Ninja Death I (1987) Review

This next film in my “Kung Fu Gunk Fu” lineup is something I found to be absolutely unjustifiably brilliant. It is without a doubt one of the best ninja movies I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen Ninja Assassin, a movie that had an assassinating ninja! I’ve also come to the conclusion that ninja movies can only be good or great, and this one is definitely the latter. It had me so involved and so intrigued, not to mention there are some amazingly erotic scenes that managed to get my mini ninja to stealthily pop up.

This movie I’m touting as one of my new faves is Ninja Death I by director Joseph Kuo, from 1987, the same year as the last film I reviewed, Ninja Phantom Heroes (also called Ninja Empire). It’s the first movie in a three-part series that has a story which rivals the original Star Wars trilogy, but I’ll only review the first in order to pay attention to other bonafide classics in this genre.

Unlike my last movie review, I will introduce the cast, because there is one actor associated with a role in the film, and one more.

This magical ninja fiesta stars Alexander Lo Rei as our energetic hero, Tiger,

Alexander Lo Rei in Ninja Death I

and Fei Ming as… I have no fucking clue. This film has no credits at the beginning or end, and he isn’t given a direct credit on the film’s IMDb page. I did a Google image search to see if I could identify him, but that didn’t really help, as all I really got was this:

Chinese Actor Fei Meng

It’s not even a pic of him from this movie, and doesn’t look like a character I can pinpoint, so the mystery of Fei Meng goes on forever.

Let’s just jump into the action, just like this movie does from the start. How does Ninja Death open, you ask? With a ninja death, of course.

ninja killed by sword

Three guys dressed in blue with odd-pattern baldness and mullets appear to try to protect a damsel in distress from a bunch of these ninjas dressed in black.

They manage to fend them off for a while, slishing and slashing every ninja like they’re blades of grass, but then this calm guy

winds up alone and faces this guy with the enviable ‘stache:

They fight for a little while with some nice choreography, but things take a dark turn when the boy in blue loses his perception.

man from behind eye gouging

man getting eyes gouged

man with eyes gouged

He gets kicked to the ground and makes some more faces while there, albeit without the kind of emotions he’d normally be able to express.

Meanwhile the other two protectors fend off more ninjas and protect the woman, until who must be the main villain catches up with them and decides to have a talk.

“Glub ninja,” he says, though I’m not sure that’s right. “Show your stuff. Just leave Mariko and the child. I’ll spare your life.”

Wait, what child? Oh, you mean that thick roll of silent blankets the woman’s holding here? Hadn’t even noticed!

Needless to say, the two remaining protectors (one of whom reveals they’re brothers) refuse to give in, and they fight the asshole.

However, one of them somehow gets the water punched out of him,

rolls a bit,

spits a little more water,

rolls just a little more,

gets his neck slightly crushed until blood spills out,

then gets kicked so he literally slides on the dirt like a hockey puck,

sits up, bleeding from the mouth,

and, um, lives, I guess, as the main villain turns his attention toward the other guy protecting Mariko.

Mariko has the brilliant idea of handing her baby to the protector, saying she’ll stay behind, but this fails and the warrior now has to protect a kid and still fight effectively.

He yells “run!” to Mariko, but she gets stuck instead.

“John! Run!” she calls. Sounds like John, anyway.

“Princess!” John calls back, instead of running.

“Princess!” he calls again while lazily fighting, still not running.

At the same time, John’s brother remains incapacitated, but at least he’s standing and not bleeding.

John appears flustered by it all. He has possession of what is obviously a very important child, his brother seems to be fucked, and the princess is in ninja custody as well. I think this little moment says it all.

“Brother, ugh, I–” he continues fighting as a ninja interrupts with an unannounced swordplay request.

What’s the best way to get out of this? More name calls, obviously.

“John!” the subdued princess calls.

“Princess!” is the appropriate response.

“John!” the princess beckons, holding her knife helplessly as her long-haired opponent respectfully pauses.

But not for long.

It’s the helpless bro’s turn to join in the banter.

“Princess! Princess!” he hollers, topping John’s one-name calls.

