Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Scream Factory - NINJA III: THE DOMINATION - Collector's Edition Blu-ray ""

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Scream Factory - NINJA III: THE DOMINATION - Collector's Edition Blu-ray

Every so often, like a rare meteor that only finds its way past the earth every half century or so, a film comes along that flies in the face of everything we know to be the logic and structural norms of storytelling. A film that truly feels like it was gifted to us by beings from another planet - like they observed our culture through cinema and decided to offer us something that they think resembles a normal movie, but they are of course not human and something gets lost in the translation. The result can be absolutely magical though and leave us with something quite unforgettable and entertaining in a way we only dreamed possible. NINJA III: THE DOMINATION is one of those movies. More people need to have their minds melted into quesadillas by this transcendent piece of other dimensional madness.

Just to sort of set the stage here, be aware that 'ninja fever' was truly a big thing for me in high school. Every boy my age that still loved G.I. Joe thought Stormshadow was a badass and I recall many a sketchy catalog of deadly weaponry(throwing stars being the most popular) being confiscated by school officials from my unsuspecting classmates. Ninja stuff was everywhere, and there were lots of ninja movies to appease us. Our good friends at Cannon Films have brought us tons of great stuff. Their contributions of awesomeness to cinema are innumerable. They had already brought us ENTER THE NINJA in 1981(one of their first productions) and the far superior REVENGE OF THE NINJA in 1983. They had found a way to make ninjas into unstoppable(and often gruesome) killing machines. To me, it was a way to take the dying slasher genre and spin it off into a different, more action-y direction. Martial arts, exotic bladed weapons and blood were the currency of this filmic universe and myself and guys my age totally went for it.
In the world of NINJA III, folks can't even enjoy a day on the golf course without having a ninja come in and mess it up. This particular ninja wipes out a preeminent scientist, his bodyguards and a whole gaggle of cops.The lovely Lucinda Dickey (of Cannon's BREAKIN' series fame) is doing her best Glen Campbell here and working as a lineman for the county. We first glimpse her hiking up a telephone pole to do a little phone company business. Said business is quickly interrupted when the dying ninja from the golf course approaches her. But of course as most sensible people know, it is unwise to try to assist an expiring ninja as there's always a decent chance that he may expel his spirit into you with his dying breath and you'll end up possessed. And that's what happens of course. Sound like the setup for a 'switch' movie? Well it kinda is. A wacky ninja possession switch movie set in truly wacky 80s universe. Lucinda Dickey does some aerobics instructing on the side, plays arcade games in her apartment, does some kinky stuff with V-8 and also finds herself suddenly able to do some crazy-ass karate shit. She also has lots of weird flashbacks to the ninja's moment of near-death when she encounters certain people. She has lots of hallucinations in general. There's plenty of trippy stuff here, which is where the film gets a lot of its WTF reputation. Lucinda finds herself out of control and on a mission to avenge the death of the ninja by going after all those who tried to kill him. That's the movie in a nutshell. Lots of kicking, slicing, dicing and crushing. But there's just a lot of stuff here that makes you go "huh?" and it's all very entertaining in my mind.

When Scream Factory first brought NINJA III to Blu-ray back in 2013, I was ecstatic. It had never gotten much in the way of a great home video release outside of VHS and had been relegated to being cherished by a select few who remembered its gloriousity (yes I realize this isn’t a word, but it applies here) from way back when Cannon films ruled the Mom & Pop video store shelves. While the previous Scream Factory Edition included a neat commentary with director Sam Firstenberg and Stunt Coordinator Steve Lambert (which has been carried over to this release), they have stepped it up in terms of supplements to bring this to the level of their other “Collector’s Edition” Releases. Not only do we get a better looking new transfer of the film, but there’s more of course. Here’s what’s been added:

-“Dancing With Death: An Interview with Actress Lucinda Dickey” (18 mins)
Dickey talks about her early days in Hollywood, dancing in films like GREASE 2 and then trying her hand at acting. She tells of the challenges of the making the movie from not having read the script at all within the first week of pre-production to the difficulties of the training involved for the part. I particularly enjoyed her recollections of working with Sho Kosugi and the stunt work she did herself. It’s really nice to get her perspective on everything and it helps make this feel like the definitive edition of the movie.

-“Secord’s Struggle: An Interview with Actor Jordan Bennett” (10 mins)
In this short interview, Bennett talks about his early work in the Catskills (including a funny story involving legendary comedian Milton Berle) and how that lead to Broadway auditions and later, movie acting. He has some humorous stories of behind the scenes hijinks as well as his memories of the infamous “V-8 scene” with Lucinda Dickey.

-“Birth of The Ninja: An Interview with Producer and Stuntman Alan Amiel” (12 mins)
Amiel speaks to his experience with martial arts and fascination with the ninja character in general. He also talks about the use of dangerous weapons in a film and how tricky that can be as well as his thoughts on working with Sam Firstenberg as a director.

-The Audio commentary track (featuring director Sam Firstenberg & stun coordinator Steve Lambert) sheds some light on a few things I wasn't aware of. First, I guess POLTERGEIST was a big influence on the movie as it was obviously a sizeable hit right around the time they were making NINJA III. Second, apparently Lucinda Dickey was more or less "discovered" via the casting process of this film and even though BREAKIN' came out before NINJA III, she acted in NINJA III first and the Cannon folks immediately rushed her off to do the breakdance classic (which they finished filming and editing before N3 was released).

You can buy this wonderful new Collector's Edition Blu-ray from Amazon here:
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