Ninja III: The Domination (1984)
June 29, 2020 8:36 PM - Subscribe

An evil ninja attempts to avenge his death from beyond the grave, by possessing an innocent woman's body.

If you're wondering where Ninja I and II are, I might get to them eventually; I started with this one because not only did I see it when it premiered in 1984, but I think that it might be the most quintessentially eighties film ever--a true eightiesploitation flick, if you will. It stars Lucinda Dickey, who also starred in Breakin' and Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo (of much recent notoriety). It also stars Sho Kosugi, who has combined acting and martial arts on the big and little screens, stage, etc. for decades, not only in ninja-themed stuff but also The Bad News Bears Go To Japan, among other things.

The plot, such as it is, involves an evil ninja who does an assassination and then, instead of hiding and stealthing away, runs down the middle of a road in broad daylight chased by cops in cars and on motorcycles, the better to kill dozens of them before being mortally wounded. Enter Christie Ryder, telephone linewoman by day and aerobics instructor by a somewhat different time of day, who stumbles across Evil Ninja, who has a Moe Howard haircut and eye liner, and he lays some ninja mojo on her and pretty soon she's eyelinering out at random and killing the few cops that Evil Ninja didn't take care of earlier. Oh, and she's also dating one of the cops. At some point, Kosugi--sporting an eyepatch made from a tsuba, pretty stylish I have to admit although kind of defeating the purpose of an eyepatch because it's got a hole in the middle, but anyway--shows up because he's got a beef with this guy. In the meantime, Christie tries to fight the possession with the power of aerobics, to no avail. This is the kind of film where, besides ninjas avoiding stealthing (the thing that they're most notoriously good at), you have doctors casually diagnosing patients with psychic abilities, a police force with an "Asiatic" division, the erotic use of V8 juice, James Hong (Big Trouble in Little China and about a zillion other things) as an Asian exorcist with a distinctly kinky set of restraints, and a glowing, levitating sword cutting a stereo in half. Whoops, almost forgot the possessed arcade game cabinet.

Aside from the above, it's no more blatantly Orientalist or convinced of the magic powers of the martial arts than Daredevil or Iron Fist in Marvel Netflix were, and as bad as almost all of the acting is (Kosugi, at least, carries himself with a certain wounded dignity), the whole thing has its own giddy velocity.

Streaming on Amazon Prime, with, I'm pretty sure, the first two movies in the trilogy. (Plus a whole lot of other eighties martial arts crap--it's like someone carted off about half of the $5 DVD bin at Wal-Mart.) Oh, and the movie was originally put out by the Cannon Group; if that, or "Golan-Globus" don't ring a bell, bro do u even 80s films.
posted by Halloween Jack (5 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Ninjas hate golf.
posted by Drastic at 7:42 AM on June 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

There's a recent How Did This Get Made? interview about this movie.
SAM FIRSTENBERG: So Menahem Golan came up with the idea: why don’t we make [our third ninja movie] with a female ninja—with an actress? I said, “Okay, that’s a good challenge. I’m your director. [This movie] is not my personal statement.” It’s a craft and I do whatever needs to be done. Like in the golden age of Hollywood, the director had very little to say about a movie. And again, Jim Silke [would be writing the third ninja movie], the same writer [as Revenge of the Ninja]. Anyway…Sho Kosugi was infuriated. He was devastated. He didn’t understand why, suddenly, he is not the star after such a successful movie. And he felt that a woman taking his place—a woman ninja—was unheard of. So Sho Kosugi was seriously against [taking a backseat to Lucinda Dickey]. There were arguments and fighting. And Menahem Golan didn’t know how to resolve it and kind of threw it into my lap and [the lap of] the writer and he said, “You [two] resolve it.”

BJH: So…how did you do that? How did you guys resolve the situation?

SAM FIRSTENBERG: At the time, Poltergeist was a big movie. And I liked this movie a lot. And I told myself and I told Jim Silke: you know what? What if [the female ninja in our movie] is not really a ninja? What if she’s possessed by a male ninja? Then it solves the problem! [starts laughing] Her forces are not from her. The forces come from the dead ninja and she is possessed! And Sho Kosugi accepted this idea. And that’s how we ended up with Ninja 3: The Domination.
posted by Servo5678 at 8:30 AM on June 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

Holy crap, Servo5678, that's a real find. Both the V8 and the arcade cabinet were product placements? And the arcade game was never actually released? I've joined the Facebook group. Thank you!
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:08 AM on June 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

I first saw this movie at a sleep over in 1985. We were early teens, we loved ninjas, we loved horror movies and we loved Cannon films. We were the target market. The first time we saw this movie... it literally blew our minds. It became our lives the summer we watched it. We all had pictures of Sho Kosugi on our Trapper Keepers or on the brown paper bag covers we'd put on our math textbooks. The dialogue from the movie became a short form for our conversations. We practiced Ninja moves on our little brothers. We were Ninja 3 characters for Halloween. For some the movie built our nascent sexuality. Ninja 3 was our life.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:26 AM on July 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

I can't decide whether this film or Miami Connection are better examples of "everything '80s in a blender."

I'd seen the arcade-wind-laser sequence before, in one or more videos for synthwave songs. May have been this one.

That game looked like some sort of mash-up of Mike Tyson's Punch-Out and, I dunno, Burger Time? Which actually kind of makes sense if the game is called "Bouncer."

I'm trying to think of a beverage that's less sexy than V8 and I'm struggling. Maybe Clamato.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:16 AM on July 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

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