Release Date(s)1984 (June 11, 2013)
Studio(s)Cannon (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: F+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B-
Growing up in the 80s, my family had a satellite dish, one of those gigantic backyard numbers that these days you only see atop CNN headquarters. This gave me access to a dizzying array of movie channels, many of which filled their late-night schedules with some of the strangest low-budget cheesefests the decade had to offer.
I remember Ninja III: The Domination popped up frequently on the schedule but I never watched it. Part of the reason may have been that not only had I not seen the first two movies in the series, I couldn’t even figure out what this was supposed to be a sequel to. Ostensibly, this is a follow-up to Enter The Ninja and Revenge Of The Ninja but it seems like it could be a sequel to pretty much any movie with the word “Ninja” in the title.
The story, such as it is, begins with an evil ninja slaughtering a scientist, his wife and bodyguards, and about half of the police in Arizona on a golf course. Don’t bother asking why because no one ever bothers to explain it much. Anyhoo, the ninja is finally slowed down a bit after taking about a zillion bullets. He escapes and encounters Lucinda Dickey, a sexy telephone company employee and part-time aerobics instructor (hey, it was the 80s). He passes his evil spirit on to her, possessing her as she inherits his sword. He leads her on a vengeful rampage, going after the cops who gunned him down. Only Sho Kosugi (returning from the first two Ninja movies although he doesn’t seem to be playing the same character) can free Dickey from the ninja curse or whatever it is.
Ninja III is the kind of nonsensical genre mish-mash that could only have been made in the go-go 80s. It’s Enter The Dragon meets The Exorcist meets Poltergeist meets Flashdance. If you wanted to make a parody of the ultimate 80s movie, it’d probably end up looking something like this. Random splashes of neon? Check. Prominently placed Patrick Nagel print? Check. Jazzercise? Check. Generic rock-pop soundtrack by bands you’ve never heard of before and never will again? Double check. Some day, I assume some record label (probably Shout! Factory, for that matter) will compile a CD of the “best” non-hits from low budget 80s movies like this one. But I digress.
Ninja III is one of those movies that defies criticism. Is it any good? Oh, heavens no. In fact, it’s quite terrible. But it’s enjoyably, preposterously terrible in all the best ways. It makes precious little sense. I’m not even sure who you’re supposed to be rooting for most of the time. When the possessed Dickey goes on her revenge quest, the cops are all portrayed as sleazy, cigar-chomping scumbags who deserve their fate, which seems a little unfair since these guys were just doing their jobs in the first place. The action is over-the-top crazy, as are the performances, dialogue and even the love scene. This is not a good movie but I’ll definitely be watching it again and again.
Scream Factory’s HD presentation of the movie is a real beaut. The picture is shockingly clear and colorful with fantastic attention to detail. The DTS-HD audio is extremely clear and rich. Ninja III doesn’t come quite as bonus-packed as some other Scream Factory titles but the audio commentary by director Sam Firstenberg and stunt coordinator Steve Lambert is pretty terrific. It’s lively, entertaining and full of interesting bits of info. The disc also includes an extensive photo gallery including an array of bizarre international posters for the film. The theatrical trailer is advertised on the back cover but doesn’t seem to be anywhere on the disc, as far as I could tell. The combo pack also includes a DVD for your non-Blu-ray viewing pleasure.
When you think 80s horror, Ninja III: The Domination is probably not going to be the first, second or even fiftieth title that pops into your head. But I love that Scream Factory is peppering some outside-the-box, off-the-wall choices in with their more expected releases. This is a deliriously bizarre movie and I’m thrilled that Scream Factory put it back on my radar after all these years.
- Dr. Adam Jahnke