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Rated R
Copyright 1982 Shaw Brothers
Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 7 February 2010

The Characters:  

  • Shao Tian Hao - He has exceptional kung fu and ninja skills, but he looks like an ugly woman wearing sideburn extensions. He dies, largely because his heart was located less than two inches beneath the skin covering his pectoral muscles.
  • Master Tong - He has the best retirement job ever.
  • Shao Tian Hao's Three New "Brothers" - He lost all of his other brothers to the first ninja attacks, so the young man was happy to find three more. All of them are masters of kung fu and ninjutsu. One of them has a tendency to do things to chickens that is probably a little stressful to the hens. Something that you do not do to a chicken is grab it and then spring into the air to execute a series of spinning somersaults. If your chickens have ulcers, keep an eye out for this guy.
  • Zenchi - She believes that if you love someone you should set them free. If they don't come back, sic your ninja on them.
  • The Gold Ninjas - They carry swords and highly reflective shields (to blind opponents) that are filled with spring-loaded knives. Anyone who has played baseball knows that it is not much fun to have somebody throwing something at you when the sun is in your eyes.
  • The Wood Ninjas - These warriors rely on camouflage and surprise to achieve victory. When subjected to axial tensile stress, they tend to come apart easier than a Lego minifig.
  • The Water Ninjas - After you deprive them of their chosen liquid medium's advantages, killing these guys is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.
  • The Fire Ninjas - Not so much fire as pyrotechnic, this ninja discipline teaches students the ability to burn Pepto-Bismol to produce a thick smokescreen.
  • The Earth Ninjas - Did you ever go "whaling for moles" as a kid? This is the same thing, but in reverse.
  • The Ninja Master - He is a master of the earth element and is quite skilled with wood element weapons. He also dabbles in bondage; while that might not be a ninja skill, it can be a helpful fetish.
  • Mr. Kang - I certainly hope that he learned his lesson. Never hire a ninja off of Craigslist.

Buy It!

The Plot: 

This is one of the great classic Shaw Brothers kung fu films. The movie contains numerous melee scenes, and all of them are filled with incredible energy. It is a good thing that the actors look to be in great condition. Just watching the fighters skirmish is enough to cause exhaustion in most sedentary viewers. Kung fu warriors kick jump, somersault, tumble, spin, punch, and employ a fantastic variety of weapons. The whole film is wonderfully inventive, surprisingly bloody, and almost unbelievably fun.

Two kung fu masters face off in a contest of students to settle a long rivalry, and the stage is set for an unimaginably long story of blood and battle. The honorable teacher and his white-clad disciples kick much butt. Mr. Kang's school of kung fu tramps is roundly defeated. Actually, Mr. Kang's best fighter turns out to be a samurai, but even the fearsome Japanese warrior is no match for the good guys. The samurai commits seppuku after promising Mr. Kang that a ninja clan will come to avenge his death.

Shao Tian Hao and his brothers in white are concerned about the ninja, especially after receiving a challenge from the Ninja Master. This is compounded by the fact that the kind teacher of the good students is nearly incapacitated by a poison ring that was tossed at him by the samurai. Eight of the senior disciples are sent to answer each of five ninja challenges; Shao Tian Hao remains at the school to organize a defense.

Two students encounter the gold ninja. Gold ninja are all about bling-bling; they wear more flashy material than Elton John and B.G. (egad, but that is an unnatural combination) combined. There are also four gold ninja, meaning that the good guys are outnumbered two to one. Hopelessly blinded by the glare and beset on all sides, the young men in white turn into perforated casualties.

Yet two more of the warriors in white journey to a forsaken forest to challenge the wood ninjas. Before anyone from Greenpeace can utter the phrase "lumber is murder," a tree dispatches one of the students. The other fights a hopeless battle against the quartet of ninjas. The worst thing about being killed by a wood ninja is that they use their climbing spikes and hand claws as weapons. In other words: the ninja scratch you to death.

Another doomed pair take on the water ninja. They are flummoxed by the horde of tiny inflatable rafts being paddled by hyperactive ninja in blue. It does not take the waterborne assassins long to dispatch the two students. All the ninja have to do is submerge, cruise just below the surface, and then pull their opponents into the water. Even the most powerful kung fu in the world is worthless if you cannot swim.

Personally, I would have brought a rod and reel equipped with 200lb test line and a huge treble hook. "Catch and release" - probably not. More like "pull ashore and beat with a club."

An unfortunate byproduct of the good students being clad in brilliant white and dying after their garments become clumps of red-stained fabric, is that creative viewers start to make free association connections between the vanquished fighters and feminine protection products. Thank God that the brains behind the Fruit of the Loom Guys were never hired by Tampax to create an advertising campaign.

The single student who answers the challenge of the fire ninjas is blinded by smoke before being dispatched. However, it is the heroic Chinese fighter who engages the earth ninjas that I really feel sorry for. Earth ninjas hide under the ground. When you walk over them they stab you in your thighs and groin with their spears. Ouuuuccccchhh! Needless to say, the valiant student eventually sustains enough damage to his nether regions that he looks like the aforementioned Fruit of the Looms feminine protection commercial. His horribly holed thighs and blood-soaked raiment prove to be his undoing.

