Ninja III: The Domination

Director: Sam Firstenberg

USA - 1984

Hoff! Hoff! Hoff!


You know, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a good kung-fu movie, and I guess it’ll be a while still - this one sucked.

Though video stores, in general, may vary in terms of selection, there are always a few staples that appear in a vast majority of them. When browsing the Martial Arts section of your local video retailer, chances are pretty good that you’ll run into a couple kung-fu extravaganzas featuring Mr. Sho Kosugi. Though I’m not necessarily proud of the fact, I must admit that my knowledge of Mr. Kosugi’s Fear the power of Galaga!work is somewhat limited. I think I remember reading somewhere that he was a master swordsman. I assume he was probably big back East, and it is also probable that Kosugi was never afforded the opportunity of making a significant mark in mainstream American cinema. That doesn’t mean Sho isn’t a skilled martial artist - it just goes to show that Americans, sadly, prefer the cinematic styling of Cynthia Rothrock, Jeff Speakman and Lorenzo Lamas as opposed to more talented performers such as Jet Li and Sammo Hung – those sad souls forced to play second-fiddle to the likes of Mel "Bird on a Wire" Gibson and Arsenio "Chunky A" Hall. It’s a damn shame, really. So, bottom line, I decided to give Mr. Kosugi a try.

The film opens with a car parked on the side of the road in an undisclosed desert. A man gets out of said car and makes his way up a mountain into a secret cave. Once in the cave, he opens a stone sarcophagus revealing a hidden arsenal of Chinese stars, blow-guns, and those small, shiny, pointy projectiles of which to hurl towards the enemy at great velocity. (I seem to have misplaced my Idiot’s Guide to Ninja Weaponry. Sorry). After donning some ninja duds and loading up on poisoned darts and nipple clamps (ok, maybe not nipple clamps), our mysterious assassin makes his way back down the mountain to a nearby golf course (?), where he then proceeds to off a "famous scientist" on the seventh green (or maybe it was the sixth?) along with several of his requisite henchmen. I don’t recall the killer’s rationale for this nefarious deed, nor do I remember why the scientist is necessarily famous, but in my defense, I don’t think the movie ever divulges this information - but really, who’s keeping "Shootin' down the walls of heartache! BANG! BANG! I am the warrior!"score anyway?

Moving along, approximately forty-five minutes after the ninja has killed the scientist and his goons, the police finally decide to show up. Though this should have been ample time for our assassin to make his escape, for some unexplained reason, the moron is still hanging around the scene of the crime. Perhaps ninjas are paid by the hour. I really don’t know.

Anyway, the police decide to show up – helicopters, SWAT, the whole shebang - and a raging battle ensues. Actually, what really ensues is a good reason for our ninja to try out every piece of exotic artillery he happens to have on his person, while at the same time, the cops continuously blast away with their silly guns (sometimes at point-blank range) and continuously miss.

He’s Chinese-starring ‘em, running ‘em through with his sword, karate choppin’, karate kickin’ - heck, at one point, the ninja gets so cocky he throws a Chinese star at one poor slob from between his toes! Ten minutes and approximately forty-eight dead cops later, the scanty remains of the police force finally get the ninja surrounded, and proceed to empty several rounds into the elusive assassin.

After five minutes of dramatic slow-motion as he is riddled with bullets, the ninja finally falls, leading to one of the inept cops to make the obligatory "check to make sure he’s dead." Naturally, he isn’t, and kills a dozen more of the men in blue before they gun him down once again. Realizing that he’s been bested, the ninja then resorts to his puff of smoke magic and disappears to the befuddlement of the authority.

Meanwhile, a mile or two away, Christy, our heroine and friendly Metro Telephone employee, is high atop a telephone pole doing whatever telephone employees do when they’re high atop a telephone pole. She notices the ninja, still quite alive after numerous point-blank gun shots, hobbling across the field. Immediately, Christy scales down the pole and seeks out the fallen martial artist. Upon finding him, the dying ninja offers her the handle of his sword, and when Christy touches it she is subjected to a flashback of when the ninja was shot - the faces of his assailants Congratulations! You have now seen one-third of NINJA 3!are then emblazoned in her mind. Come to find out, she has hence forth been possessed by the spirit of the ninja - Ninja Domination, if you will.