John chooses to be the force of change in this situation and shouts a general, “Run! Get away!”

It does nothing, as the princess stabs herself in the stomach instead and gives a tragic expression.

“Princess!” John shouts helpfully, followed by “Brother!”

“Get away!” the brother urges John.

The princess falls to the ground dying, but the villain compassionately holds her, signifying it was not his desire to kill her. Some complexity!

Finally, John runs for it, and leaps into the air, into the opening musical dance show.

This opening sequence is much like a Bond theme sequence, and just as amazing. I don’t really know who’s good or bad, but there are lots of colors, flying black ninjas, a normal-looking shirtless dude, a disappearing burgundy woman with ninja stars, a guy in gold with big stick ball things, and a really badass red ninja with a dragon face. And it’s all against a red background, which I believe signifies the rage each character contains inside, a representation of the internal fires that rage on. It’s beautiful.

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Fade to this man fashionably lighting a cigarette.

A woman calls out “Tiger!” and he walks over to the entrance to what looks like a brothel.

A customer approaches, who’s just a little on the fat fuck side, but not too much.

Tiger thinks otherwise, though.

“I heard this joint is the best in town,” the guy says in a tragically oafish dumbo voice.

Tiger gets a fish-eyed view of the man’s gut after he asks how much it is to get in.

“Your money’s no good in here,” Tiger replies. “Don’t you know that we don’t want three times the customer? I’m sorry.”

Just get him to pay for three then, jackass. Triple the profit. But no, he just tries to shoo him away.

One of the girls takes him in anyway and off they go.

The next colorful man to come by is an unintelligible drunkard whose face melts uncontrollably.

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Tiger tries to get him to leave, too, reasoning he’ll be impotent, but a woman takes him in again. She reasons that even if he can’t get it up, she’ll “take care of him.” Such a nice whore.

Then a third guy shows up, who isn’t exactly on the stick figure side,

“Hey, you’re a big fellow,” Tiger says. “Are you a virgin?”

“Virgin? You gotta be joking!” the man exclaims.

“You mean you’ve done it? Who with?”

“No, no, no. I just play with myself.”

Hmm. Then in that case I lost my virginity to myself when I was thirteen. Really puts things into perspective.

Tiger actually tries to bring this guy in, but the man insists the girls won’t like his style. He goes in anyway after a little convincing.

Full frontal in the brothel!

Back by the door, we meet a man aptly named Master.

He walks up to Tiger and asks him how business is going, before just leaving, and another man with a mop for hair comes by, next to a woman.

They walk off, but the suspenseful music suggests they’re not good.

A scream from within the brothel!

Tiger investigates, and finds this.

As it happens, the woman is just orgasming to herself, as the drunk guy from before stands helpless.

“What are you talking about? I haven’t even dropped my pants,” the drunk man says.

The girl sits up. “Alright. If I’m not cumming right now, what are you gonna do, huh?”

“What are you gonna do when he comes all over you?” Tiger asks.

This dialogue is just excellent.

As for the guy with the “style” we saw before, turns out his style is just getting laid for free.

“I told you, she wouldn’t do it!”

You’re not alone, man. That’s my style, too.

Tiger does the right thing and beats the shit out of him before kicking him out.

In the next scene, we see this.

A guy with Maniacal Laughter Syndrome appears from behind a revolving section of wall.

He gets serious and tells the men kneeling before him that after 18 years he’s finally become a “grandmaster”. Is that like a grandfather of masters, something that happens when you turn 18? Does he even bother to explain that? Nope.

He just thanks Foochiku and Sikora for freeing him, the man and woman we saw outside the brothel with ominous music playing over their presence. I still don’t know what they did to free him from that revolving wall or why he wants to reward them, but that’s all unimportant when a ninja shows up to deliver news. The Grandmaster looks down and appears to say “Grandmaster” in a different voice as his lips move oddly out of sync, but then he asks in his own voice, “Yes, what is it?” Is he talking to himself? Oh, wait, no, I think it’s just a slight fuck-up in the dubbing department. Anyway, the ninja is shown and he says, “They ran away.”

