Friday, June 5, 2009

9 Deaths Of The Ninja (1985)

1985 - 9 Deaths Of The Ninja (Cannon Films)

[released in Spain as “9 Muertes Del Ninja”, in Germany as “Die 9 Leben Der Ninja", and in France as “American Ninja”]

Director/Writer Emmett Alston Producer Ashok Amritraj Executive Producers Yoram Globus, Menahem Golan Associate Producer Shelley E. Reid Music Cecile Colayco Cinematography Roy H. Wagner Casting Maria Metcalfe Production Design Rodell Cruz Makeup Artists Zeny Marcelo, Yolanda Unabia First Assistant Director Jun Amazan Second Assistant Director “Tim”/Timoteo Bismark Construction Supervisor Francisco Balangue Head Prop Man Ben Deliña Painter Angelito Felipe Set Dressers Danny Melendez, Anselmo Mendoza Props Assistants Melchor Pacheco, Carmelo Sta. Maria Construction Assistant Nelson Valeza Assistant to Production Designer Catalina Villaluna Sound Mixer John Kovarek Boom Operator Leonardo Sta. Maria Head Special Effects Danilo Dominguez Special Effects Assistants Cesar Dominguez, Rolando Salem Assistant Stunt Co-ordinator Alan Amiel Generator Operators Melchor Abaya, Felipe Badilla, Domenguito Saguion Electricians Eduardo Badiola, Mariano Bautista, Jose Gleabo, Eduardo Sta. Maria Camera Operators Eddie Buenaflor, Gene Jackson Gaffer Johnny Cecogo Grip Nelson Cecogo Dolly Grip Victor Cecogo Assistant Camera Roger De La Roma, Jaime Manguni Stills Photographer Nilo Odiaman Wardrobe Assistants Cesar Cervantes, Roberto Lechuga, Nancy Mendoza, Salvador Santos, Teena Villaluna Apprentice Editor Bernard Bismark Assistant Editor “Tim”/Timoteo Bismark Transportation Captain Eulalio Esteban Motorman Benito Badiola Special Gymnast Brian Brocking Production Assistants Kess Burias, Jun Ella, Olive Lamasan, Gaia Lopez, George Rosales Mechanic Elizalde Cordero Field Nurse Lourdes Dino Bookkeeper Rafael Gaba Assistants to the Producer Susan Katz, Marie Miñoza Executive Secretary Marie Miñoza Choreographer Douglas Nierras Production Auditor Ernesto Punzalan Field Cashier Marilou Santos Liason Ricky Santos Legman Manuel Sta. Maria

Cast Shô Kosugi (Spike Shinobi), Brent Huff (Steve Gordon), Emilia Lesniak (Jennifer Barnes), Blackie Dammett (Alby the Cruel), Regina Richardson (Honey Hump), Vijay Amritraj (Rankin), Lisa Friedman (Tour Guide), Kane Kosugi (Kane), Shane Kosugi (Shane), Bruce Fanger (Dr. Wolf), Sonny Erang (Rahji), Aiko Cownden (Marisa Lee), Jennifer Crumrine (Amanda), Helen McNeely (Mrs. Garcia), Protacio Dee (Feng Fu), Judy Blye (Woo Pee/Woo Wee), Joji Nagai (Dr. Yamada), Ken Watanabe (Sensei), Victor Ordoñez (Major Quirino), Leah Navarro (Museum Assassin), Ric Segreto (PC Trooper), Ron Milhench (Perkins), Jacques Gervais (Congressman Morrison), Warren MacLean (Slanker), Allen Beatson (Edward Branham), Mike Alejandrino (Goon Guard), “Tim”/Timoteo Bismark (Observer), Kess Burias (Monique), Carissa Carlos (Lita), Cynthia Villa-Abrille (Rankin's Date), Henry Strzalkowski (Bus Driver), Imelda Dominguez (Female Ninja), David Brass (Tex), John Ladalski (Goverment agent), Louie Senn (CIA Agent) Bus Passengers Susan Meyer, Sam Lombardo, Nancy Keaton, James Crumrine, Emebet Aigaz, Des Ayallew Hump’s Drones Ann Milhench, Chantal Manz, Marina Miatke 'Hotlegs' Dancers Gina Valenciano, Mabeth Webb, Lani Fernando

Interview with Blackie Dammett from Fred Anderson’s blog:


Fred Anderson: …How did you get involved in the classic Nine Deaths Of The Ninja?

Even before I came to the audition in the Century City (section of Los Angeles) offices of the producer, I decided to make him a German Terrorist raised in North Yemen and I brought the Sydney Greenstreet-esque white topical suit, the tu-tone spectator shoes, and nazi stuff myself. It was the mid-80's when LA heavy metal bands had a proclivity toward anti-social behavior like nazi symbols so they were easy to find. My entire costume in the movie was my own creation.

In the script Alby had this strange fascination with Rahji and I carried it to extremes. During the audition I made up the scene where I couldn't get my cigarette lit and had a fit and tore up the producer's coffee table overturning water glasses and throwing magazines around the office and scaring the hell out of everybody. The director loved everything I did in the audition and told me to create my own madman.

FA: Alby the cruel is a pervert, a crazy bad guy. How did you work with this fantastic character?

