Release Date(s)1981 (October 31, 2023)
Studio(s)Golan-Globus Productions/The Cannon Group (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: C-
During the 1980s, there was one genre that Cannon Films seemed to be nailing more than any other: action. Throughout the decade, ninja-oriented action movies were all the rage, but the cycle really began with two of the decade’s guiltiest entries: Enter the Ninja and Revenge of the Ninja. Neither had much to do with each otherwise plot-wise, but they did help launch the fledgling studio into the stratosphere before it eventually bankrupted itself into oblivion.
Enter the Ninja tells of a Westerner named Cole (Franco Nero) who, after mastering the art of ninjitsu, goes back home to visit a war buddy and his wife (Susan George). Meanwhile, a ruthless CEO (Christopher George) and his henchmen are attempting to scare them off their land for the oil beneath it by using any means necessary. Cole takes on the challenge and defends his friends, even against a rival ninja master (Sho Kusugi).
Although Enter the Ninja received a mixed reception from critics during its initial theatrical outing, it made a decent profit at the box office and thrived on home video later on. Looking back at the films today, along with the superior sequel Revenge of the Ninja and the absolutely bonkers Ninja III: The Domination, they’re mostly comfort food action movies in that you can’t really take them all that seriously. Yet there’s still a level of unintended enjoyment to be had. The quality of the performances is often straight up cheese (look no further than Christopher George’s glorious death scene), but they feature just enough story and action to keep you interested. Enter the Ninja might be the least of the three, but you can’t go wrong with Franco Nero in the lead.
Enter the Ninja was shot by director of photography David Gurfinkel on 35 mm film, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Kino Lorber Studio Classics brings the film to Blu-ray for a second time with the same HD master, but with a brand new encode on a BD-50 disc. Because of the that, there’s a higher bitrate that frequently sits between 30 and 40 mbps, getting the most out of what’s being presented. That being said, it’s still a much older master that struggles with grain, which can appear splotchy at times. Color and contrast are decent enough, but depth in the image isn’t all that impressive. Blacks also sometimes fight to appear solid, as well. Frequent speckling is on display, but the image is stable throughout. This presentation is a certainly a step in the right direction and improves upon its predecessor, but the film could benefit from a fresh scan of the original camera negative next time around.
Audio is included in English 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio with newly-added subtitles in English SDH. It’s surprisingly robust at times, particularly when it comes to the score. Sound effects tend to be era-appropriately thin, but dialogue comes through clean and clear, including Franco Nero’s overdubs.
Enter the Ninja on Blu-ray sits in a blue amaray case with an insert and slipcover that features the original theatrical artwork. The following extras are included:
- Audio Commentary by Mike Leeder and Arne Venema
- Trailer (HD – 2:54)
- Revenge of the Ninja Trailer (HD – 1:42)
- The Challenge Trailer (HD – 2:14)
- American Ninja Trailer (SD – 1:50)
- The Octagon Trailer (SD – 2:29)
- Ghost Warrior (Swordkill) Trailer (HD – 3:00)
Also new to this release is an audio commentary with critics and action film historians Mike Leeder and Arne Venema. Anyone familiar with their brand of commentary will know exactly what they’re in for: a pair of over-caffeinated, yet enthusiastic film fans constantly vying for dominance over the conversation at hand. Some will no doubt find this difficult to listen to, but these two do come to the table with a genuine love of all things action cinema, and you have to appreciate that. The rest of the extras consist of the film’s trailer and trailers for other Kino Lorber releases.
Fans of the Cannon Group’s brand of 80s action extravaganzas will no doubt lap up Enter the Ninja if they’ve yet to see it. The upgrade may not be what long-time fans are looking for, but if you don’t already own the film on Blu-ray, you still can’t go wrong with this release.
- Tim Salmons