In many ways, this movie was my cinematic Holy Grail. Let others look for the uncut version of Erich von Stroheim’s Greed. I’ll settle for this Shaw Brothers classic. I have a great deal of attachment to this movie, because this was the very first martial arts film I ever saw. Oh, I’d seen a little bit of Chuck Norris here, a little bit of Steven Seagal there — but they never counted. I’d never seen a true, unadulterated, unperverted martial arts film until a friend lent me this. And to say my eyes were opened is to say the least.
Oh sure, it’s terrible. Don’t get me wrong… this is easily one of the worst films I’ve ever seen, from a certain standpoint. The dubbing is atrocious (why do they have to use people with the most annoying voices?), the special effects are laughable (most of them consist of the film being run backwards), and the plot, if you can follow it, is as cliched as they come. Young man studies martial arts. Young man sees his school destroyed by evil ninjas. Young man vows revenge. Young man studies under new master. You can see the plot twists coming from a mile away.
But who cares, when you get to see ninjas floating across the surface of the river and ensnaring their opponents in nets? Or when the ninjas fly through the air thanks to trampolines and running the film backwards? Or when people trip over their own entrails during a fight? I swear, this movie has some of the most innovative ways to kill people I’ve ever seen in a kung fu film. At the beginning of the film, the narrator announces that the weapons are based on authentic historical documents. If that’s the case, then those ninjas were a bunch of sick mothers.
The sheer over-the-topness of the film, the desire to please you with moves and flips that defy every law that Nature has, and the schlockiest chopsocky gore this side of The Streefighter will probably have many crying foul. But true fans of kung fu cinema should keep their eyes open for this. Check on-line stores like KungFuFlix.Com. Keep your eyes peeled at Ebay. Go to garage sales. But don’t pass this one up if you consider yourself a fan of the genre.
Note: This movie is also known as Five Elements Ninjas and Super Ninjas.