Ninja: American Warrior (1987)

Someone set up as the hero who dies after a few minutes! People wearing masks so they can appear to be other characters! Two entirely different plotlines running simultaneously! Yes, dear reader, we’re in Godfrey Ho country!


Although I’ve given you a potted biography of him several times, I keep finding out new information or thinking of new ways to mock him. Anyway, for a time in the 1980s and early 1990s, Ho worked for a company called Filmark – sadly, their offices burned in 1996, resulting in the deaths of 40 people…and the destruction of the only known list of every movie Ho ever directed under his multiple pseudonyms. Filmark were particularly notorious for buying up movies produced elsewhere in the Far East, whether finished or unfinished, and either splicing in parts of other unfinished movies, or filming new scenes with white actors, with the perception that would make it easier to sell them overseas. As I’ve said before, I think if you were white, could stand upright, and wandered into the Filmark offices on any day in the 1980s, Godfrey Ho would give you work.


If you’ve read any of my reviews before, or know anything about Ho, you’ll also remember that the amount of effort put in to make the two halves of movie bear any relation to each other was minimal at best, and non-existent at worst. Often, this produced dull, confusing movies (see reviews passim) but every now and again, the gods shined down on them and some piece of bonkers outsider art was given to the world. I adore “Ninja Terminator” and a few others, and I’m very happy to say that “Ninja: American Warrior” is right up there with the weirdest, most confusing but gosh-darned entertaining of the lot.

(ASIDE: much like “Ninja Terminator”, this movie features at least one song that they 100% didn’t licence officially – that one had “Echoes” by Pink Floyd, this one has “In The City” by Joe Walsh, plus a song from the Warriors soundtrack whose name escapes me. Next time you want to complain about movie piracy, bear this in mind)


It starts with a nice normal-looking woman with 80s mom hair fighting a bunch of badass ninjas and pretty easily dispatching them all. She has a bit of trouble, though, with a guy who sets his gloves on fire and fights her with flaming gloves! I guess he treated himself and everything around him with flame-retardant gel before beginning the process, as the dry grass and the rest of his own clothing stays remarkably flame-free, but it’s a fun fight to watch. After beating the last of them, the nice lady says “well, I’m now the best ninja of them all, I just need to fight the Black Cougar Ninja” and, for reasons which any fan of Ho will guess immediately, puts on a rubber mask and a black wig.


Boom! Next scene, she’s now an Asian lady, wandering through a large house and again, dispatching everyone she meets. But the Black Cougar Ninja whups her ass with embarrassing ease, and then, which is weird because how did they know she was wearing a mask, they (well, an offscreen hand) pulls it off to reveal the nice lady from the beginning, whose story is over before it even began. The bad guys expect this to be someone by the name of Amazonia, so they’re upset she’s not dead yet, and the Black Cougar Ninja says he’s a master of time-travel ninjutsu (at least, that’s what I think he said) but, don’t worry, this never comes up again.

I did a bit of research about this one, which is weird for me, but I enjoyed it so much I wanted to find out about it. There are two movies called “Queen Bee” and “Queen Bee’s Revenge”, both from 1981, both of which were bought by Filmark and spliced in with fresh footage for re-sale. “Queen Bee” was turned into “Ninja And The Warriors Of Fire”, which has largely the same plot just with a few ninjas in it, and “Queen Bee’s Revenge” was turned into this, which I have been reliably informed bears almost no resemblance to the original’s plot at all.


There’s a drug deal which is almost stopped by the dumbest cops of all time, then the bad guys fight back, then the cops win, just letting one bad guy escape, a big blond guy who bears a passing resemblance to Frank Zagarino. Now, all this is new footage, as is a scene where Amazonia meets up with a CIA agent who’s also got some ninja training…seriously, weren’t these supposed to be secret arts? Literally everybody knows how to fight ninja-style in these movies! The CIA agent and Faux Zagarino were friends at one time, in Vietnam together, and there’s some amazing newly shot footage of the two of them rampaging through hordes of Vietcong, getting drunk and ranting about the soldier’s lot, all that.