That causes the guy to get slaughtered by another ninja.

It’s clear Grandmaster isn’t a forgiving man, although he is rewarding.

We then follow Tiger again as he goes to investigate a nearby Japanese brothel that just opened up.

The Grandmaster’s soon-to-be reward recipient Sikora leads some of the women in a sing-song greeting at the entrance.

Tiger doesn’t like this and tells them they shouldn’t be so obvious about their business with the police around. This is the same guy who was waving guys in to his brothel and inexplicably shoving them off like flies earlier.

Tiger leaves, and out of nowhere a man decides to engage in some friendly dry humping with Sikora.

Maybe it’s a statement about the Chinese reciprocating what the Japanese did in WWII?

Tiger beats the guy up and shoos him and his friend away. Tiger seems to be the fist of justice in this town.

In the next scene, the “evil” Sikora and Foochicoochi’s shadow meet up.

Foochikomon (I give up on his name) wants to know if Tiger has a “plum sign” on his chest. The Grandmaster really wants to know. Okay, that’s a little weird.

Sikora says she didn’t see it, because “the kid is smart.” You know, it doesn’t take too many brains to know you just need to wear a shirt to hide your chest. In fact, that’s why most people wear them, I think. And he probably won’t fuck just any woman he sees to remove it, seeing as he helps run a brothel. But he’s still smart, I guess.

So, they’re racing against the ninjas to find the person with this “plum sign”, whatever the fuck that represents or looks like.

But it’s time for boobs at the brothel!

Now, I have to talk about that old guy next to her. He tells the woman if he becomes rich, he won’t forget her.

“Stop dreaming,” she says.

“You just don’t believe me.”

“Yes, I don’t believe you.” Just perfect; a woman whose “yes” means “no”.

He feels her tits a bit and says he’ll marry her after he manages to get rich, after stealing from a mansion like some people he’s seen. We’ve got a real charmer here.

Tiger overhears it all and goes to tell Master about it. Where is the Master? Why he’s taking a little stroll as ninjas follow him. What else?

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Eventually Master spots them in a forested area, and runs away as they give chase.

Until he gets surrounded, anyway.

Using his Bo Staff that is obviously made of bamboo, he successfully fends off the swords without issue. He then steals one guy’s sword and kills them all with it. Just another day in the woods for any old Chinese man.

Cut to Tiger running to some kind of training center (?) where he finds Master meditating.

Did he just imagine going for a walk and getting into a fight? His version of meditating?

“Master, you okay?” Tiger asks.

“I’m okay,” Master replies. “I just had a fight with a couple of Japanese ninjas.”

“Huh? Master, why don’t you beat the shit out of them? A couple of Japanese are nothing. Even ten of them. They’re not your match, are they?” A lot of jabs against the Japanese in this movie, aren’t there?

Master reasons that he’s just a beggar, and that beggars don’t “beat up people.” That’s not true if you’ve seen a Bum Fights video. I can lend one. I’ve got five.

Anyway, Tiger tells Master that they’ve got competition at the brothel: a Japanese whorehouse. This news really chaps Master’s ass.

His next logical response? Beating the shit out of Tiger, that’s what.

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Tiger gets up,

And then falls down face-first for no reason.

He then gets up again immediately, which just results in Master taking out more aggression on him.

Beggars can’t be choosers, but I guess they can be hypocrites.

Oh yeah, and Tiger literally gets the water beaten out of him like the guy from the beginning of the movie. Are people made of 95% water in this universe?

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Master eventually gets his fix, before tying Tiger up,

and telling him that he’ll teach him the “highest style in kung fu”, and forcing him to drink a cup of vinegar. I don’t know how this helps, but maybe Master just likes to see Tiger make funny faces.

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Pressure point time!

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At least I think it’s pressure points he’s hitting, since it’s never explained exactly what he tried to do there. Maybe Master is just a really clever sadomasochistic perv.

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Yep, I think that’s the case.

He hits a few more fleshy spots and then jumps in the air, placing one hand over Tiger’s head.

