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  Ninja The Final Duel Shaolin Maulin'
Year: 1986
Director: Robert Tai
Stars: Alexander Lo Rei, Alice Tseng, Alan Lee, Eugene Thomas, Silvio Azolini, Ahmed Najja, Huang Kuang-hsien, Li Yi-min, Toby Russell, Philip So, Richard Tseng, Wang Hsieh, William Yen, Zan Wong Chi
Genre: Martial Arts, Trash, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: The Shaolin Temple has decided to close its doors to everyone since they got into controversy with a Japanese clan, resulting in the hara-kiri suicide of their leader. However, now the brother of the deceased is nursing a massive grudge against the temple and determines to train his ninja warriors in a variety of martial arts methods, all the better to create an invincible fighting force to exact revenge on the Chinese monks. As these ninjas are whipped into shape, breaking blocks, dressing as big cats complete with claws, climbing rocks and riding giant water spiders, another combatant, Wang Chi Chung (Alexander Lo Rei) is in training...

But he wants to join up with the Shaolin rather than destroy them, and it was a rare kung fu flick which would have you betting against that particular band of brothers in being victorious by the time "The End" appeared on the screen. Ninja The Final Duel was the creation of Robert Tai, sometime actor and occasional director of the trashier end of the martial arts movie scale, though this was one of his most celebrated works, or perhaps notorious would be a better description, mainly thanks to a scene that occurred halfway through, though those large water spiders puppets were a talking point in themselves, so much so that you might have wished they featured more heavily.

That said, when you saw how ungainly and awkward they were as their riders leapt into action you could well understand why Tai didn't overuse them: basically, they may swim and jump, but graceful they were not, and it appeared the ninjas atop the puppets would have been better off in a boat. Still, rather something ambitious than not trying anything new at all, and those rubber arachnids were certainly that, though there was a bountiful plenty of lunacy even if you were only watching this for those sequences. Which you wouldn't be, because you heard about an item of combat which it's hard to believe few had ever tried before: it was simple, it was exploitation inspiration, it was naked kung fu.

It took around half the movie for Alice Tseng to be introduced, and she wasn't in the story for long, but she undoubtedly made her mark in what appears to be her sole screen outing. After a sustained training session where he almost loses his life (doctors will tell you a work out shouldn't reach those lengths), Wang Chi is sent to the Shaolin Temple to join up, accompanied by his faithful companion Chung Tin (Philip So), but once he arrives there he finds nobody is getting in (if only he'd phoned ahead). This leads to a confrontation with two Californian monks (huh?) who erroneously think he can teach them the ways of Shaolin, but they are interrupted by cries for help - Peng Yi (Tseng) is under attack by ninjas!

They rescue her, and that night Wang Chi gives her a bath, which again is interrupted by ninjas, leading to her having to battle the assassins in the buff, a ridiculous scene which summed up the anything goes as long as the budget stretches to it tone of the movie. To make it more ludicrous, Peng Yi fashions a bikini out of a length of cloth in a nanosecond to retain her modesty as Wang Chi shows up to save her again, which might have you thinking she would be the love interest, but, er, a bit of bad news for you there. A lot of people getting their heads cut off here, is all I'll say. Anyway, to add to the madness, a jive talking black monk of Harlem (Eugene Thomas) appears as an ally for more noticeably speeded up bouts, though it's Lo Rei who remains the true star. There was a hard to shake rumour that Ninja The Final Duel was actually an eight or nine hour film edited down, but apparently it's part of a series of films rather than a drastically shorter cut of an epic. Nevetheless, it's quite something in this format. Music lifted from Rambo: First Blood Part II, Das Boot and Ghostbusters. Ghostbusters?!
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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