There’s an unusually large amount of new footage here, so the plot of the original is reduced to a bunch of really cool fights and scenes featuring primary villain, “The Shrew”. She’s the sort of boss who’ll stick a cigarette holder through your throat if you even slightly annoy her, and she inspires this exchange between two good guys.


“She’s a mean old cow!”

“I’m not afraid of cows, I’m a real man!”


Something get lost in translation, or were there a spate of frightening cows in the 80s? Amazonia is trying to track down the Shrew because not only is she an international drug dealing lunatic, but she also killed her friend, a pretty nice normal guy called Charlie (I think). You’ll forgive me for getting the finer plot details of this insane classic a little confused, I hope?

I don’t want to just recap this movie, as it’s right there at the top of this page, available for all to see on Youtube (and wow, do I recommend you do so). I’ve given you a flavor of the main plot threads, but I want to mention a little about how it ends. If you’ve seen any of the Ho / Filmark movies before, you’ll know they almost always end with an incomprehensible battle in the woods, between multiple ninjas in brightly coloured outfits, ninja being known for their love of colours which don’t blend into the scenery at all. This, of course, happens, but it’s what comes before that that made me laugh – a final showdown between the good guys on one side, and the Shrew along with her goons on the other. I love a good abrupt ending, and going from gunfire to the Shrew being sheepishly marched off in handcuffs in the space of seconds is a doozie.


There are so many movies from Godfrey Ho and his cohorts, and almost all of them are weird and terrible and force you to pay extremely close attention to try and figure out what’s going on only to reveal to you that they didn’t care about making things make sense at all. Just casting an eye over his IMDB page a few minutes ago reveals dozens I’d never heard of, and I’m a fairly big fan of the guy.

But “Ninja: American Warrior” is different. It packs in enough plot for two movies, and the new footage shot by Ho is actually pretty good – the Vietnam war stuff, the fights between the CIA guy and the other ninjas…The violent scenes in the “Queen Bee’s Revenge” original are decent too, so there’s a heck of a lot to enjoy here.


Rating: thumbs up


American Commando Ninja (1988)

Normally, when I write notes when doing a review, they’ll be full of lines I liked, or things I want to remember, things that puzzled me or stuff I think will be entertaining to read, but here it’s almost all questions.  “What?” and “who’s that guy?” and “where the hell are they?” and “is this supposed to make sense?” among many others. I’ve seen a whole heap of movies, dear reader, but few of them are as incomprehensible as this one. I just read the synopsis on IMDB and I was all “is that what this movie is supposed to be about?”

It’s also a rare example of a movie from the Godfrey Ho stable (he merely wrote this one) which is, as far as I can tell, the same thing from start to finish. Often, these no-budget masters will buy a movie from another part of the Far East, and splice in scenes they either specifically shot themselves, or scenes from some other unfinished movie, and release it as a new thing, with the barest attempt made to make all the parts make sense. Please check out our Godfrey Ho reviews to see some of the gems I’m talking about.

That does not mean it makes the least bit of sense, though. According to experts in these things, “American Commando Ninja” (which features no Americans in lead roles, and I don’t think there are any commandos in it either) is actually edited together from a Taiwanese TV series, and Godfrey Ho, along with frequent co-conspirator Joseph Lai, just made some footage into a movie with scant regard for making a pleasant narrative experience. That would explain how ugly it looks, as it’s shot on video, which is fine for TV but not so great for the big screen. Ah, who am I kidding, this never got shown on a big screen. The same series was also turned into this movie’s “sequel?”, “Born A Ninja”, so if I can find that we’ll review it soon.

So, there’s a guy, David, in black martial arts robes. He’s just meditating when a sudden attack almost catches him off guard, but he’s too badass so fights all the various traps and flying stuff off quite easily. Turns out it’s just a test from his teacher, who wants him to go to another country (I believe they’re in China?) and help out their secret services. There’s a scientist who has a formula for something or other he invented during WW2, and it belongs to China. I’m pretty sure about all this. You even see him in the airport (100% guerilla footage, I’m sure) before he disappears from the movie for about half an hour.