What this part of the torment process does is just as unclear as everything else.

But, Tiger goes apeshit with a blanket and pillow, so something must’ve changed in his chemistry.

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He then thrashes on the floor in a temper tantrum, a little like I sometimes did when I was seven and was told I couldn’t kill my sister after trying with a pogo stick.

Master knows a way to help end the madness, though: have some men beat the fuck (or water) out of him with sticks!

He bleeds a little out of his mouth as he lies helpless, and Master is pleased with the progress. Or failure?

The next step?

Give him some snake blood to drink and absorb its pow—

or… um, spit up all over him, I guess. Seems practical.

Proceed with more helpful beating, please!

Then he’s put through a painful hot sauna of sorts,

followed by standing in the middle of a block of ice and making faces.

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He makes these faces for a solid 30 seconds. Think it’s time to move on? Nope, 30 seconds of gnashing teeth to sell the cold, and it works. I feel it. I’m actually wearing a sweater because of the placebo effect.

From the sauna to the freeze, Master is also seen playing a game of Chinese checkers with a friend, who loses to him just as Tiger passes out. It’s quite poetic.

After this display of endurance (or lack thereof), we see what the main baddie of this movie can really do, as the next scene starts with two sword-wielding guys playfully fighting while babysitting Mr. Dragon Face.

In walks the Grandmaster, who doesn’t like this nonsense.

So, he takes out his handy dandy notebo—flute.

“You’re my only friend, aren’t you? Does nobody like me because of my permanently angry eyebrows? I didn’t think so. Thanks.”

He plays it, and apparently his playing is so horrific that it causes Dragon Face to go mad and kill both swordsmen.

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Grandmaster stops playing, which causes Dragon Face to stop, and he enjoys a sinister laugh of villainous satisfaction.

“Haha, mind control, murder, I love not having a conscience.”

How’s Tiger’s training doing? Oh, he’s in the middle of the woods with Master.

Tiger doesn’t understand why he can’t build a fire to keep him warm outside. It’s a reasonable request in my book.

“Warm fire will force the cold air into your body,” Master explains. “This will kill you right away.” Oh, I… guess it isn’t then. That explains why I’ve never spoken to anybody who built a campfire. I always thought it was just because hardly anybody spoke to me in the first place. Makes me feel a little better. Or worse?

Anyway, Tiger is forced to be exposed to temperature some more.

“Why are you shivering like that?” asks Master, apparently forgetting the entire conversation they’ve been having.

“It’s just, it’s just because I’m so cold,” Tiger reiterates.

Just moving this scene right along, aren’t we?

So after a little more chat, they get up and Master starts to talk about the “black-clothes people” called “ninjas” with the naive Tiger. He goes into a flashback to explain their deadly nature.

It looks like his flashback vision has some sort of weird golden glaucoma, too.

Master talks about how the “Yi Ho Ling” ninja is the best, but then goes silent as another unrelated dude in the glaucoma flashback sits down to a little meal. Could this be the example target of the ninjas?

A bunch of geishas sit around, and one sits in the middle as the others gracefully disrobe her. She kneels in the center.

Next thing we know, the dude’s giving her a hickey. When are the ninjas going to kill this guy?

Maybe as he removes his robe. Nope. Maybe as he sucks on her tits in bed. Nope. Maybe as he moves down to her belly.

Nope.

Maybe as they fuck, in several positions?

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Yeah, fuck her with that 2-foot long dick as your chest can only stay at thigh-level.
Yeah, fuck her with that 2-foot long dick as your chest can only stay at thigh-level.

Apparently not. At this point I feel a bit like a voyeur, and I’m wondering if this really happened or if Master is just “meditating” upon this while Tiger wonders when he’s going to stop breathing heavily and staring into space. It is an erotic scene, I must say. The golden frame just makes it all the more sensual.

But then finally the action boots up and a ninja attacks the one guy watching the couple’s intimate moment.

The ninja slaughters him, and more ninjas attack some geishas and guards, as Master’s monologue continues to explain once again how ninjas are good assassins.

Eventually, they get to the sex machine and kill him on top of his lady.

