Friday, May 4, 2012

The Ninja Dragon: Legend of the Shadowy Ninja - 1990

Submitted by: Katie Green

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This movie is available on LaserDisc.  If an outdated video format from the 1970's doesn't wet your panties, this movie might not be the one for you.

For whatever reason I've decided to do this (and I still can't fathom what I was thinking when I said I would), I'm reviewing Go Nagai's 1990 "The Ninja Dragon: Legend of the Shadowy Ninja", and this is not to be confused with the (probably equally terrible yet some how more popular) 1986 "Ninja Dragon.". I'm gonna write this as I watch it, so excuse any lack of coherent plot, but the movie has none, as you will soon see.

The movie starts off with a girl named Shinobu who has a dream that three "Ninja Defenders" save her life and give her a bell that rings when she is in danger, summoning the Ninja Dragon to save her.  Her father explains to her that it has something to do with their bloodline and ninjas and blah blah blah... there isn't really a huge focus on plot in this movie, or at least it isn't very organized.

Before we get into the meat of this, I'd like to declare that I'm not going to comment on the humor of watching badly dubbed live action films from foreign countries.  I will however comment on how every moment where no one is talking, they feel the need to dub in a little something extra anyway.  A good example is early on in the movie when the house servant/gangsters of Shinobu let her into her car, and bow as they drive off.  Instead of how the movie actually is where they just respectfully bow, the dubbed version has them making remarks about how their backs hurt.  It's more than likely a result of the common assumption that U.S. audiences won't understand cultural differences or that they are poking fun at said cultural differences.... it's hard to tell with these sorts of movies how much humor is intentional.

So, lets meet the cast. I don't know most of their names, even though I watched this sober, so I will make up names for you.

Shinobu

Daughter of a Yakuza leader, given a bell pendant to summon the Ninja Dragon.

Yuu (good guy)

The new kid hired to drive Shinobu around.  He keeps forgetting what side of the car he drives on, and verbally makes an effort to point it out every-time he's walking around to the driver side.  Shinobu cons him into driving her places that aren't prearranged with her father, and Yuu gets beaten for this to the extent of needing to wear an eye patch.

The lady in the ugly dress (bad guy)

She doesn't ever say anything, she just enters rooms and shoots people.  There is no back story, But there's a great slow-motion scene where she shoots a room full of about 20 people, with some of the best pre-programmed music from a piano-keyboard I've ever heard.

Captain gruntry-man (bad guy)

A man of many noises.  He sounds like what I'd imagine the guy who last used the Waffle-house restroom sounds like.  You know who you are.  That place is massively destroyed every time I go in there and though I'm sure it's a combination of multiple uses and the sanitation standards at your average waffle house, I believe it's one person, and if I do that, it helps me finish my Philly melts.

Anyway, Captain grunty-man is mindless brute-force villain in this scenario.  In his introductory scene, he rips someone's face off, and then licks the muscular structure left underneath. Also he growls, like a tiger. Actually, not like a tiger, more like they have a tiger sound byte and play it over multiple times during the movie.

Yuu's secret Identity as the Ninja Dragon

The Ninja Dragon has had two previous scenes where is identity is unknown, and his only identifiable trait is to say the word "ninja" before every action he performs. "Ninja Summersault," "Ninja Flip," "Ninja Jump", etc..  Finally there's a moment when Shinobu comes home to find her deceased father and sobbing yakuza house-servants, and Yuu squints.  But this isn't any normal squint, this is a "Ninja Squint". Also it's worth knowing that the Ninja Dragon has two Ninja Defender allies, a girl and a guy, and I don't know their names, but they just kinda follow Yuu around without saying "Ninja" before everything they do.

"Shinobu lays sobbing over her dead fathers body, while Yuu looks, clenching his fists at the window."

I'm confident this is what the script says because this is how this climatic moment pans out with as little drama as possible, and you know what, the script comes with the dvd, ON the dvd, so I'll check that later to confirm it.  Yuu, angered, throws his eye-patch on the ground, screams "DON'T FUCK WITH ME" and then strips completely naked, revealing an elaborate "Dragon" tattoo on his back, made with the highest quality sharpie and oil pastel combo I've ever seen.  Also, he suddenly has tattoos on his face now, that you notice when he turns to the camera and announces "Ninja Squint 2".  BECAUSE NINJA SQUINT ONE WASN'T GOOD ENOUGH FOR THE AUDIENCE!  There is no explanation for Yuu's naked body, the director didn't feel it was necessary.

Then, there's this weird part where Yuu's all ninja'd up and moves his eyebrows a lot and says a bunch of Japanese names followed by some gibberish talking that doesn't  make a lot of sense, and your mind starts to drift here.  You end up thinking about things like "what can I have for lunch tomorrow" or "why am I watching this movie" or "how come my neighbors don't have a bumper on their truck".  Not to worry though, the movie pulls you right back in suddenly while he's talking about his blood, which apparently will "rise and burn, like the dancing flames of nitro glycerin. Hotter and hotter, hotter and hotter, hotter and hotter. Burning. Burning and dancing, burning and dancing in flames, until the break of dawn."