We cut to a young woman in Confederate flag shorts (!) who’s trying to get Tanaka to tell her where the formula is. But she gets beaten up, despite being a pretty decent fighter, and the guys take Tanaka and get him to dig up the box with the formula in it. Confederate Flag lady has a sister, who lets us know “never trust a scientist” which seems at best out of left field and at worst slightly unfair to the rest of the scientific community. Anyway.

Right from here, it’s confusing as hell. Who are these people? Are they in any way related to the guy we saw at the beginning? Are they the good guys, even? One thing I need to state at this point is that it’s the worst dressed movie perhaps of all time, as I hope you’ll notice if I can find a few screengrabs to share with you. Everyone’s dressed like they’re a nerd trying to hang out with the cool kids at a beach party.

The two women have an Uncle, who seems shady as hell, despite being one of the good guys. I think. Maybe it’s a Charlie’s Angels style situation? Then there’s a dude called Larry, who turns up with his badass martial arts style and is so awesome that David decides the two of them should be friends and team up, so they go for a meal together and just hang out. A scene that would have been fine in a long-running TV series, but not so hot when we’re in the middle of a martial arts movie. Ah, who cares, it’s as coherent as anything else in this damn bizarre affair.

I really got lost here. I don’t enjoy going “this makes no sense hur hur hur”, I want to describe what the filmmakers were going for, even if I think they didn’t achieve it, but with this one I’m genuinely stumped. There’s a white guy in a cheap suit who wants the formula and is presumably up to no good, and then there’s a climactic fight scene in what might be a local park, and features a giant statue of the Buddha, painted a garish orange. They let the bad guy go at the end, for no reason other than he was presumably the villain of the series and needed to come up with a new plan every week to stymie our heroes. Oh, the fighting sucks too, in case you were wondering about that.

Dubbing! Now, if you’ve seen any martial arts movies from that part of the world, you’ll have seen some bad dubbing, but here it’s taken to a whole new level. It’s wooden and everyone sounds like they were dubbed by the same guy, that’s a given: what I’m referring to is how the dubber blows lines almost constantly. I wonder if, the first time he messed up, the director just motioned for him to carry on, as they’d only booked the recording studio for 90 minutes and they didn’t have time for retakes or anything like that.

A couple of random thoughts before we wrap things up – there’s a lovely scene with a fight on a rope bridge, and the cameraman is stood on the bridge too, so the scene is almost like some modern work of art as he’s flying all over the place, desperately trying to stay upright. And there’s the party / nightclub scene, which features one of the greatest songs of all time, “Tiger Of The Night”. I wish I could share it with you, but it seems impossible to find.

Lastly is the relationship between David and Larry. I assumed they were a couple at the end, but it seems one of the sisters was a bit in love with David, and she wanted to go with him as he drove off (spoilers!) He just says “no thanks” and leaves, and it’s Larry who looks the saddest. I assume it’s to do with China – Taiwan friendship, or something, but it really looks like they should have driven off together.

This was among the oddest experiences I’ve had reviewing movies for the ISCFC. “American Commando Ninja” is certainly an experience, though, and if you’re in the mood, it could provide a decent bit of entertainment on your next bad movie night.

Rating: thumbs down


EDIT: If you’d like to read even more words about “American Commando Ninja”, then I highly recommend the site “Ninjas All The Way Down”. Read their review –


Ninja, The Violent Sorcerer (1982)

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 “Ninja, The Violent Sorceror” is, er, repurposed 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

Youtube Film Club: Lethal Panther (1991)


We have the good person behind Youtube channel “Godfrey Ho Cinema” to thank for this, and several subsequent, reviews. They’ve put up dozens of of the great man’s movies, and as a service to you, dear reader, I’ll watch some, more or all of them, and tell you what’s worth bothering with.

What’s sort of surprising is that Ho was influenced by other things. So far, his movies have existed outside time, sort of vaguely modern kung-fu / ninja efforts, but this one is definitely hugely inspired by John Woo. From pigeons (subbing for doves) in the middle of a battle, to good guy assassins, to elaborate (for Ho) gunplay, to moral ambiguity, it’s just surprising to see Ho try for something like this. It’s even more surprising that it’s not two films bolted together – none of this says it’s good, necessarily, but the sights have been set a little higher.