And, um, hold a sign toward the camera as they stab through him and the woman.

Cut back to present day—or out of Master’s unusual fantasy scenario—where Tiger asks if ninjas have weak points.

Master, being as lovably elusive as ever in order to keep the plot going, simply tells Tiger he won’t understand which weak point will kill them at this point, and tells him to return to the town.

Once Tiger walks away, Master finds himself confronted by, well, guess.

Black-clothes people!

Master runs and fights them off a bit, killing two, but then one reveals he has impressive self-automated cloning abilities.

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He defeats all but one, who decides being a pussy is better than being a ninja.

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But then the childish, music-hating Dragon Face pops out of a cloud of red smoke.

Master just says, in exasperation, “Devil mask?”

Sorry, I’ve been calling him the wrong thing. How retarded of me.

They have an epic fight, with plenty of throwing of punches and kicks of all sorts, but then Master decides being a pussy is the best thing as well, and disappears in an explosion of smoke.

For some reason Devil Mask immediately looks up in wonderment, but there’s nothing to indicate that Master flew up into the sky.

Back at the Japanese brothel, Sikora tries to lure Tiger inside, reasoning that he should have sex there with a girl to “exchange the experience,” to have a taste of authentic Japanese sushi, if you know what I mean.

Tiger’s response? “No. I don’t do that kind of thing.” Alright, asexuality it is, then.

So, the women force him inside as he complains, “You can’t do this to me!”

If these were men and Tiger were a Tigress, this would be considered gang rape (and possibly bestiality?)

Inside, they lock him in a room with Sikora’s brother Fooo-Fu-Fichikimo? Anyway, he’s decided on a particularly feminine look. Could he be the one to seduce the obviously asexual Tiger? Tiger even mistakes him for a woman from behind.

Fu-fooki—I give up, turns around and Tiger is disappointed he’s a man.

“I don’t like homosexuals,” Tiger admits, revealing his homophobia. “Not the backdoor. You see, the stairway—”

The… stairway? Look, man, I understand you have no interest in sex, but there ain’t no “stairway.” You got the backdoor and the front door, the latter of which is more commonly known as a “penetrable vaginal entrance.” Okay? Jesus, man.

Now that I’ve cleared that up, back to the movie. These two get into a bit of a fight, until Sikora’s brother traps Tiger in a leg lock and begins looking for that “plum sign”, or another kind of sign, perhaps.

During this, Tiger admits he hasn’t taken a bath in three months. Um… what? Why? I guess we’ll get no real reason. Just part of Master’s sick training, I suppose.

Sikora’s bro lets Tiger go after not finding anything, and Tiger immediately gets up and admits he’s a combination of a homophobe and a stereotyping xenophobe when he says, “You Japanese are crazy; you bisexual idiot!”

What a charming hero. Certainly has me rooting him even more now.

Sikora’s brother takes offense to this and starts fighting again.

He tries to get his shirt off to get a glimpse of that sexy chest, but to no avail as Tiger realizes he’s being disrobed in this bizarre way, and leaves. The other guy looks quite dejected.

A little while later after leaving, Tiger seems to have had a personality transplant offscreen and returns to Sikora with flowers.

Not so fast, as when Sikora reaches for them, Tiger pulls them back and reveals he has no heart for women either when he says, “You have such bad taste, I bet you’re crazy for flowers.” 80% of women on this planet must have horrible taste then. Dating tip noted.

Tiger takes offense when Sikora says he’s too young and inexperienced for her anyway, and he says they call him the “Piledriver” because he’s “good at drilling holes”. Isn’t this the guy who just a couple scenes ago said “I don’t do that kind of thing” and complained about being groped by women?

Sikora points this contradiction out as well, but Tiger says “I’m a lion”, like that changes anything. You’re not fooling anybody.

Sikora tries to get him back in again, but he calls the Japanese women dogs to their faces, and leaves again.

At least this guy appreciates the opportunity, though.

Back with Master a little later as they eat dinner, Master tells Tiger to fetch a blue bottle under his mattress. While getting it, Tiger notices this weird collection of things.