You feel compelled to pay attention after a line like that, but you don't.  You kinda go back to thinking about your neighbors truck..

No worries, he does it again a few times, and does some weird chi-dance.  Also the moon is green.  The director, again, feels no explanations are necessary.

After Yuu's remarkable monologue, we show up at grunty-man's palace, where Shinobu has been kidnapped.  Here you will find naked chicks with weird masks on.  Oh there's naked men too, it was harder to tell at first, but a close up made that clearer.  They stand around like statues.  There's some plot development here where he explains some things but you end but being really distracted by his incredibly large eye-brows.  Apparently, Captain Grunty-man's main purpose in life is to capture Miss Shinobu so he can have her, and I quote "make lots and lots of eggs", he means babies.

So if you've seen this movie before, you'll have the following question by now: "Why is there a woman walking around in a leotard?!"  This is one of the many questions not answered in the movie, but a little research lets you know that there are two "famous?" Japanese women wrestlers in the film, and they have a scene later.

Some of my favorite quotes from Yuu show up just before the big mob fight scene:

"Ninja hear something up there"

"Ninja Bright.... light... in my eye."

"Ninja Crowd Scene.....(then as more people flood the 'arena') Ninja BIG crowd scene"

Fortunately everyone politely takes turns at attacking the trio and just stand around making cool poses wearing sunglasses.  There is some bad fighting here, and then I have no idea what causes this but all the mobsters faces start melting off.  After their face melts off, you see that they are all robots? or monsters? OR ROBOTS AND MONSTERS?!?!

Then we cut to Grunty-man casually drinking a jar of blood.  It's an actual jar, seeing how his fortress can't afford clothes for his weird masky people-statues, I'm not surprised by their lack of cups.

Then we cut to the Leotarded woman taking Miss Shinobobo all wedding dressed up to Grunty-tiger. So they can prepare for their wedding ceremony.  Shinobu's bell wakes her up, just before her and Tiger-voice kiss.  Apparently the bell is to tiger like garlic is to a vampire...

There is some cut scene to a fight where the male Ninja Defender dies... No one cares because we don't know his name, and he hasn't said a line of dialogue throughout the entire movie, and the cut scenes made it really hard to tell what exactly happened... I think he stabbed himself in the back.. that's what I took from that... But hey, at the end, his first line, is that he's always loved Yuu.... plot twist? Or maybe it's Juu, the Lady Ninja Defender's name? I'll call her that for this next paragraph.

Juu now meets Leotard woman, and now they fight.  And apparently they are famous professional Japanese women wrestlers.  Or so I'm told... by the DVD box.. They wrestle on an actual wrestling matt that just happened to be there in a room they ended up in..  and then they wrestle to some bad music from Top Gun.. and this goes on for about 10 minutes..  Guess it was the money maker. There's   allot of shaky cam too, I'm surprised they didn't end up in a tub of jello or pudding or something. But hey, they don't dub over the screaming and wrestling noises in this part, they use the actual voice of the actors.  Pretty sure the intent was to be more erotic, but it failed. The director feels no explanation is necessary.

I'm not joking.. it's a solid 10 minutes, I'm sure...

So after fast forwarding though that (or watching it all the way if you fancy that sort of thing) Tiger man breaks the bell when Ninja Dragon enters the room for the final battle.  Ninja Dragon claims he paid "retail" for the bell, and then Tiger-grunty-pants throws something at the Ninja Dragon and he's seriously wounded, until he says "NINJA RECOVERY" and takes his shirt off.  He doesn't actually recover, he just takes his shirt off.

Then they fight, really badly, but try to cover it up with a lot of quick zooms and pans with the camera.  Grunty face gradually transforms into a monster.. I won't be surprised if tentacles end up being involved somehow.  His Monster transformation, by the way, looks like Jaba the Hutt and The beast from X-men if they had a son.  Well, then he pretty much turns into Jaba the Hutt.  Then Yuu says "I call your name before I kill you, RANJUJI" and cuts Jaba the Hutt's head off. Now we know his name.

But that's not enough to kill him, for then he turns into a giant zombie Turkey.  And oh big surprise, the head that got cut off apparently  sprouted tentacles and grabbed what's her face. Shinabu... shin... something....... Then Yuu carries What's-her-face home piggy-back style.  On the way home, as they exit the palace, a giant spaceship that looks like a seashell flies away.

The director feels no explanation is necessary.

In conclusion, Nigel needs to watch this. If he's going to host a contest that makes everyone do his job for him, he's entitled to the same hell we go through.

1 comment:

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