Betty (Sibelle Hui) is in the CIA, despite looking like a suburban mother just back from taking her kids to school. She and her partner discover a counterfeit money ring, and this takes them to Thailand; also on their way there are two assassins, Eileen (Maria Jo) and Amy (Yoko Miyamoto), who are set up doing jobs in Japan and Hong Kong – this has the potential to be a classic Ho mashup, but the three women meet relatively early in proceedings. So, Eileen and Amy are both assigned the same job, to kill the boss of the crime family in charge of the counterfeiting, because his nephew wants to take over…it’s all a bit silly, but it seems Ho is really trying, doing some nice intercutting of the two women’s lives and jobs. Then they’re assigned to kill each other!


Every scene is one of three things. It’s either a bullet-storm, a kung-fu fight, or sex. The sex is plentiful and rather graphic, which ensured its Cat III rating (basically, an 18 / NC-17), with women being stripped completely naked, multiple full frontal shots, while the men keep their trousers on at all times they’re shot below the waist. There’s one scene in a strip club where the only thing in a fairly lengthy shot is the “middle area” of a naked lady, which is more unusual than anything else.


Because it would literally be impossible for this time and this culture to make a movie where women were in charge and their thoughts and feelings were paramount, a surprising / annoying amount of the plot is driven by their menfolk. Eileen has a brother who’s just channelling Chow Yun Fat (he’s supposed to be living in France) and a boss who’s unable to shoot any more due to the shakes; and Amy has a boyfriend who’s also an assassin. Although their on-screen time is relatively short, it’s their plotlines which dominate the movie, and the casual indifference the movie shows when Eileen’s brother just straight up murders another main cast member is pretty amazing. Although saying that, Betty stakes a guy out to the ground and is about to run over him with a truck (to get information) but he has a heart attack and dies – no-one gives a damn.


There’s a couple of very curious choices towards the end. Eileen and Amy are taken in and helped by a woman who must have heard the raging gun battle going on on her lawn, yet appears entirely unfazed by it – it turns out she’s a prostitute, who casually picked that line of work to allow her to keep her enormous mansion. After bonding with the two ladies, patching them up and letting them live with her, she says “at least my job is safe, unless the men have AIDS”, delivered the same way you’d talk about changing the sort of milk you used.


My favourite, though, is the plight of the brother. He’s sent away to France as a kid, to escape the life of murder that plagues Eileen’s family, but they’re so appallingly racist there, they torture him to the extent he can’t continue at school and decides to become an assassin instead. You know, that old career route!


The sex is weird and creepy (you’ve not lived til you’ve seen a guy squeeze milk over a woman’s crotch, from a condom with a hole pricked in the end), the actual hand-to-hand combat is fine, and the gun battles are sub-sub-Woo, but at least they try. They don’t try with the soundtrack, which is just straight lifts from other movies – keep an ear out for the “Halloween” theme, just accompanying some random scene.


Unlike so much of Ho’s work, it’s able to focus all its efforts on one goal, and that’s being the best damned B-movie it can be (it’s only missing a car chase, really).  It’s trashy, but it never lets up for a minute, and if you can ignore it’s supposed to be about strong women, but is really driven by the actions and decisions of their men, it’s fun to see such a female centred movie – it’s a whole genre, girls with guns, apparently, although I don’t imagine any of them are much better than this. By a mile, the most coherent Godfrey Ho movie we’ve yet covered, although not quite the most entertaining.


Rating: thumbs in the middle


U.S. Catman: Lethal Track (1990)


It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed any of Godfrey Ho’s movies, which means you get the recap of the great man’s career once again. His business model was to buy cheap films from elsewhere in the Far East, whether finished or unfinished, then film a bunch of footage with his stable of white actors, which would be edited into the action he already had. This ungodly concoction was then sold round the world, and it’s a business model that worked, as a conservative estimate of his output has him directing over 130 movies. We’ve covered tons of them, and it’s very difficult to pick a favourite, but if you’d like to dip your toe in, go for “Ninja Terminator”; if you’re feeling brave, go for “Death Code Ninja”.

