Ah, those pesky ninjas. You think they’d be perfectly happy being the masters of assassinations and other dark martial arts (just think of the party tricks alone). You think they’d be happy with the cool gadgets and weapons they get to use. If nothing else, they get to wear those sweet costumes. But alas, once you don that black costume and toss a shuriken or two, you’re bound to want more.
And that’s just what happens in Ninja: The Final Duel. Apparently, those ninjas want to be even badder asses, and so they attack the Shaolin Temple in China. After unsuccessfully trouncing the snot out the Shaolin monks, the leader of the ninja clan commits suicide to preserve his honor. Now, we all know that honor runs thick among thieves, so think how it must run amongst those black-clad masters of night. Soon enough, another ninja master, this one even meaner and nastier than the first (you can tell by his poor Sonny Chiba impersonation), sets about on a “glorious massacre” (his words, not mine) of the Shaolin monks.
Now, maybe I have a different idea of just what a “glorious massacre” entails, but apparently, it involves giant amphibious spider-shaped boats that can fly, a wierd flute, mad tunnelling skills (like those Bugs Bunny cartoons), and lots of maniacal laghter and disappearing. Normally, I don’t even think Shaolin monks could handle this sort of onslaught, but fortunately they have help in the form of a travelling Japanese monk with a serious Bruce Lee complex, a black monk from Harlem, and a woman who fights best when completely stark naked.
From a sheer technical standpoint, I think it’s pretty much a miracle that all of that even exists on the same reel of film. I would love to have been in on one of the production meetings for this movie.
I want to meet the man who thought that ninjas, already pretty hardcore to begin with, would be even tougher while paddling about on floating spiders (and wearing black speedoes). Also, you’d think that someone would point out to the director that ninjas wearing brightly colored cat masks and making loud growling noises wouldn’t be too effective in covert operations. I want to meet the person (I can only assume it was a man) who thought “Hey, let’s make Alice Tseng fight completely naked for 10 minutes, then construct a skimpy bikini out of a sheet and fight for 10 more.” Sadly, this is Tseng’s only movie that I could find, so if you want to catch her nude fighting skills, this is it.
And finally, just where in the heck did the black monk from Harlem come from (aside from Harlem)? It’s a kung fu movie about ninjas killing Shaolin monks, and then a jive talkin’ monk from New York just appears out of nowhere?!? And no one acts like it’s any big thing? Personally, if I was a Shaolin monk in the wilderness of China, I’d at least do a double take if I saw a brother from the ‘hood sauntering up my temple steps.
It’s just ludicrous and downright wacky enough to make you overlook the extremely stereotypical treatment of the man (and you have wonder what Eugene Trammel thought of his character when he read the script, assuming there was a script). The dialog between him and the film’s hero (yes, there is one, but he’s fairly ignorable) makes Dolemite look like a Shakespearean rendition.
Speaking of Dolemite, Rude Ray Moore himself reedited and redubbed this movie to create Shaolin Dolemite. I haven’t seen Shaolin Dolemite, but I have seen the original Dolemite. Somehow, the thought of Rudy Ray Moore being involved with Ninja: The Final Duel in any way somehow makes sense, in a sick, demented sort of way.
There’s no real sane way to look at this movie. It’s comparable to other delirious chopsocky fair like Chinese Super Ninjas (although that movie still has a special place in my heart). And some have compared it to Duel To The Death, probably because both movies feature insanely crazy ninjawork that takes great liberties with stuff like the laws of physics. Although Duel To The Death is an infinitely better film, you’re not going to watch Ninja: The Final Duel for the same reasons.
This is one of those “Dude, you won’t believe what I just saw” sort of movies, the kind that gives you bragging rights (if only because you survived it). So be proud that you spent money on this film. Drag your friends to the living room, kicking and screaming. Turn a deaf ear to their pleas to fast forward through the poor dialog and needless exposition. Soon, the whole gang will be going nuts. If it’s not Tseng’s revolutionary performance, it’ll be the Californian monks (did I forget to mention them?). If it’s not the flying water spiders, it’ll be Harlem’s Shaolin brother. If it’s not the ninja leader’s disturbingly short shorts, it’ll be his disturbingly smooth legs. If not the action choreography and bloodshed, the dubbing (which ranges from horrible to hilarious).
Come to think of it, this movie has something for everyone.