Ninja Of The Magnificence (1988)

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What makes a film, really? Obviously, some of the masters have messed with plot, timeline, and narrative structure, but for the purposes of this argument we can safely leave them off to the side, so let’s just say your normal run of the mill films. It’s nice when they make sense, event B following event A. Characters who have a motivation you can understand is good too. It’s always useful to have all the parts of your film be relevant in some way to the overarching story (and, indeed, if you have an overarching story). If you’re doing a period film, it’s handy when all the stuff you use is appropriate to that time.

A very low bar to clear, as I’m sure you’d agree. Yet Godfrey Ho is no normal director; he’s the guy who gave us “Ninja Squad”, a film that produced this response from us:

“What the hell was that? This is perhaps the laziest film I’ve ever seen…has managed to find new ground below the bottom of the barrel”

All without the faintest trace of hyperbole. Even after all that, “Ninja Of The Magnificence” – what an amazing title, though! – is down there with the very worst of Ho’s output, mixing the laziness that’s Ho’s trademark with a hefty dollop of incomprehensibility. There’s one very striking similarity between this and “Ninja Squad” other than them both being terrible – the split storylines, with one half being full of ninjas in brightly coloured, not-terribly-stealthy-looking outfits.

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Looking good in pink is Ross, who is one of the students of the unnamed Ninja master. Because of evil, he decides to kill Master and use his own ninja army to take over…who cares? Ferris, resplendent in yellow, is one of his other students and decides to get his revenge and kill Ross plus a good number of his evil ninjas, most of whom wear white. Simple and completely uninteresting so far, apart from the amazing outfits and headbands that say “Ninja” on them in English.

In footage that looks completely different, though, we meet Lee, who the badly dubbed dialogue tells us was one of the Master’s other students. He’s not, obviously, and his storyline seems to be taking on two villains called Old Fox and Kong. There’s a mine which is apparently producing gold, a lot of ninja guards (who wear sort of similar white outfits to the other ninja, but not similar enough that you could, I don’t know, mistake them as being from the same movie), a woman and a kid to save, and lots of getting captured and escaping again.

I’ve honestly got no idea what the main storyline is supposed to be about. A lot of the scenes are shot horribly and are in almost complete darkness, so the dramatic music appears to be scoring nothing. Lee and the kid he’s helping out appear to get blown up with dynamite at one point, but in the next scene are fine, with zero explanation offered as to their safety. Oh, and someone uses a modern parachute at one point, in this medieval-set movie.

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If you believe the dialogue, then Old Fox and Kong work for Ross, but why he’d want to mine gold with ninja is never adequately explained. Or why two grizzled old Chinese thugs would be working for a white kid who looks all of 18. Things like gold mines would surely interest the government, who while they may not have ninja, do have tens of thousands of soldiers, surely? Ah, I don’t know. I really don’t know, in this instance, rather than me just saying “time to end that paragraph”. If any of you can puzzle it out, please leave a comment.

There’s one fun bit, where two guards are talking after being surprised by some movement in the bushes. “What was that?” “Oh, just a ninja”. Made me smile, anyway. And there were some surprisingly good fights, indicating that the person who choreographed whatever movie Ho cannibalised for the majority of the movie’s running time had more talent than was strictly necessary. But add the solid level of confusion to a distinctly underwhelming final fight (between coloured ninja, so a whole different crew of people) and you’ve got a movie which requires a stiff drink and a group of smart friends to “enjoy”.

Rating: thumbs down

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