And if you’re in the mood to be genuinely baffled by a movie, go for “U.S. Catman: Lethal Track”. This is genuinely one of the weirdest movies I’ve ever seen, and reminds me of the book “Infinite Jest”. In that book, one of the characters, James Incandenza, is an experimental filmmaker, and one of his movies begins with two separate stories, but rather than coming together at the end, they just continue getting further apart. “U.S. Catman” could be a James Incandenza movie (although he’d have probably had fewer martial arts fights in his).


The beginning is a mini-masterpiece of dumb, as three groups of people come together – the world’s dumbest, laziest delivery drivers, with a radioactive cat in the back; a couple of extremely clean-looking junkies, desperate for a fix after not having had one “for days”; and a couple of guys who’ve evidently just come from a softball game, just having a good time. These guys are Sam and Gus, and they’re the only two we’re interested in, as they protect the drivers from the junkies, but in the process Sam gets scratched by that cat. The “U.S.” in the title is presumably to differentiate Sam from the dozens of other cat-based superheroes that litter the world?


Sam (with an assist from Gus, who’s also apparently an undercover CIA agent) aren’t really the focus of the movie, though, because they’re the white people re-shoots. The bulk of the action is almost stranger, if such a thing were possible, and features Father Cheever, the head of the Cheever Church. He’s a Russian agent, and wants to destabilise the entire world so Russia can take over, as well as maybe being a Satanist, wanting to murder, rape and otherwise brutalise everyone. His plans are magnificent in their scope!


It’s around the time we’re introduced to the two young guys who I thought were the same guy, the two old guys who I thought were the same guy, and the young biker woman Frederick who the movie pretends is a guy for the first half, despite it being screamingly obvious it’s just a girl with short hair (the voice they chose for dubbing her is light and feminine, somewhat destroying the illusion) that I wrote “is this just a random collection of scenes?” They’re in a feud of some sort with a gang of criminals who want to destabilise the government, or deal drugs, or something; this gang is led by Bull, the one-eyed villain with very big plans, and several lieutenants who I couldn’t pick out of a lineup, 24 hours after watching it.


Every fifteen minutes, the drug-dealers vs. random people movie is interrupted with the Catman movie, and it is glorious. Despite him being able to punch through walls and use laser-vision, he helpfully never uses these powers in an actual fight, or indeed any powers relating to typical cat-like activity, perhaps because the effects would’ve been too expensive to film? He just runs about a bit, punching and kicking, oh, and at one point says , “to the cat-computer!”, which I guess qualifies as a joke.


It just keeps getting better, though, which is super-unusual for a Godfrey Ho movie. The Russians have a bunch of agents, and they’re the wackiest gang you could imagine. A room full of people, some of them lifting weights, some dancing, some breathing fire…I don’t know what government they’re going to bring down, but I’d sure like to see it! Cheever starts banging on about the anti-Gospel, and being the most evil you can be, but his ultimate base is, not terribly evilly, just a banner slung between two trees, out in the jungle.


The good guys vs other lot of bad guys side of the movie is good fun too, even if you can’t really tell who anyone is or what they’re trying to do. At some point, everyone figures out that Frederick is a woman, and even though she’s been a dick to everyone she’s met, she ends up being the hero. Ah well.


Even though I said it at the beginning, it bears repeating – the two sides of “U.S. Catman” never come together at any point. With your average Godfrey Ho movie, there’s at least characters pretending to have a conversation on the phone, linking movie A and movie B, or a conversation shot in some wasteground, or something – here they just don’t bother with any of that stuff. It’s a really peculiar feeling, because even though we know how lazy Ho was, I’ve never seen him be quite this lazy. Did the crucial linking material just get left on the cutting room floor and no-one bothered checking it to see if it made sense before releasing it?


