What a gloriously stupid movie. If one is going to make a shitty action movie, and one knows they are going to make a shitty action movie, rather than suffering from delusions of grandeur, why not be outrageous? That must have been the conclusion that producer Ashok Amritraj and writer/director Emmett Alston came to when they decided to make Nine Deaths of the Ninja, one of the silliest action flicks Missile Test has seen in at least…a month and a half, if not longer.
Viewers learn what they’re in for during the opening scene, when we see counterterrorist operatives Spike Shinobi (Sho Kosugi), Steve Gordon (Brent Huff), and Jennifer Barnes (Emilia Crow) ply their trade in a training exercise. Spike’s tactical outfit is a true marvel — a camo jumpsuit festooned with explosive crossbow bolts and all sorts of mall ninja blades, and a utility belt ringed with shuriken and lollipops. That’s right, lollipops. At first, I thought they were some kind of small, feathered throwing darts, but nope. Lollipops.
A crisis has arisen! In the Philippines, a tour group has been kidnapped by a terrorist/drug cartel run by the dastardly Alby the Cruel (Blackie Dammett, in, perhaps, the strangest homage to Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove one is likely to see).
Alby is joined by Honey Hump (Regina Richardson), whose femme fatale band of assassins are the sharp point of Alby’s spear.
Alby’s demands are simple. The United States is to cease all anti-drug operations in Southeast Asia, and one of Alby’s allies, Rahji (Sonny Erang), is to be released from a Manila jail post haste, or the hostages will all be killed.
This sounds like a job for Spike and company.
They arrive in Manila, and this flick starts to unravel bit by bit. Alston seemed to be more concerned with presenting his action as set pieces, rather than as a coherent plot. And that’s perfectly fine. Some of the best shitty action flicks of all time don’t make a lick of sense. The important thing to remember about this movie is that the absurdity is its most important quality. For one thing, it’s quite difficult to tell a complicated story in one’s film when the star, in this case Kosugi, is so poor at delivering lines in English that not only is his voice dubbed, but he doesn’t have that many lines in the movie. By my reckoning, his first line in the movie came at the 20:14 mark, after he had already been through the entire training scene, a spectacular Bond-style opening credits sequence, a flashback to his ninja training in Japan, and coming uncomfortably close to slicing a kitten in two while chopping up a watermelon blindfolded.
After Spike’s small band is given their mission by embassy official Rankin (former pro tennis player and sibling to the producer, Vijay Amritraj), the trio kind of wanders around Manila for a bit, going on dates and chasing the occasional lead.
Around an hour in, Alston must have felt it was time to start wrapping things up, because it’s off to the jungle for a final confrontation with Alby and his forces. Don’t think that things get any more coherent from here on. This flick has lost the thread by this final act. All that it’s good for is some grade C action sequences and a rushed denouement.
Nine Deaths of the Ninja is the kind of action flick the connoisseur of bad cinema craves. It slows to a crawl here and there, but, for the most part, is a pretty fun ride. It takes many pretensions from James Bond films, besides the opening credits and the casting of Vijay Amritraj. Sonny Erang is very much a Filipino Jaws, for instance. Funny enough, it’s not that hard to think of scenes in Bond films that were even sillier and dumber than what Alston and company gave us, with the exception of one scene in particular, when the movie answers the age-old question of who would win in a fight between a martial arts expert and four dwarfs. Even Bond flicks never went that far, if I recall.
Nine Deaths of the Ninja makes it into the top half of the Watchability Index, displacing Squirm at #124. It’s not quite shitty gold, but it’s close.