Back at the white student base, the defenses are compromised from the inside by Zenchi. She pretends to be a woman cast out by her abusive uncle. What she is actually doing is scoping the defenses and waiting for the right moment to aid in the ninja assault. When it happens the students guarding the martial arts school are hopelessly outmatched by the cunning ninja, and the poisoned master is broiled alive in his private chambers. Shao Tian Hao is taken prisoner and tied up - spared immediate execution because Zenchi has fallen in love with him. The last surviving warrior in white escapes because he once met a Chinese ninja, Master Tong, from whom he learned some secret ninja knot techniques.

Catching up with the Chinese super ninja means that Shao Tian Hao has to avoid a forest of rope snares. He does not quite make it, meaning that once again (including a flashback, this is the fourth time) Shao Tian Hao finds himself tied up. Is this guy into accidental bondage or what?

The wise old Chinese ninja agrees to help Shao Tian Hao seek revenge against the element ninja. There are three other students already studying the ninja arts under Master Tong. The four brothers in arms train together, which means trying to keep one step ahead of Master Tong. In America we put our old people in retirement homes where they spend their days hoping a son or granddaughter will stop in for a visit. In China, the elderly spend their golden years teaching kids to be ninjas. This means that the whippersnappers are blindfolded, and the teacher then chases them with a rattan cane as they try to get away. When I get old I am moving to China and hitting blindfolded teenagers with a stick all day. It beats living in an old folks' home.

As Shao Tian Hao and his brothers get ninja smart, Mr. Kang is double-crossed by the master ninja and becomes the late Mr. Kang.

If the kung fu battles that occurred earlier were good, then what takes place as Shao Tian Hao and the other three Chinese ninjas challenge each of the element ninja cadres is phenomenal. For every surprise in the evil ninja's bag of dirty tricks the good guys have an equally resourceful counter. The defense against the earth ninja's subterranean attacks is really wild. Shao and the others have spears that turn into spear/stilts! Whenever an earth ninja tries to stab one of the good guys in the groin they hop on top of the stilts, then answer the failed attack with a spear-tipped stomp! Can you imagine being stomped on by four maniacs who are wearing spear/stilts?

After the earth ninjas are vanquished, the final battle pits the four Chinese ninja destroyers against the master ninja. The evil assassin has even more unseen tricks up his sleeves; the question is whether Shao Tian Hao has as many extraordinary counters as the ninja master has exotic attacks.

Things I Learned From This Movie: 

  • Ninja invented the Encyclopedia Britannica and the J.C. Penny's Catalog.
  • Mustard is the color of perfect calm and serenity.
  • A "dingle dangle" is a bloody strip of cloth, and you shouldn't let it dangle in the dirt.
  • Never trust a woman whose hat is wider than her waist.
  • It is possible to achieve absolute platonic congruence while a near-naked woman is in your bed "playing the flute."
  • Ninja also invented fishnet stockings.
  • A slippery half hitch is no replacement for a set of iron manacles.
  • Never let a ninja stand on your head.
  • Wooden sign posts are actually ninja weapons.
  • The reason that a marching band has a silk squad is to defend against ninja attack.

Stuff To Watch For: 

  • 5 mins - Le Mu? Is he French?
  • 18 mins - That is a great door, but it has holes in it. Have any of you ever heard of a spear?
  • 27 mins - Looks like you two are out of your element.
  • 27 mins - Ha! Hahahahaha! And you cannot touch me! Hahahahahaha!
  • 30 mins - Does anyone else's thighs feel sore?
  • 32 mins - Worst reunion ever.
  • 46 mins - That ninja is probably counting the days until email is invented. Only about 200,000 to go.
  • 47 mins - "Charlie's Angels" so ripped off this scene.
  • 64 mins - You are just saying that because he is tied up.
  • 72 mins - If he was a woman instead of a man, dressed in a habit instead of those clothes, and using a ruler instead of that stick, this would be just like Catholic school.
  • 84 mins - Talk about a rough break-up.

 Audio clips in wav formatSOUNDSStarving actors speak out 

Green Music Note fiveelninja1.wav White Brother: "Tian Hao, what do you think of their chances?"
Shao Tian Hao: "All the men are excellent kung fu fighters. They should all be able to manage. My only concern is that we're all unfamiliar with the ninja."
White Brother: "I agree with you. Since they know our chief's been poisoned, this may be a setup."
Green Music Note fiveelninja2.wav Master Ninja: "I am the leader of the ninjas, Chen Yuh-Mundah! Now, tell me your name."
(Another) White Brother: "You use dirty tricks. I'll get you. Sly and cunning men like you should never know my name. Ahhhhhh!"
Green Music Note fiveelninja3.wav Master Tong: "You have mastered the way to counter it. The ninja weapons are quite varied, but confined to four kinds of hurling, hitting, holding, and locking. So you know what to expect, but be on your toes."
Green Music Note fiveelninja4.wav Kung fu fighting!
Green Music NoteTheme Song Listen to a clip from the soundtrack.

 Click for a larger imageIMAGESScenes from the movie 


 Watch a sceneVIDEOMPEG video files 

Video Clipfiveelninja1.mpg - 9.2m
Shao Tian Hao and his brothers take on the Earth Ninjas. Being stepped on by somebody who is wearing spear stilts looks excruciatingly painful.

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