Tiger seems suspicious about why Master would have them, even though Master’s blue bottle was among these things, and he’s clearly not trying to hide anything.

Tiger also tries to hide the fact that he found these things, even though he found them right in front of Master.

Tiger tries to further keep Master unaware of Tiger’s findings when he brings up the topic of some monk.

Then we see Tiger lying asleep after their meal, weirdly rubbing his chest like he’s making love to himself as Master appears soothed by this image, and stares on.

I think we might first get a glimpse of Master’s true intent here.

Cue sharp music and another golden glaucoma flashback to a… a… baby?

Yes, because when I see a man sensually rubbing his chest, I think of a baby.

This man looks down at the child. Could this be Master when he was younger?

He opens the baby’s shirt up and brings a pen down to his chest, and naturally starts scribbling.

The glaucoma intensifies as the man’s face does the same.

As it happens, it looks like they’re carving some kind of sign, a plum sign to be exact, into the chest.

What comes next? Spitting unknown fluids onto the kid, of course. I should’ve known that by now. It’s what all Chinese do for… things.

The spitting of obviously clear liquid causes the sign to stand out somehow.

Who is this baby? The camera cutting to a sleeping Tiger again would suggest it’s him, but he has no sign on his chest.

Master’s one-teared cry is emotional to say the least, but it also doesn’t reveal shit.

Cut to a long training montage that really just covers several relatively simple activities, all while master gets enviably high on stuff in his pipe.

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Okay, he's covered in oil here, but he's wearing shorts which aren't. He slides down repetitively regardless. Magic oil.
Okay, he’s covered in oil here, but he’s wearing shorts which aren’t. He slides down repeatedly regardless. Magic oil.

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I think it turned me gay because we get some really hot closeups of Tiger’s sweaty pecs and face during those pushups.

Master puts him to the ultimate test with a final fight between them, and Tiger gets the water kicked out of him yet again.

Immediately after, Tiger gets into a fight in the middle of town with Sikora’s brother. During this fight, Tiger accidentally knocks into a blind man, and naturally the blind man joins in fighting the other guy because he touched his stick. “Don’t touch my stick,” he says, while touching the guy with his stick.

The blind man drags Tiger away in a moment of ultimate confusion, and Sikora’s effeminate bro once again looks dejected.

“I just want to compliment him on that hot bod.”

Turns out this blind man might just be who Tiger was looking for, as Tiger sits down with him and tells him he was looking for a blind fortune teller. The blind man says he may be able to help Tiger out.

Tiger tells himself in voiceover narration, “Master asked me to look for the blind guy. He may be the one.” Well that’s an awfully broader request than “blind fortune teller.”

Tiger says his master is “Kotai” (pronounced “coat tie”), and the fortune teller proceeds to “read his life” for free. Tiger says he was born in 1915 when asked, which finally gives us a firm idea of the era in which this film takes place. The blind guy then counts up clearly to seven and then throws in a couple of fading “un, un”’s… so, does this take place in 1925, exactly, making Tiger the oldest looking 10-year-old without progeria? Title cards would be too easy and insulting to the audience’s intelligence for sure.

The blind guy cuts to the chase and asks what’s wrong.

“Well, lately, a bunch of ninjer are trying to kill me,” Tiger nonchalantly explains. Yes, “ninjer.” Ginger ninjas? Ginger ninjers? Maybe I should start calling them ninjer from now on.

But what is the fortune teller’s advice for Tiger? “This is because you have… all these troubles… in your life. Stay close to plum flower. You will have seven dangerous moments to go through. If not, you will die.”

Wait, so if he doesn’t stay close to “plum flower”, which sounds like a stripper in that context, he’ll die? Or will he die if he simply doesn’t go through those seven dangerous moments? Whatever.

“So how do I get through them?” Tiger asks.

“With plum flower.” Well that answers everything. Thanks for progressing the story so effectively!

