Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Ninja MIssion (1984)

The ninja mission poster


Agents of destruction. Warriors of darkness. Professionals of death.

Movie Review:

The Ninja Mission1

Reviewed on vhs

We need more ninja movies on the blog. There needs to be more ninja movies on all blogs, even blogs about gardening. This little number comes from Sweden and is dubbed in English, though I think the actors were attempting to speak English during filming as it all syncs up well. I knew nothing about this going in, so was quite surprised about what I ended up watching. Read on.

Polish actor Krzysztof Kolberger stars as Mason, a CIA operative and apparent Ninja. After thwarting a street attack on a young woman he has been sent to protect, Nadia (Hanna Pola), Mason explains that her father Markov, a well respected Swedish scientist who has discovered a new method of creating limitless energy, is being held captive by the Russians and she is being hunted as a bargaining tool to make him divulge his work to the enemy. She's also a nightclub singer (and we have to endure a number, performed in a see through blouse). Mason loses her in the club when a machine gun massacre breaks out and she is whisked away, unconscious, to Russia.

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At the same time another team of operatives have arrived in Russia to bust out the professor. During their daring and violent escape (involving darts to the head!) over the water the team are killed by Markov's own gorgeous assistant Natassia (Sirka Sander) during a firefight with the Russians. She convinces Markov that they were killed in battle and to get into a waiting helicopter bound for Sweden, even though it has a Russian flag on the side. Unbeknownst to him, he is not being returned to Sweden but instead being hidden away in a Russian palace to finish his work, but convinced that he is now in Sweden he does so. When word of this treachery reaches the CIA, Mason and a small team are sent to Russia to retrieve Markov and his daughter themselves. It's time for.. The NINJA.

This is obscenely violent. Sweden may not have made many gritty action films in the 80's so they made up for it with over the top gory deaths. I'm talking the Ninja decapitating assailants through the jaw and seeing the aftermath in ultra slow motion. In fact, all the deaths are filmed in slow motion to capitalise on the prosthetic blood and gore! When Mason is given his James Bond style briefing and is outfitted with some 'new toys' - one being a set of darts that cause the head to explode when they hit their target - you start anticipating the inevitable gorefest; and boy does it eventually deliver. The last twenty minutes are up there with the best horror movies of the period. Branding irons, eye gouging, flying fox samurai sword decapitations, crossbows of toxic gas and the aforementioned head-exploding darts. Pretty full on stuff, but it sets it apart from the Cannon Ninja films.

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The title of the movie is a little misleading as the Ninja plays a definite back seat to Mason just being a CIA operative. There was really no need for him to dress up as a Ninja to complete the mission, but I guess VTC (the production company) wanted their own Swedish "Enter the Ninja" to put on the books. There's also a helicopter versus jeep chase to bring us back into standard action fair, something you wouldn't normally see in a Ninja film.

One thing that I can't work out with this movie is if it it takes place in some kind of alternate future. Why would I think that? Simple; the guns. When all the pistols in The Ninja Mission are fired they make a hysterical PEW PEW PEW laser sound. See the trailer below for an example. If not the future then I think the producers were trying to go with the sound of a silencer. I won't say that it's distracting because it adds to the fun quite a lot, though it is strange.

It's hard to write much more about this, as the plot is so straightforward and the action has to be seen, not described. The acting is fine, the dubbing not off-putting and the action top notch - if you can handle the bloodletting. The cold war scenery in Russia is nice to look at as much as Nadia and Natassia are. Recommended.

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The Video:

As watched on tape - the old Australian issue by K-Tel - this was fullscreen as most tapes are. Picture was clear and the sound was fine. There is a DVD set available in Germany of Ninja Mission and its sequel and another Swedish action film called Wardog, all in widescreen.

Sourced From:

K-Tel VHS won off eBay. I think that German DVD set would be a wise purchase though.


More Screens:

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Tigershark (1987)

Tigershark poster


Don't mess with Tigershark.. he BITES!

Movie Review:

Tigershark 1

"These coins and this finger are gonna cause an awful lot of trouble."