BD: I didn't see him as a pervert, more stressed by the situation and the environment which was easy to relate to since as a film crew we were in almost the same predicament as the fictional characters. An inhospitable jungle, poisonous snakes and spiders, sudden monsoon rains, a guerrilla communist army lurking in the dark trying to kill us, petty fights and jealousies within the cast and crew. and like in the story occasional breaks from the horror of the war when we had our rest and recuperation in Manila with all the sex and tropical foods and garish night life.

The crew was international: an American director, Indian producer, ex-patriots from many countries living in the Philippines at the time in production and crew. And American, Japanese, Indian and Philippino and probably a few other nationalities in the cast.

FA: Some final words to our readers?

BD: I must say, of the 20 some movies and 30 some TV shows and about 50 plays, Nine Deaths Df The Ninja was one of my favorites because I could and did get to chew up the scenery because:

a). ...the part itself was so outlandish and...

b). because we shot the movie in the Philippines during the NPA's war against president Marcos and the country was on the verge of collapse and life itself was absurd. We had a battallion of soldiers protecting us in the jungle and every store in the country had an armed guard with a machine gun.

Review from the Stomp Tokyo website:

Our rating: one LAVA® motion lamp.

Another blatant violation of The Truth in Titling Act of 1976, Nine Deaths of the Ninja does not feature a ninja dying nine deaths. We are even a little skeptical that the main character, Spike Shinobi (Sho Kosugi), is really a ninja. What kind of ninja wears bright green camouflage and sucks on lollipops?

Made in the deepest, darkest part of the Eighties, Nine Deaths of the Ninja conforms to all the conventions of the foreign made, low-budget action thrillers that proliferated on the cinematic picnic like so many unwelcome ants. This formula, which probably exists in three-ring binder from on the shelves of many economically-minded action movie producers, was as well tread as that of the James Bond film, and even survives today in such Jeff Fahey vehicles as Operation Delta Force.

First of all, the film is required to have an ethnically diverse, testosterone-heavy team of good guys. They must have an allegedly cool code name: in this case they're the Dart Team. The team must always be summoned to do what they do best by a lot of jargon. Following the guidelines in the three-ring binder to the letter, an important-looking military guy calls out a "red option 4, NSD directive 138," which means: "put those three goofballs on a plane bound for the Philippines."

The three goofballs in question are Spike, Steve Gordon (Brent Huff), and Jennifer "Foxy" Barnes (Emilia Lesniak). So not only is the Dart Team ethnically diverse, but they have a girl, too! Action film junkies know better than to trust this, though: lip service is always paid to how competent and independent Jennifer is, but when the fighting starts, she's always the one running back to the truck for extra ammo.

All the members of the Dart Team have "cool" individual nicknames, and each has a clumsy affectation. Spike goes by Lollipop (a guy named Spike needs a nickname?), because he sucks on lollipops, thereby giving this movie extra appeal with those viewers who like Kojak as much as ninjas. (Kosugi apparently could not be convinced to shave his head.) Steve's nickname is Macho Man, because he is popular with the ladies. He demonstrates this by abandoning important missions to hit on prostitutes, and by dating his boss' secretary. Jennifer's nickname is Foxy and... well, she doesn't do much of anything. She's a woman, isn't that enough?

After some of the lamest credits yet filmed (Kosugi mugs the camera and brandishes a katana while girls dance around him), we are introduced to the plot. It is as follows: Bad guys kidnap a busload of people, and the Dart Team goes into the jungle to kill all the bad guys.

If the good guys are supposed to be diverse, they look like the cast of Forever Plaid compared to the bad guys. The bus is taken over by Col. Honey Hump, a fright-wigged black lesbian with wild voodoo eyes and a striking similarity to Shari Belafonte in The Midnight Hour, which was also made in 1985. Hmmm....

Honey Hump is on this particular mission at the behest of Albert (whose rather bland nom de guerre is "Albie the Cruel"), a disabled gay Nazi in a wheelchair, complete with helper monkey. Holy cats! We thought we'd seen the ultimate case of multiple stereotypes in Tammy and the T-Rex, but obviously we hadn't seen anything yet! Albert is seeking the release of his lover, Rajid, who is a Muslim pyromaniac. You could hire Honey, Albert, and Rajid and never worry about affirmative action requirements again! If that isn't diverse enough for you, Albie sends some midgets to kill the Dart Team at an art gallery, though Spike makes short work of them.

The bus passengers are all movie types themselves, including the perky tour guide, the mischievous young brothers (Kane and Shane Kosugi, sons of Sho), the elderly mother figure, and her young charge, who will die without the medication that has been stolen by the drug-crazed kidnappers. Upon watching this movie, valuable minutes of your life that might otherwise have been spent visiting with your family, learning how to play bocce, or cleaning out navel lint will be wasted on the predictable subplots involving these characters. The wacky Kosugi brothers (whose characters are mysteriously named Shane and Kane) defend their hapless fellow passengers with their own brand of kung fu and Dennis-the-Menace-like bedevilment. For example, when "Dr. Wolf," Honey's slavering torture fiend, tries to rape the tour guide, the brothers Kosugi soak his underpants in alcohol and ignite them. Hilarious! Personally, we would have been happier to see Shane and Kane peering out the bus window waiting expectantly for Gamera to arrive, but alas, such was not the case.