Hold on, let me get this straight: Master’s trying to defeat evil and secretly knows that Tiger is the only one who can defeat it. Judging by the flashback, he knows all about this “plum flower” symbolism and its importance, and yet he’s not telling Tiger about what it is or how to use it, instead choosing to send him into town to waste time looking for a blind man, who only answers questions in riddles to hint at what the plum flower is, causing Tiger to waste more time contemplating what the flying fuck this plum flower is? Maybe it’s just me, but this plan doesn’t feel that efficient.

Of course, Tiger thinks that “plum flower” is a woman, but reasons he’s been waiting for the right one, and subsequently comes to no conclusion about what it really could be. He spends an entire scene in the brothel, sitting, drinking water, being pestered by a prostitute and repeating “plum flower”. It’s a totally needed scene in my book, as it captures the feeling of no progress he must be experiencing.

Tiger isn’t safe, however, as we discover a ninjer is arriving to presumably try and assassinate him. It looks like a woman. Wait… Sikora?

She sneaks into the brothel and catches Tiger sleeping, and reaches down to open his shirt (presumably to see the plum flower symbol that was already confirmed not to be there by her brother), but surprise, surprise, he wakes up.

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Something about that last expression suggests he’s not entirely upse—nope, he’s not.

So, he does what starts out as blatant rape, as she hits him and tries to get him off, but then it’s all okay because she eventually submits and it turns into intense naked staring, during which that plum flower mark appears on Tiger’s chest.

What proceeds is a four-minute sex scene that’s extremely hot, and involves several great shots of Sikora’s searing lust.

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This definitely rival's Linda Hamilton's hand tension in The Terminator's sex scene.
This definitely rivals Linda Hamilton’s hand tension in The Terminator’s sex scene.

How does this sex scene climax and close? With, um, tears, I guess.

Yes, after the sex (which was apparently imagined by Sikora?), Tiger gets up from bed and leaves as she awkwardly bows to him while wearing clothes, saying “Master.” So, um, yeah. What?

Never mind that, though, because we’ve got a movie to finish!

So, Tiger runs away and eventually settles down at a tree in town,

and mutters to himself, “This is weird.”

Yeah, no shit.

He then reasons to himself that the blind guy had told him he would need plum flower to assist him in this, and then starts running back in the direction he came from,

but then decides that direction isn’t good for one reason or another, and that he needs to ask Master, and so he runs the other way.

Could this movie be any more lovably ambiguous about where it’s going at this point?

Elsewhere…

Master is a ninja!

Wearing his… baby mask.

Okay.

At the same time, a group of ninjer sneak around, climbing up walls,

and running around, and start fighting a bunch of guys in a building somewhere. Don’t ask, I don’t know who these guys are, but it looks like they might be friends of Master.

This is confirmed when Tiger returns to the place, seeing all of the dead people and shouting Master, rather than being cautious of a possible killer like I would be. But then again, I’m not a likable hero like homophobic, xenophobic Tiger here, so I’ll just stop my dumb writing.

Sure enough, the ninjer start trying to sneak up on and attack Tiger, but he manages to fend them off.

He goes to the brothel and tiredly tells everybody to leave, but alas, everybody’s dead there, too.

Finally, Master in his baby mask shows up in what looks like the bad guy’s layer,

and he fights some ninjer without issue. But then Devil Mask shows up to laugh and make bizarre head and hand movements.

They duke it out some more in my favorite fight: there’s so much punching and kicking and low quality sword slashing sounds, I feel so immersed as with every other fight scene.

Hold on, Devil Mask has a tattoo of a modern electrical fan on his arm?

Oh, wait, no, that’s a plum flower.

Master takes off his mask and calls out, “Brother” in an attempt to reach him. Wait, are these two the brothers we saw at the beginning of the film? It looks that way.

Being called “brother” doesn’t fare well with ol’ Devil Mask from the looks of it, though.

Repeating this name after a little while seems to have some effect eventually, however, as he quits fighting for a moment of deep thought.

Then he has a closeup fit that really nails the pain he’s feeling.

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Flute time!

Thus this horrible playing gets Devil Mask angry and the fight continues. But then Grandmaster decides he’s had enough fun, stops playing, laughs, and comes out to taunt the beat-up Master.