Reviewed on vhs

It wasn't my intention for this blog to be so utterly focussed on so many jungle action movies filmed in the Philippines. Truly, it wasn't. It's just played out that way! There were dozens upon dozens of the things made over there, where the jungle could pretend to be anything from Vietnam to Cambodia, and the local population willing to chump up as cannon fodder without hesitation. Here's another near-gem from the tail end of the decade, Tigershark.

It's your standard story here folks. Sensei Tava Parker (Mike Stone, Tojo Ken in American Ninja 2) is having a relaxing life teaching karate to kids in Hawaii dojo, since the Vietnam war ended. He has a bimbo model girlfriend, Karen (Pamela Bryant, Don't Answer the Phone) who refers to her boyfriend Tava as "Champ". She manages to get kidnapped along with her friendswhilst doing a photo shoot in the Sudan. Tava's old 'Nam pal Cowboy (John Quade) and his sidekick Tony (Roy Alvarez, McBain) see the kidnapping and call Tava. Tava flies over from Hawaii determined to rescue his girl and make the kidnappers pay. Tava is the kind of badass that can pin tossed coins to the wall with darts, so expect violent payback!

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This is gloriously by the numbers and all the better for it. The action is a little light on for the first half hour but some of the lines delivered by Cowboy are so funny that you are distracted enough anyway. Plenty of the action cliches are here for your enjoyment. With the girls discovered to be being held in a communist camp, Tava, Tony and Cowboy go to their rescue. Although this is the Sudan and weapons wouldn't be hard to find, Tava went to the effort to arrive in the country "crippled" with crutches - that conceal a DIY machine gun!

"In 'Nam we called him Tigershark, because he stalked like a tiger and attacked like a shark."

Tava enters an illegal pit fight in order to rescue his girlfriend from the corrupt Colonel Barro. The fight itself is hilarious as the two combatants (the other being the Colonel's chief warrior, or something) are tied by their hands with a chain and wear boots with studded metal spikes on them! Mike Stone is pretty buff, actually, I'm surprised he didn't do more movies of this ilk; perhaps even a Tigershark 2. I loved the 'Nam flashback that Cowboy had - complete with Days of Our Lives style screen-wobble back-in-time effect - of Tava kicking VC arse. That had me laughing for a good solid two minutes.

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Cowboy and Tony are amusing characters, the former running a bar and the latter running a taxi company. John Quade was a veteran actor by this point, having done countless TV movies and serials in the 70's like Bonzana, Gunsmoke and films like Papillion. In his warm weather clothing and with his bumbling antics, he reminded me of Mickey Rooney. Tony helpfully has a brother in the Civil Army that he calls upon in the third act to help fight the commies, so that's why he's in this picture.

"I'm a lover, not a fighter!"

The Colonel is the usual slimy official we are used to in this sort of movie, spouting out lines like "You Americans! You think the rest of the world will stand aside for you? No more!" while forcing American women into prostitution. There's a Russian 'comrade' called Vladamir (of course) with an over the top accent who wants to trade opium with the Colonel for money, and the aforementioned white women. Seriously these two characters were picked from the lowest branch on the tree of cliche, and I love it.

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It would be naive of me to suggest you couldn't work out how this all ends, so I'll get to the point. It all culminates in an explosive action sequence involving Tava firing missiles from home made crossbows (that Tava fires by pulling the string back with his teeth) and a pistol in the other hand, and Tony and Cowboy providing backup, to rescue Karens friends still captured. Huts explode, the girls are saved and everyone returns to Hawaii to paddle on canoes into the sunset.

Definitely a solid piece of 80's Jungle action that is worth hunting down a used VHS for. Unbelievably, Tigershark currently sits at 1.6 out of 10 on IMDB - that's the kind of score that Ulli Lommel movies get, and is unfairly awarded. It's a movie called Tigershark, what were these people thinking? Look at the poster! This isn't going to be Citizen Kane folks! From the director (Emmet Alston) of other such 80's classics as Way of the Ninja, Nine Deaths of the Ninja (Shô Kosugi and Brent Huff!), New Years Evil and Demonwarp.

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The Video:

For a 22 year old VHS this sported a pretty decent picture without many dropouts and good sound. Pleasing colours overall. IMDB says this is meant to be framed at 1.85:1 but I didn't notice anything majorly cropped; perhaps this tape is open matte. Runtime 95 minutes.

Sourced From:

The Australian Premiere VHS.


More Screens:

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