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Sho Kosugi waxes deadly in the enjoyable Cannon production REVENGE OF THE NINJA.


REVENGE OF THE NINJA, which flips the premise of its predeces- sor by offering a heroic Japanese ninja battling an evil white one. After most of his family is mas- sacred in Japan, ninja master Cho Osaki (Kosugi) relocates to America with his one surviving son, Kane (the star’s real-life son, Kane Kosugi). However, longtime friend Braden (Arthur Roberts) is in league with the mafia and is using Osaki’s new art gallery as part of his heroin smuggling ac- tivities. When Kane accidentally discovers this, people begin to die at the hands of Braden, who is also a proponent of ninjitsu and a skilled assassin.


Deemed an incoherent disas- ter in its initial edit, REVENGE OF THE NINJA underwent some quickie reshoots and emerged as one of Cannon’s most enjoyable films of the period. Steve Lam- bert takes over from Mike Stone as the action choreographer and the various combat sequences here are more elaborate, varied and exciting. The project also has a better sense of its own ab- surdity than ENTER THE NINJA


6


with Salt Lake City providing an unlikely backdrop for the ex- pected superhuman gymnastics and increasingly absurd ninja weapons.


The picture was given an “X” rating by the MPAA before several cuts were made. Ignore the “R” on the case; like MGM’s old DVD, Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray presents the bloodier, uncut version. However, the 1080p 1.85:1 HD image is sharper and cleaner than the presentation afforded its fullscreen predecessor. Benefitting from a wide, well-publicized theatrical re- lease through MGM/UA, RE- VENGE OF THE NINJA continued the company’s ninja winning streak, which took an even crazier turn the following year with NINJA III: THE DOMINATION [reviewed VW 175:7]. Director Sam Firsten- berg appears in an introduction to the movie and on an audio com- mentary with Lambert. A few mis- takes are made along the way, but the main problem is the obtrusive moderation of Bill Olsen, who con- stantly interrupts interesting discus- sions with input that adds nothing and obsesses over minutiae that


the participants seem to find as tiresome and pointless as the lis- tener. There is also a theatrical trailer, which includes a few shots not seen in the final edit. RIVER OF DEATH does not though it


concern ninjas, is


toplined by Michael Dudikoff, star of the company’s American Ninja series. One of several later Cannon productions made in South Africa during Apartheid, this opens with the fall of Germany at the end of WWII before jumping ahead to 1965. Dudikoff plays adventurer John Hamilton, who is enlisted to lead a party through the Amazon jungle in search of a cure for a plague that has been ravaging native villages. When his em- ployers are lost in the events that follow, Hamilton returns to the area with a new expedition party, which includes a former SS officer (Donald Pleasence) now pretend- ing to be a Jew. The source of the contagion is a Nazi scientist (Robert Vaughn) headquartered in a lost city and still conduct- ing mad biological experiments al- most two decades after fleeing the fatherland.


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