Now, the aforementioned flashback proves to be a key factor in the story – I mean, it must be, for we, the audience, are subjected to the same flashback repeatedly throughout the course of the film. Every time Christy runs into one of the cops who offed her ninja buddy, we get graced with the slow-motion flashback of the ninja falling. This particular flashback constitutes at least one-half of the film. Upon viewing the picture of the falling ninja I have posted above, you too have now seen a good majority of Ninja III: Domination. I just saved you the price of a rental!

So, after the initial possession, and because she has not yet realized she has been possessed/dominated, Christy goes to the police to report the body she found. In the police station scene alone, I think we see the falling-ninja flashback at least four times. Out of the entire frigging precinct, Christy is prone to only run into the same ninja-killing cops. What a coincidence, huh?

It's also during this sequence where we are introduced to Officer Billy Secord, who, after several horrible come-ons, becomes Christy’s love interest. I mean, who can resist a guy who fakes an arrest only to get you alone in his car? That Billy Secord is a smooth talker like Betty Crocker! The highlight of their torrid love affair is the scene where a scantily-clad Christy, while straddling Billy on the couch, leans her head back and pours V-8 vegetable juice down her bare chest for him to..uh..clean off. I’m sorry, but V-8 has got to be one of thThis movie has got everything but the kitchen...whoops, strike thate least erotic beverages I can think of. And for the love of Pete, Secord has more hair on his back than a yeti! Keep a shirt on that rascal!

The movie then revolves around Christy becoming possessed whenever she coincidentally meets up with any number of ninja-killing cops - and then she, in turn, kills them. The only remotely interesting aspects of this are the actual ways Christy becomes possessed. Whenever a glowing sword comes floating out of her closet by a string - er, I mean by magic - Christy then transforms into the evil ninja. But the power of the ninja is not limited to a floating sword; oh no, he can come by many other means as well. He can also channel through Christy’s video game! Heck, that wily bastard can even come from under the kitchen sink!

So what does Christy do when she finally realizes her predicament with ninja domination? Why, she invents the Flashdance Method to Exorcism, of course! In one priceless moment, the ninja spirit is coming for her from within the closet, so Christy immediately throws on a compilation of 80’s dance favorites and attempts to funk her way to salvation. Unfortunately, Flashdance just doesn’t cut the mustard. Everybody knows that evil spirits can only be thwarted through the likes of pain-inducing classics such as Survivor’s "Separate Ways", and/or The Proclaimers’ "I Would Walk Five Hundred Miles." *

Then, to make matters even worse, Christy discovers that Secord was one of the men responsible for the ninja"My work here is done. So long, pardner!"’s death. Man, did that plot twist ever swerve me. But before all hope is lost, the mysterious Yamada (Sho Kosugi) shows up to help. Come to find out, Yamada’s master/friend/father/whatever was killed by the same evil ninja way back when - and nearly blinded Yamada in the process. This is explained in a vague flashback of Yamada tied to a tree, the ninja slitting the unknown old man’s throat, and then throwing a Chinese star into one of Yamada’s eyes. That’s all we get. No further exposition. No details on their relationship. Nothing. I guess it doesn’t matter now, because Yamada seeks revenge. So, through more of that wacky ninja magic, Yamada extracts the evil spirit from Christy and they do battle - the fate of the planet hanging in the balance. Really!

Though this may be a bad vehicle for me to judge his talent, I must admit, Mr. Kosugi failed to really blow me away. His action sequences were mediocre at best, and he truly lacked any substantial screen presence – which is a problem when you’re trying to portray a larger-than-life action hero. I wouldn't avoid a Sho Kosugi film in the future, but I wouldn't go out of my way for one either.

Is the movie entertaining? I guess so.

Is the movie stupid? Most definitely.


These are the times of which to cherish...

Christy: I feel something is making me do things I don't want to do.

Secord: Oh, you should do something about that.


Ninja III: The Domination

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* Turns out that Journey, not Survivor, sings "Separate Ways." Thanks to Doug Frye, a true gentleman and Steve Perry's #1 fan, for pointing out this most grievous error. I truly should have known better.