his early roles, mostly because of his skills and partly because of his charismatic screen persona. He was cast as the evil ninja in Enter the Ninja starring Franco Nero and also in the short-lived TV-show The Master from 1984.

Braden helping out...

Braden helping out…

It also starred Lee Van Cleef and Timothy Van Patten, but only ran for 13 episodes, I think. We used to be able to rent those on VHS back in the day and we watched them over and over again. I wish they would get a proper release on DVD, because I would love to see if it still holds up today. I’ll bet you it doesn’t, but I’d still love to see it again.

In Pray for Death he was cast as a good guy and I remember having to go to Denmark to watch that one. It didn’t even get a theatrical release here in Sweden, as far as I know, and when it was finally released on VHS, the censors cut it to shreds. Unwatchable! Shô Kosugi later steered away from the ninja genre a bit and made Black Eagle which was more of a regular action-movie, but let’s get into this week’s movie-pick, shall we?

As I stated earlier, Revenge of the Ninja was a movie Michael and I watched a gazillion times, to the point where we knew some of the dialogue by heart. I think the last time we watched it together was a year or so before he moved to England, but up to that point we hadn’t watched it in a long time. The cool thing was that we both got a kick out of it that time around too!

Cho showing his sword to his son.

Cho showing his sword to his son.

It’s a pretty violent movie as is evident from the get-go, when we see an entire family slaughtered by ninjas. Cho Osaki is away discussing business with his good friend Braden, played by Arthur Roberts (Up In Smoke, Not Of This Earth), when he returns home to a scene of carnage only minutes later. The ninjas are still there though, waiting for him… and Cho, filled with grief, opens up a BIG can of whoop-ass on them. The only survivors of his family are his mother and infant son. Braden convinces him to come to America and start a new life and Cho vows never to use his sword again for anything else than practice.

Six years later we find Cho and his son Kane prospering in America and in the midst of opening up a new art gallery. Well, not Kane of course, but his father, with the help of Braden. The gallery is to show and sell exquisite Japanese dolls to wealthy collectors. At least that’s what Cho thinks… Unbeknownst to him, his “good friend” Braden is using it as a front to smuggle heroin into the country. The latest shipment is to be sold to a local mob-boss by the name of Caifano, played by Mario Gallo from Raging Bull among others.

Only a ninja can kill a ninja...

Only a ninja can kill a ninja…

When all of a sudden Braden wants cash in advance for the drugs, instead of on delivery as per an earlier agreement, Caifano more or less says “f..k you” to him and soon a mysterious silver-masked ninja appears and starts killing of Caifano’s business associates and family-members. The ninja doesn’t really stay mysterious for long as we very quickly find out that it’s actually Braden, who has also studied the way of the ninja when he too lived in Japan for many years.

When he finally kidnaps Kane the shit really hits the fan as Cho breaks his own vow and once again “becomes” a ninja. What follows is a butt-load of ninja action which culminates in a roof-top showdown between Cho and Braden. Need I tell you that this is bad-ass? No… I didn’t think so!

Climactic roof-top fight!

Climactic roof-top fight!

I used to love this movie and you know what? I still do! And yes, I do know that we’ve seen this kind of story a million times before and I am aware of how mediocre the acting is at times, but I don’t care! We watched these movies for one thing and one thing only… Entertainment! It’s as pure and simple as that! We wanted to be entertained. And we were!

Shô Kosugi is active nowadays as an instructor at the Shô Kosugi Institute which he established in 1998. It’s an academy where he helps young people achieving their dreams in gymnastics, acting, martial arts and such. He is also still acting, himself! He liked to use his own sons Kane and Shane in movies where they were to play a family, so in Revenge of the Ninja and also Pray for Death and Black Eagle Kane played his son. Actually both he and his brother were in the latter two.

Now, if I say Sam Firstenberg you’ll probably say “What? Who?” and I don’t blame you because it’s not a name I recognize either. He’s the director of Revenge of the Ninja. As I was reading up on some of the other movies he’s directed I did find myself recognizing some of the titles though. I don’t know what that says about me, but just read along with me… American Samurai, American Ninja, Cyborg Cop and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. That last one has one of the coolest sequel titles ever!

So my friends… Do you have any thoughts on my movie-pick of the week? Please tell me about them in the comment section below.

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4 comments on “Peter’s Retro Movie Review: Revenge of the Ninja (1983)

  1. My brother absolutely loved these movies and he watched them over and over and over and (you get the idea). This was in the early days of us getting our first VCR. He watched a lot of Bruce Lee as well, but he loved the Ninja trilogy. I think Revenge of the Ninja was his favorite. Not knowing any better, I think I liked Ninja III: The Domination best because Sho became a good guy and it also had Lucinda Dickey in it who I was in love with from Breakin’.

    I think I did my own small issue on these back in 2009.

  2. Nice review Peter. A film I loved as a youngster. Although I never owned the tape of it myself at the time, I used to regularly borrow my friends copy and watch the shit out of it as much as possible. You’re certainly right about the mediocre acting (maybe even stretch to bad at times), but like you say, the film was about entertainment and for me it delivered in spades. I always thought the silver masked ninja was good as you normally only ever saw ninjas in regular outfits. (although different coloured ninjas in ‘American Ninja’ was a treat in its time).
    Thanks for the review, I’ll be keeping my eye out for more of this stuff 🙂

  3. Peter Nielsen Aug 28, 2012

    Thank you guys
    I’m glad you liked my movie-pick this week.
    And yes, I also remember liking “Ninja III: The Domination”, and for those exact same reasons too. “Breakin'” was a movie we used to watch SO many times it was ridiculous, but it’s certainly been a loooong time since I last saw it. I need to get on that asap, I think. 🙂
    You mention the silver-mask, Jay? I’ll have to agree with you there. It DOES add an extra layer of mystery to him, don’t you think?

  4. Jules Aug 28, 2012

    I recently watched this movie again on cable. I liked it enough to pick up the DVD soon afterwards and I’ve been on a bit of ninja movie kick over the last few months. I even picked up a few samurai/ninja instructional videos, not because I’m trying to learn sword skills, but because I am in the middle of attempting to put together a ninja-themed comic book series, and I wanted to get a feel for legitimate techniques. I seriously think that the ninja sub-genre is poised for a decent comeback, but I’m a bit partial to these movies. By the way, I also dug out an old issue of Jade Screen from 2005 with a cover story on Sho Kosugi…

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