Although the film sidetracks several times into pointless chases through brothels, city streets, and coral reefs - nothing slows a movie down like a scuba scene - it does move forward to the final climactic fight between the terrorists, the Dart Team, and a group of mysterious ninjas from Spike's past. If you uttered a grunt of confusion at that last group of people, you're in good company. Other than a few flashbacks at the beginning of the film, there's little to explain why these ninjas would show up or why they are hell-bent on separating Spike's head from his neck. Even at the end, we weren't sure what the black-garbed ninjas had to do with anything, and we felt it best not to press the point.

One rather odious plot element is the existence of Madames Woo-Wee and Woo-Pee, sisters played by the same Caucasian actress (Judy Blye), both of whom run houses of ill repute. Or rather, Woo-Wee runs a traditional house of ill repute while Woo-Pee runs a boat of ill repute. If you can find another movie with a floating brothel, we'd really like to hear about it. The remarkable thing about these cathouses is the fact that Woo-Pee's girls seem just as happy to earn their pay as assassins as prositutes. The screenwriter must have figured that women involved in one form of crime would have no scruples about engaging in other forms, and so there is a long, involved scene during which Spike does underwater battle with a boatload of vicious call girls while Madame Woo-Pee fires an improbably large machine gun off the side of the ship.

Needless to say, Spike & Co. overcome all of these obstacles and more with wisecracking aplomb, although a serious injury which befalls Steve causes him to re-evaluate his life and declare his true love for Foxy. Foxy, for her part, has borne the indignity of Steve's philandering with the patience of a saint. We would have liked to see Foxy turn Steve down, but movie logic dictates that she welcome him with sardonic but open arms. Spike, however, is an ethnic minority in a film for American audiences, and as such he has no romantic interests. His last scene in the film shows him handing out lollipops to the kids while trying to suppress his rage at the fact that he will never get the girl at the end of the movie. As titles go, Nine Lonely Nights of the Ninja might be more appropriate.

Review from the I Hate Movies blog:

Uh, this is some kind of weird joke, right?

A ninja and his anglo sidekick fight their way through a bunch of Islamic stereotypes before we find out that this is just a training exercise. Then, the ninja swings his sword around while chicks in black leotards dance around him, with bad music and a smoke machine. Now, the story begins. Some really weird guy who might be German kidnaps a tour bus in Southeast Asia to get one of his men released from prison. He does this with the help of a woman with the curious name of Colonel Honey Hump. Anyway, the U.S. embassy decides to send in the ninja and his mostly-useless sidekick, and they go to a museum and get attacked by midgets for no reason. Then, it gets a little weird.

I've already used the word "weird" three times in this review, not counting this sentence, and it's still not enough to communicate how completely bizarre this thing is. I'll try it a few more times. Weird. Weird. Weird. Weird, weird, weird, weird, weird, weird, weird, weird, weird, and weird. Nope, still not enough.

Okay, the opening scene (with a grenade launcher being used in a training exercise) is strange enough, but then comes the opening credits sequence. Dancing girls and a shirtless guy with a sword. By the time you get through the terrorist wedding party, the ninja with the Kojak-ian lollipop fetish, the lesbian innuendo, the gang of midget Filipino drug dealers, the flashback where the hero gets caught in a ridiculous series of booby traps, and the monkey in the diaper, you're barely halfway through the movie. Obviously, some of this was intended to be funny. The trick is in figuring out which parts are supposed to be funny and which parts just turned out that way on their own.

Yeah, 1985 was a strange year. If nothing other than the making of Nine Deaths of the Ninja had happened in 1985, that would still be a reasonable statement.

Jerry Roberts' review from his website:

Some would call it an afront to my sense of good taste but there exists in my heart a long-standing love for chop sockey. There is something just deliciously wonderful about any movie genre in which bones breaking make the same sound as when I break a fistful of spaghetti in half.

I think it's the very audacious nature of this genre that makes me seek out titles like Ninja Claws of the CIA and Super Ninja Kao Fong and the Five Fingernails of Doom. Not that I am known as a person who judges a book by it's cover but COME ON! How can you leave movies with those titles sitting on the video store shelf?

Such was my attraction to Nine Deaths of the Ninja, which for some would be considered brilliant and by others not to be worth using to line the bottom of the bird cage. I happily belong to the former.

Nine Deaths of the Ninja begins more or less as one would expect with a shirtless wonder battling his foe. Then the movie leads into an opening title sequence that to put it mildly takes all definitions of musical talent and throws them out the window and into the traffic. Three interpretive dance students twist, kick and twirl around a guy with a sword who looks appropriatly humiliated while the fog machine goes into overdrive. Meanwhile the opening track is a very awkward version of "I Keep on Dancin'" sung by a performer to whom "pitch" and "tone" are dirty words.

That oddity out of the way, the movie can now begin. The three heroes are members of an anti-terrorist group, well not exactly members, they ARE the team. Anyway the latest assignment for the anti-terrorist unit is to take down a group of non anti-terrorists (!) who have taken hostages and demand that Rahji, a drug lord is let out of prison and while they are at it they also demand a cut back on the efforts to stop the Philippino drug trade. These bad guys aren't exactly tacticians at this sort of work because no one bother to offer up exactly HOW they are going to do this.

To their great relief, they won't have to think this thing through because almost from the moment that their little plan is hatched, they are made aware of the anti-terrorist unit. This probably has something to do with the three-man team showing up all over television in their little jumpsuits and all but shouting "Yee Haw! We Anti-Terrorist Unit!"

The most fun the movie has is with the bevy of bad guys thrown at the heroes as a deturrent. Those include The Mighty Midget Death Squad which are . . . exactly that, little midget assassins. Yes, three little killers in fedoras and sunglasses who try and make hash of our mighty heroes.

I saw this movie without subtitles but something tells me I didn't miss much. Somewhere along this very strange journey is some business involving a fairly large drug lord who can't stop laughing even when he takes his last breath. He's defended, for a time, by a team The Deadly Polo Assassination Team, yes a band of killer polo players. If that's not weird enough there is some business involving a babalicious madame named Honey Hump with a giant fro that I guess houses her arsenal of weaponry.

Finally after about an hour and half we get to the killer ninja squad, but there are only five, not nine. Of course, if you add in the Mighty Midget Death Squad, you could add four to that number except that there are six midgets and still the title wouldn't make any sense anyway and BOY am I reading too much into this.

Review from the Eccentric Cinema website:

There are, apparently, quite a few so-bad-they're-good ninja movies out there. Japanese martial artist/actor Shô Kosugi stars in a number of them. And I could pretty much end my review of 9 Deaths Of The Ninja right there.

Is there another subgenre of exploitation film this completely encrusted with cheese? Is there even such a thing as a genuinely good ninja flick made in the '80s? So far I've yet to see one (Shô or no Shô — Ninja Terminator, anyone?). Oh, well... This makes two movies in a row for me featuring a team of midget assassins. What are the freakin' odds of that?

9 Deaths Of The Ninja is perhaps best known for its infamous opening titles sequence, a real ninja movie milestone... Kosugi, stripped to the waist and brandishing a samurai sword, engages in an interpretive dance routine (!) with a trio of leotard-clad ladies to the strains of a truly hideous pop ballad. There are only two possible reactions to this — you'll either convulse with laughter or be utterly poleaxed by such an astonishing display of stupidity. (Or possibly both, as I did, in reverse order.) I can't begin to imagine why Kosugi would agree to do something like this, unless perhaps it was his idea to begin with. (Oh, Shô...Say it ain't so!)

He plays Captain "Spike" Shinobi, leader of D.A.R.T., the United Nations' crack anti-terrorist commando team. (Just what the acronym stands for is never mentioned; Dumb-Ass Ridiculous Twits, perhaps?) Besides its commander, D.A.R.T. consists of exactly two other people: Americans Steve Gordon (Brent Huff of Just Jaeckin's Gwendoline) and Jennifer Barnes (blonde Emilia Lesniak, who looks and sounds like she's high on something in a lot of her scenes). Shinobi may be easygoing and hip, but he's dedicated to the warrior code of the ninja — even though he washed out of ninja training for being too compassionate. (Thanks for filling us in, helpful flashback.) He demonstrates his spirituality by meditating beneath a waterfall and chopping up a watermelon, blindfolded, with a katana.

Shinobi and crew are summoned to the Philippines for a desperate mission. Security chief Rankin (Octopussy's Vijay Amritraj) briefs them on the situation. In a remote area of the country a busload of tourists has been seized by an army of drug-running terrorists. The leader of the terrorists is the insane, wheelchair-bound neo-Nazi "Alby the Cruel" (Blackie Dammet, in a gratingly awful performance). He demands the immediate release of his comrades from prison or the hostages will be killed. To rescue them the D.A.R.T. team will have to fight their way into Alby's jungle HQ, which is guarded by the vicious troops of Col. Honey Hump (Regina Richardson), a lesbian amazon mercenary with a towering afro. But first they'll have to discover its location. A top henchman of Alby's — the turbaned, snaggletoothed, always-laughing Rahji (Sonny Erang) — is let out of jail so that Shinobi and Gordon can trail him to the terrorists' lair. The giant Rahji, who can catch bullets in his hands (!), proves rather elusive, however, so other means must be sought. Eventually the team closes in on Alby's gang, with time naturally running out. Shinobi must use all his exotic weaponry to penetrate the enemy camp and save the hostages (which include Kosugi's young sons Shane and Kane as brave, resourceful kids).

Financed with American and Indian money and shot in the Philippines, the cheapjack 9 Deaths pulls off at least one spectacular feat — it actually makes Revenge Of The Ninja and Rage Of Honor look like slick Hollywood productions in comparison. Everything about this film is pathetic. It tries to mix together ingredients from ninja, James Bond and Rambo films and comes up with a pretty stinky goulash. Probably due to the influence of Amitraj (who also executive produced), the pic ends with a shot of an ornate barge being rowed into the sunset just like in Octopussy (to include a similar sounding power ballad that finishes on the exact same chord as Rita Coolidge's "All-Time High"). The combat scenes are lame and the acting — even putting the execrable Dammet aside — lamer. (When Shô Kosugi is the best thespian among the cast...) Of course this also contributes to the fun, as Kosugi tries unsuccessfully to look cool amid the silliness; he's less of a stone-face here then in his other films and seems to be having a good time. The dialog offers a few howlers ("Save your strength, scumbag. It'd take a tougher man than you to pull apart industrial epoxy.") and there's the perpetually mirthful Rahji, too — he's an amusing, even endearing character who never fails to liven things up. (Okay, so perhaps I'm stretching it a bit with the "endearing" part.) Unfortunately, 9 Deaths' incredibly annoying head villain takes the cheese-scented wind out of its sails with depressing regularity. You'll groan whenever this jackass pops up to do his shamefully bad Dr. Strangelove shtick. Even the character's rather bizarre death scene won't assuage your bitter resentment. It's too bad jolly Rahji couldn't have been the chief baddie.

And I never did figure out what the "9 Deaths" of the title refers to. Shô doesn't die, of course, not even once (he's the hero), so I suppose it's to do with the way he dispatches enemy combatants. Are there really nine different methods used? Let's see... Sword, dagger, bow, shuriken, blowgun, crossbow, explosives... (That's only seven!)

9 Deaths Of The Ninja comes to DVD via BCI's new "Maximum Action" double feature two-disc set, which pairs it with 1984's Killpoint (another cheesy Crown International release with martial arts elements, not reviewed). 9 Deaths, on Disc 1, looks pretty decent, if a tad soft; the 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen transfer is relatively damage free. A basic stereo mix lends a little oomph to the cheesy sound effects (some of the guns sound like firecrackers), but not much more than that. There's some minor background hiss at times but nothing distracting.

Trailers for some not very interesting-looking Crown International titles make up the Disc 1 extras. The trailer for 9 Deaths, for some reason, is included with Killpoint on the second disc. (NOTE: My DVD Rating of '6' factors in the total value of this double feature package, even though only one of the films is actually reviewed here.)

Bryan White’s review from the Cinema Suicide website:

Not one ninja wails on a guitar. 9 Deaths Of The Ninja.

I have to tell you. I wish more DVDs got the featurette treatment. I really couldn’t care less about the making of The Matrix or Jurassic Park. I’m far more interested in what was going on in the director’s head during the production of 9 Deaths of the Ninja. I’d put money down that his thoughts involved a bear wearing a fez, driving a little car at the circus. 9 Deaths is a little more than 90 minutes of mind melting insanity. I’m still not sure if I drifted off to sleep early in the movie and my dreams were a rough approximation of a ninja movie starring Sho Kosugi.

I was 9 when this movie was released to theaters and I clearly remember seeing the ad for it in the Boston Globe one sunday morning and freaking out. You got a big ninja and a little ninja busting through him with ninja stars and a sword and a crossbow. How could this movie not be totally sweet? I’m pretty sure that even in the midst of Cap’n Crunch induced ninja freak out, my 9 year old self would have stood up and demanded to know what was going on.

The movie begins with the laziest assault of a terrorist camp that you’ll probably ever see. Even Bruno Mattei put more effort into his combat scenes. Sho Kosugi and his white guy partner take their time casually chucking throwing stars and grenades at a bunch of lethargic guys in head scarves. When the carnage is through, it turns out that this was some kind of demo of the US government’s latest task force, the Dark Team. Spike Shinobi, Steve and Jennifer are three of the elitest of the elite as far as anti-terror teams go. Okay. Stop. The credits sequence bears mention. As the opening credits roll, we’re treated to a swanky slow-jam while three girls dance around a shirtless Kosugi while he performs some kind of choreographed kata with his sword that integrates into their dance routine. Let it be known that this is the best choreography in the whole movie. Yes. The dance scene.

Shortly thereafter, a busload of folks in the Philippines are taken hostage by a drug producing terrorist group led by some nazi who looks like a cross between Christopher Lloyd and Bad-era Michael Jackson. The nazi, named Alby The Cruel, is aided by a skeletal lesbian with a huge frizzy afro, her three lesbian enforces and a bunch of cackling drug freaks. They want some borderline animal terrorist name Rahji released from prison for some reason. Naturally, Dark Team is enlisted to release the hostages and take out Alby and his group. Dark Team is stalked by Alby’s people every step of the way. During a confusing investigation of an art gallery, Kosugi is attacked by a couple of knife wielding idiots and half a dozen midgets in fedoras and dark glasses. Then some guy with a knife falls ten feet to his unfortunate death. The movie, already crazy, goes fucking haywire here. The government agrees to release Rahji, who for reasons unknown, kills his driver and takes off on foot. Kosugi gives chase and stops along the way to pay out fifty bucks for a prostitute and then continues chasing Rahji.

Somewhere along the way, Rahji gets in a helicopter with Kosugi captive. Kosugi fires the gun, point blank into the palm of Rahji’s hand and he catches the god damn bvllet! The stream of consciousness plot rolls along with a few crappy fight scenes until Dark Team storms the island that Alby is hidden out on and manages to free the hostages. A few ninjas show up. During all this madness, Kosugi’s real life sons get some screen time to perform hilarious antics like setting some terrorist’s underwear on fire and whooping on another with some nunchaku that they find laying around.

