YES! THIS FILM IS AMAZING!
I could well leave this review there, but I want to share its magnificence with you. If you’re a fan of the cut-and-paste ninja films of the time, when two entirely unrelated, often unfinished films were spliced together with dubbed dialogue to paper over the cracks, then this ought to be at the top of your list. It certainly qualifies for our misleading title award, too (ninja, okay, but death code?).
Someone who, I discover via reading afterwards, is a rogue CIA agent, is selling a map to something related to the Star Wars project (remember that?) to some guy. The transaction is completed satisfactorily, but CIA guy immediately decides the other fella shouldn’t have the map and sends a team of goons to kill him. Although he can’t keep hold of the maps or the photos he took of the maps, buyer guy drops a smoke-bomb on the ground and transforms into White Ninja! But the ninja who are trying to kill him are pretty stupid and leave him alive when he fakes his own death by throwing his ninja outfit, stuffed with god knows what, off a cliff.
Here’s where things get really interesting. CIA Guy then decides to send two assassins after the first group of assassins, the Killer Duo, a husband and wife team. Well, he doesn’t really, because they’re from two completely different films, but that is certainly what the dubbing leads us to believe. Then the two of them hand over the roll of film and retire, but CIA Guy isn’t happy because they know too much and decides to have them killed.
The bulk of this is from “The Imprisoned”, a 1982 Taiwanese movie. Presumably some heavy editing went on, because the first half hour has enough plot for 17 different movies. There’s everything above, then a couple of different groups of assassins go after the Killer Duo (one group of whom just coincidentally strolls past the husband on an otherwise deserted dirt road), then the husband is arrested and the couple’s baby, only ever mentioned briefly to this point, has the time to grow to 7 years old or so. Then in literally the next scene, he’s released, then dies in the scene after that, and his son is also killed by the baddies, offscreen! Wrap your head round that!
If I had to guess, I’d say the filmmakers kept getting bored and decided to start a new film every ten minutes or so – the number of bizarre lurches of plot is truly a wonder to behold. The wife of the Killer Duo goes out for revenge, and there’s a “name list” with a bunch of baddies on it, which she finds completely by accident, and she goes through them like a knife through butter. Because the central baddie is in a different film, getting to him proves impossible for our heroine, but every now and again we’ll get a ten-second clip of the White Ninja training, and after she kills everyone she can kill, the film tags out to the final battle featuring him vs CIA Guy (who is also a fantastic ninja, with the full range of supernatural powers). The note that’s left for CIA Guy is absolutely amazing, and I took a screencap of it for you:
I get the feeling if you were white and could stand up straight, there was film work for you in Hong Kong in the 80s as a background thug. That’s the only way to explain the staggeringly bad acting on display, but it’s not like the Chinese actors are any better. There’s a police chief who looks like he only had the concept of acting explained to him 30 seconds before the cameras started rolling, and the dubbing! Oh, the dubbing! The guy dubbing CIA Guy is very obviously drunk at one point, and there’s an English voiceover guy doing a weird fake Italian accent to come out of the mouth of a Chinese fella. But my absolute favourite is the background burble that was recorded to sub in for the actual sound of a busy police station. As the camera pans across the room, mixed a little too high up is someone whispering “I think I’m having a nervous breakdown, I can’t take it any more”. I like to think it’s the sound guy rebelling against this crazy film.
I’m absolutely positive that all the enjoyment I got from this film is accidental. The filmmakers were no doubt just bothered about using their odds and ends of footage to make another film to make a few more dollars, and quality or audience enjoyment were a long way from their minds. Bad film fans like me 25 years later having a good time thanks to the seemingly random construction of the film, the horrible acting and dubbing and the splicing of what looked like a serious-ish gangster film with a wacky magic ninja one, even further. As ISCFC readers who’ve accompanied me through the other ninja films I’ve covered, some of them can be unbearable slogs, but for whatever reason this one just worked.
Rating: thumbs up