I think my favourite thing about this movie is the dubbing. TV show “Eurotrash” has made a decade of fun out of dubbing weird old Europeans with broad British regional accents; while it’s not quite so specific here, I would bet every penny I’ve ever earned that the people in charge of the dubbing were having a laugh at someone’s expense. When you combine that with the less-than-professional acting chops of most of the cast, you’ve got a recipe for success!


It’s weird enough that even non-fans of martial arts movies or Godfrey Ho ought to check it out.


Rating: thumbs up

Youtube Film Club: Golden Ninja Warrior (1986)


This movie could be, perhaps, the least coherent that Godfrey Ho ever had a hand in. While it seems to be, apart from a during-opening-credit scene, all the same movie (no cut-and-paste job here), it has no real plot, and if any character expresses any motivation, it won’t bear any relation to the motivation of any other character. You might expect, therefore, that “Golden Ninja Warrior” would be an instant recommendation from me, but you’d be wrong.

Near the beginning of the movie, we’re treated to a scene of sleazy filthy pimps beating women into submission, to force them into prostitution (one of them was sold to the pimps by her stepmother, a “lovely” touch). In one of a number of scenes where women have their clothes forcibly removed, you begin to wonder just what we learn from the fiftieth whip-strike that we didn’t learn from, say, the tenth, but they’re determined to show us! Then, later, our heroine is beaten in a straight fight by the main baddie’s female enforcer / prostitute, dragged to main baddie’s bedroom and raped. It’s not hardcore, but you see an awful lot, and it’s really unpleasant.


Draped round this plot of extreme sexual violence towards women is a movie of sorts. The box promises “special appearance by Richard Harrison”, but the only time we see our favourite moustachioed washed-up hero is over the opening credits, where a fight which looks like it was recycled yet again from one of his other movies (perhaps “Ninja Dragon”?) plays, along with a voiceover telling us all about the “golden ninja warrior” of the title.


Now, you know a Godfrey Ho film is incoherent when he has to put a damn voiceover on the opening credits to explain to you what the movie is about. Anyway, there’s a statue, and the red and black ninja clans have been fighting over it for ages, but the fight is finally coming to an end. Probably. If you’re thinking “hold on, I remember a golden ninja warrior statue from one of this guy’s other movies!” then well done to you – you’re thinking of “Ninja Terminator”, and I wonder why they didn’t just switch titles (“Ninja Terminator” makes no more sense for this movie than it did for that, admittedly, but at least “Golden Ninja Warrior” would be moderately appropriate). It’s even weirder, when you realise we never see the statue in this movie, and just get references to it from one of the minor characters; the weirdness approaches some sort of critical mass when the heroine is referred to by the baddies as “the Golden Ninja” – no hint of gold anywhere about her person – as if the producers weren’t sure why they wanted to give the movie this name, but wanted a bunch of reasons for doing so.


So, the plot then. Someone (not sure who) wants the statue, but the guy who has it is never in the slightest danger of losing it, and he’s a very minor character anyway. The main woman is in town looking for the people who killed her sister (I think). The baddie is after just increasing his empire. The cops are after the main baddie’s drug dealing operation.  The problem is, none of these things really link well together, and there’s no reason why we’re watching any of them in the same movie. There are two female ninja in this movie – one in red, one in black – but they look sort of similar and they get no introduction either, so unless you’re really paying attention the first half-hour is even more confusing than usual.


It’s so poorly made that any Ho-level enjoyment you would normally get sort of seeps away as the movie continues; add that to the rape scenes and all the sexual violence and this one has to go in the “Lose” pile. I know I sometimes misunderstand the occasional thing in a movie in order to crack a joke or two, but this genuinely confused the hell out of me. The ninja in the movie teleport about and change into and out of their ninja outfits seemingly at random; the status of just what the “golden ninja warrior” is; the appalling acting (even taking the dubbing out of it). Stick with one of the other 80s ninja movies instead.


Rating: thumbs down

Ninja Dragon (1986)


In David Foster Wallace’s classic modern novel “Infinite Jest”, main character Hal Incandenza’s father is an avant-garde filmmaker, and one of the movies he makes features two different stories. Rather than converging towards the end, they get further apart; I think Mr Wallace may have been watching the films of Godfrey Ho before he wrote that particular section.