I’m laying it on you pretty thick. This trainwreck is crazier than shithouse rat. Logic took the day off, apparently. I find myself at a loss to properly convey any reasonable thoughts. On one hand, I felt like I was losing my mind while watching it. On the other hand, I loved it. One of my first ideas for this review was simply to post a photo of my baffled facial expression and leave it at that, but I gave Catman the dignity of several paragraphs, I guess I owe it to 9 Deaths of the Ninja as well.

There are a couple of scenes that demonstrate that Kosugi was no slouch when it came to fighting but they’re shot so poorly that you never get a good look. So with poor action scenes all you’re really left with are some downright hilarious characters. I couldn’t tell if Alby The Cruel was supposed to be funny or villainous. He sits in a wheelchair most of the movie petting a monkey on a chain while enunciating his dialog as if he suffered a stroke only moments before. His second in command, Honey Hump, however, is completely frightening. She makes passive agressive, amazonian rants about her woman warriors while letting her bony assets all hang out.

Meanwhile, Dark Team is staffed by Spike Shinobi, master ninja, Steve, a sleazy pretty boy who seems only interested in getting laid, even by the villains, and their bobbled headed communications coordinator Jennifer, who spends her own fair share of time in revealing clothing. Their handler is a Philippino gentleman who blandly delivers confusing orders while standing in front of a big framed photo of Ronald Reagan. When it’s all over, you’ll probably be as confused as I was. After the prisoners are freed, the movie cuts to some palatial estate, having completely forgotten about Alby and his army. They show up again, and Alby meets a most hilarious end that makes the previous 90 minutes completely worth it.

It’s movies like these that take me out of myself at times and make me wonder what the hell I’m doing with my life when I spend precious hours of my life span watching 9 Deaths of the Ninja. It’s a beautiful moment of clarity, a sudden realization of existentialism. These suddenly zen moments are immediately squashed when I dive back into the madness, though. Maybe I suffer some kind of self-loathing that keeps me coming back.

I really don’t know.

9 Deaths of the Ninja. What the hell? Seriously!

Andrew Borntreger’s review from the Bad Movies website:

The Characters:

Spike Shinobi - The ninja to call if your country is ever under attack by watermelons.

Steve Gordan - A manly man indeed. His impressive collection of toys causes envy in soldiers of fortune the world over.

Jennifer Barnes - Since she is the team's female member her job is communications and control. She is also the last chance garage for Steve's wiener wagon.

Dr. Wolf - One of the drug runners who has a rotten streak of luck. First kids set his underwear on fire when he's raping a hostage, then Spike steals his clothes. In the middle of a Filipino jungle, where everything wants to bite or sting you, is no place for a big man wearing little bikini briefs.

The Midget Attack Squad - Hehehehe!

Mohammed Rahji - Enormous bad guy with a strange habit of chuckling constantly. He is nigh invulnerable until finding out the hard way that grenades are not food.

Honey Hump - Female leader of the mercenaries blessed with a full afro. Trying to shoot her in the brain would be difficult, but I suggest aiming twelve inches below her hair.

Albert Brant - (Alby to his friends) Drug cartels always need a German mastermind to head the operation. Getting one who has a pet monkey is just icing on the cake. Killed by polo players. Yes, you heard me right, polo players.

I've long been at a loss to present a solid theory about why some atrocious movies are barrels of fun and others are pure pain. So, with great pleasure, I'm going to present this as my thesis. There are, quite honestly, a ton of scenes in this movie that make no sense, but had me dumbfounded. Over and over I was laughing and saying, "No way that just happened." Finally I gave up and just watched the film with a bemused demeanor, because it hadn't a care in the world for my reality. It's like watching a baseball game and suddenly seeing a football player (fully equipped with pads) run across center and tackle the fielder.

The first few minutes are nothing more than standard action drivel and can lull you into a state of complacency, then the opening credits roll. Watch in amazement as three women perform some insane jazz/modern dance around Sho Kosugi (who is swinging his sword and "fighting" their choreographed attack). Meanwhile, a very energetic singer is belting out "Keep On Dancing." That has to be the name of the song. Why? Every other stanza she sings is that specific phrase. That's why. Rewind and watch the opening credits sequence in disbelief all you want, but it's real.

Just so you understand, the three main good guys (Spike, Steve, and Jennifer) are members of an elite international anti terrorist team. There are no others, just these three. Alby and his drug runners have taken a number of hostages, intent on forcing authorities to release Rahji from prison and cut back on drug interdiction efforts in the Philippines. To say that the criminals are ludicrous is an understatement. They display a devotion to the cause expected of freedom fighters or religious fanatics.

Albert is played to his Fascist hilt; just imagine a young and energetic Dr. Strangelove. He sputters, spits, and is prone to uncontrolled outbursts that render his words nearly indecipherable under all the accent. One advantage he does have is a 4X4 wheelchair, which is pretty much a must have for disabled guerrilla leaders fighting a jungle conflict. Out of control characters really make this a fun experience. Undoubtedly the actors knew how absurd this all was, they just said "screw it" and went to town.

Unsurprisingly, the bad guys are soon aware of the international task force. This could be due to some double agents in the Filipino government. It could also be due to Spike and company running around in jumpsuits befitting of NASA astronauts. Your choice. Perhaps we're reading too much into this though; earlier Jennifer was wearing a negligee at the swimming pool when a swimsuit should have been the obvious choice. Clueing off the wardrobe might be a fatal mistake in retrospect.

Identifying your enemy is only a small part of battle. The most important facet is neutralizing them. You don't always have to destroy their fighting forces; attacking manufacturing and support facilities can be plenty effective (just ask Germany why we kept bombing ball bearing factories during WWII). In this case the drug runners have it easy, because their enemy is three people. Who cares about strategy? Just kill those three! And here is where the crack midget assault squad comes into play. Spike and Steve get jumped while investigating a lead at the museum. The ninja easily defeats the female assassin, but then she sics four midgets on him. HAHAHAHA! Poor Spike actually scratches his head and considers the little guys with a wonderful "What in the Hell?" look on his face before things get ugly. The little people are, quite unfortunately, prone to throwing punches in line with their shoulders. Coincidence places Spike's testicles at that height and those react poorly to physical blows, but he eventually wins the fight.

With time running out and Alby shooting hostages (hey, he's an excitable German - what do you expect) the government releases Rahji. Of course they try following him back to the hideout, though that goes poorly. The ninja is briefly taken prisoner and his helicopter used as a private taxi for the massive terrorist. When Spike turns the tables and brandishes a pistol you might think that it's curtains for Rahji. You are still several shadows away from the world where this movie is taking place. In fact, "9 Deaths of the Ninja" is probably what drove Dworkin insane (not spilling blood on the Pattern). Rahji puts his hand over the barrel and catches the round, then a fight right out of the Three Stooges Handbook ensues.

Beset by a deadly phantom and Steve's gatling gun, the Albert & Hump pharmaceutical company is trapped (sorta) in a cave. They make a last ditch effort to kill the capitalist pigs, but between Spike's sword having a hinged grip that swivels to act like a baton and two little hostages kicking butt with their nunchaku it goes badly. Mysteriously a number of evil ninja show up to be slaughtered, but there still are not nine of them. The title remains a mystery.

By now I should know better, but this has been bugging me the whole movie: where did all the beer come from? The drug runners and Steve seem to produce bottles of beer on command, especially during the jungle conflict. Besides being heavy, the fact that refrigeration was unavailable kept cropping up. That had to be warm beer. So, after sacking the center fielder, would the football player drink that warm beer or steal the little kid's Coke?

Things I Learned From This Movie:

Flak vests provide good protection against throwing stars.

Jumping from a second story balcony and landing on your feet will kill you.

Never investigate piles of clothes that you find in the hallway of a massage parlor.

Ninja know how to apply the Vulcan Nerve Pinch.

Deny your first instinct after being splashed in the face with industrial superglue.

Being an attractive female hostage has a number of drawbacks, namely the number of male terrorists.

Ninja do not use broadhead arrows.

Gunter Mueller’s review from his Ninja website:

For some odd reason NINE DEATHS OF THE NINJA is often called the worst Ninja film ever made. Just take a look at the Internet Movie Database, where it is rated 1,4 at the time of writing. While far from being a good movie this flick is certainly not as bad as some wannabe-critics want it to be. Compared with most of the Joseph Lai/Tomas Tang/Godfrey Ho output, for example, NINE DEATHS is Academy Award material. If you belong to the lucky ones who have seen Emmett Alston’s Ninja follow-up FORCE OF THE NINJA (1988) than you probably know what to expect. NINE DEATHS is hilariously stupid low-budget action schlock full of scenes that make you wonder what drugs the filmmakers haven taken during the shoot. Shot in the Philippines (where life is cheap… but not as cheap as in South America, as we all know), NINE DEATHS has got one of the all-time-greatest terrorist leaders since the invention of cinema. Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Albert, also known as Alby the Cruel (overacted to the point of absurdity by Blackie Dammett). Alby is a joke that has to be seen to be believed. He is dressed in white, wears women’s gloves, has got a horrible hairstyle and has himself carried through the jungle on a sedan chair. Besides, he’s from Germany (funny accent), obviously a Nazi and extremely choleric and quick-tempered. For example, he shoots a cigarette lighter when it doesn’t work! Yes, he’s that choleric. Alby is paralyzed and sits in a wheelchair, but that is no excuse for his outrageous behaviour. He has a pet monkey too, but that doesn’t save him from being ludicrous beyond belief. At one point he comments, with his inimitable, piercing voice: “How entertaining! I’ve never seen such a pitiful group of hostages before!” Frankly speaking, I’ve never seen such a pitiful group of terrorists before too. Alby finds a ghastly end under the hoofs of horses. Yeah, he is overrun by a group of polo players. You don’t believe me? Well, watch the damn movie!

