HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
 
Newest Reviews
Tokyo Dragon Chef
Pittsburgh
12 Hour Shift
Intergalactic Adventures of Max Cloud, The
Spoilers, The
Killer Therapy
Man Upstairs, The
Bloodhound, The
New Mutants, The
Tesla
Flame of New Orleans, The
Ham on Rye
Imperial Blue
Tenet
August 32nd on Earth
Don is Dead, The
Seven Sinners
Body of Water
Away
Soul
About Endlessness
Let It Snow
Ava
Deliver Us from Evil
Shark Attack 3: Megalodon
Midnight Sky, The
Lego Star Wars Holiday Special, The
Mon Oncle Antoine
Blast of Silence
Blackout, The
Stars in Your Eyes
Alone
Climate of the Hunter
Farewell Amor
Let's Scare Julie
Okko's Inn
Shaolin vs. Wu Tang
Fatman
Butt Boy
Dog of Flanders, The
   
 
Newest Articles
The Price of Plague: The Masque of the Red Death on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Seance on a Wet Afternoon and Ring of Spies
Chaney Chillers: Inner Sanctum Mysteries - The Complete Film Series on Blu-ray
Adelphi Extras: Stars in Your Eyes on Blu-ray
Toons for the Heads: Fantastic Planet and Adult Animation
Nature Girl: The New World on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Perfect Friday and Robbery
Network Double Bills: The House in Nightmare Park and The Man Who Haunted Himself
Newley Minted: The Strange World of Gurney Slade on Blu-ray
Bad Love: The Night Porter on Blu-ray
Brevity is the Soul of Weird: Short Sharp Shocks on Blu-ray
Get Your Ass to Mars: Total Recall on Blu-ray
Call the Professionals: Le Cercle Rouge on Blu-ray
When There's No More Room in Hell: Dawn of the Dead on Blu-ray
The Butterfly Effect: Mothra on Blu-ray
Living Room Theatre: Play for Today Volume 1 on Blu-ray
Didn't He Do Well: The Bruce Forsyth Show on DVD
Blood Wedding: The Bride with White Hair on Blu-ray
The Inhuman Element: The Ladykillers on 4K UHD
As You Like It, Baby: Breathless on Blu-ray
Stargazing: Light Entertainment Rarities on DVD
Down to the Welles: Orson Welles Great Mysteries Volume 2 on DVD
Herding Cats: Sleepwalkers on Blu-ray
Confessions of a Porn Star: Adult Material on DVD
They're Still Not Sure It is a Baby: Eraserhead on Blu-ray
   
 
  Ninja in the Dragon's Den Ooh shaka-ninja!
Year: 1982
Director: Corey Yuen
Stars: Hiroyuki Sanada, Conan Lee, Hiroshi Tanaka, Hwang Jang-Lee, Tai Bo, Wu Jia-Xiang, Tsushima Kaname, Ng See-Yuen, Tien Feng, Ma Chin-Ku, Kwan Yung-Moon
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Martial Arts, Weirdo, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Given ninjitsu is a Japanese martial art one would expect the best ninja movies to hail from Japan. And yet aside from the classic Shinobi no Mono (1962), the charming Azumi (2003) and a handful of anime titles, in its native land the genre is largely synonymous with silly softcore porn. By contrast, the Hong Kong film industry produced scores of memorable ninja actioners including the two best ones ever made: the masterly Duel to the Death (1981) and the sublime Ninja in the Dragon’s Den which also has arguably the finest opening title sequence of all time.

In a zany, Monkees style sequence, dozens of ninjas burst out of the sand, leap, flip and cavort to the sounds of a funky ninja pop song: “They were men of the night! They were ready to fight! Ooh shaka-ninja!” Frankly, all movies, even Hugh Grant romantic comedies, should open this way. That catchy “ooh shaka-ninja!” chorus is repeated throughout the movie. Feel free to sing-along. Rogue ninja Yuen Wu (Hiroyuki Sanada) kills a high-ranking Japanese official on his hit list of revenge targets, prompting the outraged Ega clan to come knocking at his door. However, he and his dutiful wife Akane (Tsushima Kaname) escape to China in search of their next target. Meanwhile, muscular Master Ching (Conan Lee) hones his skills at the family temple while his lecherous buddy, Ah Chee (Tai Bo) reads porno novels all day. Ching is particularly close to his Uncle Foo, a gentle, philosophically-inclined old man whom he nonetheless suspects harbours a deep, dark secret. Turns out, Uncle Foo is actually a Japanese fugitive named Fukuda and a ninja to boot. Years ago, he was partly responsible for killing Yuen Wu’s father. Now his crimes come back to haunt him as Wu arrives looking for revenge. But Ching resolves to pit his wits against Wu’s array of ninja tricks.