Connoisseurs of the “Hollywood DVD” 4 films in one box releases, which seem designed to be found on car boot sales or in charity shops, as well as readers of our other Ho reviews, including “Ninja Squad” and “Ninja Terminator” – which feature no squads or terminators, respectively – will recognise the structure. Richard Harrison’s section of the movie has him as the most successful criminal/banker in Shanghai, whose partner Ronald is murdered by the evil Tiger Kwok; Kwok  works for a guy whose name I didn’t catch, but whose “real” name is Bruce Stallion, surely the most badass actor name of all time. Harrison then goes after the group responsible for Ronald’s murder, who he knows because he won all their property off them at the beginning in a game of cards (a weird poker variant? One of those card games like canasta they always seem to play in Euro-thrillers? Who knows?) To kill these guys, he dresses up in a camouflage ninja outfit, except for the last fight when he wears black for no reason. Every fight is the same – short, boring, and accompanied with Harrison removing the face-covering part of his outfit, in exactly the same way, at exactly the same time.


What hideous monstrosity is that?

What hideous monstrosity is that?

Anyway, all that represents maybe a third of the movie; the other two-thirds is the Tiger Kwok part, and here’s where things get a bit odd. The link between the two sections of the movie is “Ronald”, who is the head of a large crime family, and there’s an internal power struggle, plus another gang who want to take over their turf. Tiger Kwok, despite being one of Ronald’s lieutenants, killed him because he’s a mole for the other guys; we’re supposed to be rooting for Ronald’s daughter Phoenix, I think, although it’s pretty hard to tell.


“Ninja Dragon” is absolutely packed with stuff. Double-crosses happen with alarming regularity, hit squads for one gang get ambushed by the other gang, funerals are invaded, people are kidnapped, and super-tense meetings are held. The main man is Dragon, Phoenix’s trusted “muscle”, a cool, sharp-suit-wearing killer who maybe, just maybe, was intended to be the star of the original version of the movie (he’s not a ninja, though, despite the title). Checking the time when I thought there was maybe 10 minutes left, it turned out we were only halfway in, and there was a ton more action after that part too (Dragon’s final fight with the baddie boss was pretty decent).


Feels weird using a complimentary word to describe a Godfrey Ho movie, but there you go – this film will absolutely not bore you. The word you’re looking for is “confuse”. Harrison’s main villain, a mulleted white guy with an English accent (hurrah to the drunk lunatics who dubbed this movie, and hurrah to the even drunker lunatics who wrote the English script), is apparently the boss of the rival gang in the other film, despite it making no sense; Harrison wants the daughter to take over Ronald’s old empire, but doesn’t lift a finger to help her. Plus, it has one of the darkest endings I’ve ever seen – our heroine wins the day and is going to marry Dragon, but the guy she booted out of the family for betraying them (who, to this point, has been the comic relief, sweetly trying to court sister Fanny) walks into the bridal preparation room and just shoots her, dying himself a few seconds later. What the hell? Well, there’s the final Harrison fight to come, but the movie ends with Harrison just walking out of shot and “THE END” coming up, going from the bleak to the abrupt in a matter of minutes.


I’m genuinely amazed at having to say this, but this feels like a standard Godfrey Ho movie. All the main beats are there:


  1. Richard Harrison in heavy eye makeup and a ninja outfit
  2. Plot where he needs to get revenge by fighting someone every 15 minutes or so
  3. Entirely unrelated main story
  4. Two or three weird attempts to link the two films with a “conversation” between one person from one movie and one from another, never shown in the same shot (of course)
  5. Extremely dark ending to main story
  6. Richard Harrison wins his final fight and the movie just ends immediately


It’s either three or four of these godawful things I’ve seen which follow these six steps, and I’m sure there’s more to come (I’ve barely scratched the surface of Ho’s output). There’s method to his madness, sadly.


Rating: thumbs down

Ninja Of The Magnificence (1988)


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.


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.


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