Shô Kosugi is way better, but he’s far from being as classy as his character in REVENGE OF THE NINJA (1983). Shô is Spike, and he loves to suck on lollipops. When he visits a brothel he demands: “I want a clean girl!” The female boss replies in all seriousness: “Are you kidding? My girls are sterilized, sanitized, and lobotomized.” The female terrorist Honey Hump (Regina Richardson) is straight out of the handbook for clichés too. A trigger-happy lesbian with wild eyes and a cool afro hairstyle who thinks that “men are all pigs”. Her heavy earrings drag her earlobes downwards quite a bit, so maybe that explains her strange behaviour. Another thing worth mentioning is the jaw-dropping opening credit sequence. Obviously inspired by the James Bond movies we see Shô Kosugi waving around with his sword while three girls are dancing around him. All the while Ivy Violan sings her song “Take Me High”. This is weird, embarassing and funny, all at the same time. Another highpoint is the midget attack. In a museum Shô is attacked by four dwarfs and the look on his face when he first sees his dangerous attackers is priceless! But it was a mistake to underestimate them, as they go straight for his testicles with their tiny fists. Still, Weng Weng would have wiped the floor with ‘em, that’s for sure. Anyway, when Shô is not busy rescuing hostages and killing terrorists he likes to play with his sword and slice water melons, blindfolded. You see, once Shô wanted to be a Ninja (flashback alert!) and he was rather good. He shot arrows and threw shurikens in the faces of Ninja dummies, and he even decapitated a few of those handy dummies, blindfolded. But the master dismissed him when he spared a woman during his graduation (or whatever Ninja aspirants do to become full-bloodied Ninjas). That’s not the way Ninjas act, so Shô failed the exam. At least this back story is an excuse for a few evil Ninjas to make a surprise appearance in the demented showdown. Watch out for Kane and Shane Kosugi, Shô’s sons, who are among the hostages. Kane is allowed to fight a guard and the ankle-biter manages to defeat him with his nunchukas. The two kids also set a rapist’s pants on fire! And don’t miss the weapon that shoots glue. Amazing! The movie as a whole is not really impressive, but the sum of its (insane) parts makes it a must-see for bad movie lovers. Shô Kosugi was responsible for the fight choreography, but this is all but his best work. Still, fans of mindless B-movie action will get their money’s worth, even if there are quite a lot of dreary and unspectacular moments.

All in all I have to say that NINE DEATHS OF THE NINJA is fine entertainment, for all the wrong reasons though. I mean, any film that features a ludicrous, choleric, wheelchair-bound Nazi with a pet monkey, fighting midgets, a wild lesbian with an afro hairstyle, trigger-happy prostitutes and Shô Kosugi sucking on lollipops and slicing melons is well worth checking out. If you don’t make the mistake of expecting a good movie, NINE DEATHS should succeed in entertaining you for ninety-two minutes. This reviewer enjoyed it very much. A few words to Emmett Alston. He began directing in the early 1980s with films such as NEW YEAR’S EVIL (1980). In the mid-1980s he discovered his love for Ninjas, and so he made NINE DEATHS OF THE NINJA, FORCE OF THE NINJA, WAY OF THE NINJA (1989) and 3 LITTLE NINJAS AND THE LOST TREASURE (1990), his last film according to the Internet Movie Database. He is also responsible for the enjoyable schlocker DEMONWARP (1988). His greatest achievement might very well be the screenplay for Robert C. Hughes’ nasty backwoods shocker HUNTER’S BLOOD (1987), one of the best ‘rednecks vs. city guys’ flicks ever made.

Michael Den Boer’s review from the 10K Bullets website:

Terrorists kidnapped a group of tourists and a congressman who where vacationing in Manila. Apparently they are pissed off that the drug enforcement officers have been making their job harder. So they demand that all their jailed comrades are freed and that all drug enforcement officers withdraw from eastern Asia immediately or they will start killing the hostages. Never one to give into terrorists threats the U.S. government deploys a team of special agents to free the hostages and eliminate the scum from the face of the Earth.

9 Deaths of the Ninja suffers from not enough action and its lack of ninja’s that it promises. The film does have an impressive array of midgets who all participate in the best action sequence in the whole film. The films is directed is the most pedestrian way as the director acts like he has noting better to do then just point his camera. To the director’s credit the cheesy opening credits with actor Shô Kosugi posing and swinging his samurai sword in fog while lovely ladies dance around is the directors’ most inspired work I the whole film. The tongue and cheek humor in the film is flat and never comes close to hitting the mark.

The cast is filled with many known B film veterans like Brent Huff of Just Jackin’s Gwendoline fame plays you’re a typical lead. Actor Blackie Dammett plays a doctor strange love like Nazi character and he is probably known for his famous son Anthony Kiedis then his acting. Then there is ninja master extraordinary Shô Kosugi who also has several members of his family in the cast. Every action film needs a beautiful leading lady and this film is graced by an actress named Aiko Cownden who unfortunately didn’t make any other films after this one. This film has all the action movie clichés and it totally revels in its badness and if you still haven’t been sacred away from this epic adventure then you are a braver man then most.

Chris Hartley’s review from the Video Graveyard website:

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.


  1. I remember that a female ninja wanted to attack him from the back but finally she was killed from the back by his master. The female ninja who dressed black tight clothes is very nice.

  2. Hi, thanks for linking to me :)

    I'm not "Fred Adelman" though, but "Fred Anderson" and conducted that interview quite a few years ago. It's published on my other, now closed, blog.

    Just so it will be correct :)

    Once again, thanks!


  3. Hi Fred,

    Many thanks for the correction - the details are all fixed. Excellent interview, by the way, and thanks for letting us publish it on "Bamboo Gods..."!

    Cheers, Andrew

  4. Force of the Ninja (1988), 93 min., Douglas Yamanaka, Emmet Alston, VMW Video.