In defeat, Master causes another smoke explosion and floats away in what looks like merely a crumpled mass of body parts.

Grandmaster looks unsure about what just unfolded, and his men silently and awkwardly just walk away to try to find the guy that disappeared.

We see Master in the woods, where he’s not even given a minute to rest before he’s forced to face another batch of ninjer while bleeding and trying to stop for rests. He’s as exhausted as I am, and as eager to get this movie done with as well. That’s the mark of a perceptive director/screenwriter.

“Just one fucking minute, please.”

Thankfully, he gets a last-minute rescue from another ninjer, who bows before him.

The guy, actually Sikora’s brother, explains that his father used to work for “princess”. Oh, how I missed that name after hearing it yelled 50 times at the beginning of this thing.

Back with the villain, two prostitutes from the brothel are whipped in the torture room that bears a slight resemblance to the BDSM room in that incredibly horrible movie Videodrome. That movie doesn’t hold a candle to this one.

David Cronenberg, with your sucky ruminations about the meaning of human experience and our dismal merging with technology and sexually repressed society. Bow before the superior Ninja Death!
David Cronenberg, with your sucky ruminations about the meaning of human experience and our dismal merging with technology and sexually repressed society. Bow before the superior Ninja Death!

Grandmaster asks them who their boss is, and they don’t say shit. Good torture work there, man. Some Grandmaster you are.

“A decade of research wasted,” he says. Research? What research involves getting a name out of women you just captured? This movie is so over my head, I can’t believe it.

He then asks them if Tiger has a tattoo on his body, and the girls again tell him “no.”

Looks like it’s ninjer groping for you two!

Cut back to injured Master and—I’ll give this one last shot—Fuckichookoo.

Just as Fooki—foochi—fuck it. Okay, just… the dude tells Master that the princess is still alive. Tiger comes by right then and recognizes Sikora’s bro as that “bisexual Japanese idiot” from earlier, and gives him the appropriate greeting.

After Tiger gives him a good beating, Master finally manages to explain that the man is there to help them, not kill them.

Master tells Tiger, “Let me tell you everything.” Followed is probably the best shot in the film, as the camera pans up from Master into the trees,

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cuts to a different shot of the treetops,

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and comes down back to the group at the exact same spot.

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Has time passed, and has Master explained what happened following this tree-panning?

Nope.

“40 years ago,” Master begins with a minute left in this film, “there were many pirates–” hold on. Pirates and ninjer? Whoa! He goes on to explain that his village was destroyed by Japanese ninjas. Only three children survived: Master, the blind fortune teller and Tiger’s father.

The one who kidnapped those three and the ninjer leader? The Grandmaster!

Cut to red smoke, an amped up drum beat, and Devil Mask jumping out of the smoke.

He twirls a bit against that familiar red background from the beginning of the movie, and makes a firm landing, facing us as if to say, “This adventure has only just begun.”

The music fades out, and the movie ends. No “The End”, “To Be Continued”, or anything. And it’s beautiful.

This film, as I mentioned, has two more in its wake, and while I won’t review all three, I am definitely excited to see where this amazing, high-concept adventure takes me. Even if I don’t get the plot as it goes along, I’m sure there’ll be plenty of really hot sex scenes and glaucoma flashbacks to keep me intrigued.

This movie gets a 5/5 horribly amazing stars from me, for sure. You can also get this film in the Kung Fu 20 Movie Pack on Amazon, for a mere $7. If you’d rather add this film to your collection by itself, you can get Ninja Death I here too.

One thought on “Ninja Death I (1987) Review

  1. I just watched this last night… I was hoping it was filmed before Star Wars so that I could claim that George Lucas totally ripped off this amazing movie… then when it ended with Devil Mask cliff hanger and I found out there was a Death Ninja II, I fired that one up straight away! Sadly I fell asleep during Part II… but woke up right at the end only to find yet another Devil Mask cliff hanger!!! What madness is this!? There is a Death Ninja III that I must now track down (after I re-watch Death Ninja II of course…) to watch the conclusion of this Kung Fu Masterpiece! Amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

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