Bear with those early silly slapstick and sex gags because Ninja in the Dragon’s Den soon finds its groove once Hiroyuki Sanada and Conan Lee barrel through some of the most astounding acrobatic sequences ever committed to film. First there is the famous stilt-fighting sequence with Ching tottering on high doing jaw-dropping split-kicks in battle against a bullying Peking Opera performer. He’s dressed as the Monkey King, his opponent is garbed like the Bull Demon in a clever recreation of their famous mythological duel. Then Ching fights a phoney Taoist exorcist atop a stack of tables piled up to the ceiling. But by far the most celebrated set-piece is the extended sequence where Ching sets a series of elaborate traps, only for Yuen Wu to outfox him with a series of equally ingenious escapes. It becomes an exhausting, enthralling battle of wits and results in some exquisite imagery: silver dust illuminates the hitherto hidden ninja; a captive woman turns into a poison gas-spurting mannequin; a burning man leaps into a lake that erupts in a ring of fire.

Such striking scenes sprung from the imagination of famed action choreographer Corey Yuen Kwai, here making his directorial debut. Even the dialogue scenes are clever and unique, most memorably one that cuts between a series of reflective mirrors, underlining the fragmented nature of the protagonist and his past. Yuen Kwai was well versed in the history of Peking Opera and how offbeat action could be used to convey subtext. He started out as one of the famous Seven Little Fortunes alongside childhood Peking Opera pal Jackie Chan and went on to be one of the most important, if sadly unsung, talents in Hong Kong cinema. Under his guidance Japan’s biggest star: Hiroyuki Sanada found the perfect showcase for his acrobatic talents. The pair reteamed for the excellent Royal Warriors (1986).

Besides being Sanada’s first foray into Hong Kong film, Ninja in the Dragon’s Den marked the screen debut of Conan Lee - whose real name is Lloyd Hutchinson! - an incredible athlete if indifferent actor. If his shaggy hairdo and comic performance recall the young Jackie Chan, it is no surprise given legendary producer and occasional director Ng See-Yuen was the man behind Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow and Drunken Master (both 1978), which made Jackie a star and launched the career of director Yuen Woo Ping. N.G. (as he likes to be called) is famed as one of the smartest men in the industry and having discovered stars as varied as John Liu, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Cynthia Rothrock, held similar ambitions for Conan Lee. Things didn’t quite work out that way as after a contract dispute, Lee quit N.G.’s Seasonal Films and found minor success in Hollywood as a bit-player and occasional supporting turn, notably in Eliminators (1986) (as a ninja!) and Lethal Weapon 4 (1998).

Despite some problems maintaining a cohesive narrative (notably the inexplicable revelation that Yuen Wu could speak Chinese all along!), the plot takes interesting twists and turns and proves unexpectedly moving and dramatic in parts with solid themes about the futility of blind vengeance and the misunderstandings that arise from cultural ignorance. Typical of the whiplash mood swings in HK film, the last twelve minutes arrive out of left-field. Having settled their differences, our two heroes unite to combat an evil sorcerer (famed Korean kicker Hwang Jang-Lee, another N.G. discovery) and his cadre of ladder wielding circus freaks. It smacks of padding, but at least it’s lively and fun padding as the wild finale weaves in an exploding porn magazine (!) and a woman’s bare breasts shooting neon energy beams (?!), before our lusty friend Ah Chee muses that kung fu and ninjitsu are simply no match for the power of boobs. “Ooh shaka-ninja!”

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 2918 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 

Corey Yuen  ( - )

Hong Kong director and actor. His earliest work was an uncredited director on the cheapo Bruce Lee sequel Tower of Death, but it was stylish, popular martial arts hits like Ninja in the Dragon Den, Yes Madam, Jackie Chan's Dragons Forever and the action fantasy Saviour of the Soul that made Yuen's name.

In the nineties, he directed Jet Li in films like The Legend, The Defender and The Enforcer, which led to work as action choreographer on many of Li's Hollywood films, including The One, Kiss of the Dragon and Cradle 2 the Grave. Most recently, Yuen directed the Luc Besson-produced action hit The Transporter.

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
Andrew Pragasam
Stately Wayne Manor
Enoch Sneed
  Geraint Morgan
Paul Smith
  Lee Fiveash
   

 

Last Updated: