Welcome back to our series of Godfrey Ho reviews, dear reader, where we try and puzzle on just why the great man does what he does. His tactic is buying up a movie from elsewhere in the Far East that never got a widespread release, filming some new footage, usually with ninjas or martial artists in it, editing the two together seemingly at random, giving it a ludicrous title and releasing it to the world. If you’ve encountered some of his work, it’s usually in one of those DVDs that packaged 4 movies together and were bundled with cheap DVD players (and are now a mainstay of the bottom, dusty shelf of second-hand shops).
“Ninja, The Violent Sorcerer” is a great title, isn’t it? But it’s no more accurate than any of his others. While there’s a ninja and a violent sorcerer, in it, they aren’t the same person: in fact, the only way the title could work is if they added “Not The” to the beginning.
The plot, though, is classic Godfrey Ho gibberish, and it sort of centres round the world of gambling. Gambling in the Far East looks way more fun than the Western version, as it seems to be more sleight of hand and doing cool card and dice tricks than it does any, er, gambling. The bulk of this movie is from a 1982 Taiwanese effort called “The Stunning Gambling” and is about a guy who wants to be the ultimate gambler, and he kills the previous King Gambler, and the King’s brother or son or something gets revenge. Entirely forgettable, until Ho sprinkles in his incomprehensible extra plot, about two magic dice obtained from the mouths of two dead former gamblers who are now vampires; and how an as-yet unknown member of the dead gambler’s family is a ninja and seeks revenge.
Chinese vampires are a curious lot – also known as “hopping zombies”, or jiangshi, they seem pretty rubbish by Western standards. Pretty much anything can immobilise or kill them, most famously sticking a piece of paper with a spell written on it to their foreheads (although I do wish that would work in, say, the “Twilight” movies). Our friends at “Taliesin Meets The Vampires” (whose screenshots these are, by the way) think they’re tough, but your mileage may vary, I suppose?
So, you get a bit of the gambler king, and how the family of the dead former king gets help from a drunk gambling master, who cleans up his act to help them out. Or something. Honestly, it’s really difficult to focus on. And the ninjas fight the vampires, and I think they get some special new skill or power or spell or something in order to defeat them.
What I think I’m most annoyed by is how Godfrey Ho appears to have made an effort to blend the two movies together. A few dubbing dialogue changes and carefully spliced footage, and it does actually seem like maybe the gambling king is getting help from vampires? But the end of both stories are utterly unrelated, and all the work they’d made to this point (way more than any previous Ho epic that I can think of) just seems annoying. Just make it weird, Godfrey!
I also wanted to briefly talking of the ending, and how it’s similar to so many other cheap kung-fu movies of the era. I’d never really noticed it until now, but I saw it and my eyes were opened. So, you get the final fight, the killing blow is landed, and… “The End”. Hard cut, not even a “hey, we beat the baddie” final line sometimes. It’s like they all got together and decided no-one really cared after that point, so thought there was no point filming stuff to go beyond then.
I think if you’re going to line up a Godfrey Ho series, then this could fit in amongst the genuinely batshit entries like “Ninja Terminator”, “Ninja Squad” or “Death Code Ninja”. Heck, it’s free, so why not?
Rating: thumbs up