Saturday, July 13, 2013

Summer Fest 5 (Day Two): Ninja III - The Domination

 Holy catballs what the hell was that? Ninja III: The Domination is the kind of movie I could spend the rest of the weekend trying to explain to you and still not do it justice. There are so many inexplicable moments of sheer insanity, of downright "what were you thinking when you made this"-ness that you have to see it to believe it. Miami Connection is a collection of well intentioned failures that entertains through its earnestness, and Ninja III: The Domination still blows it out of the water for pure "WTF" factor. They're also both about ninjas (kind of).

 If we're getting technical about this, Ninja III is the third film in a series that began with Enter the Ninja and continued with Revenge of the Ninja, in that all three films feature Shô Kosugi in different roles, but usually as some kind of ninja character. The star of Ninja III: The Domination is Lucinda Dickey (Breakin', Cheerleader Camp), as Christie, who is somehow both a lineman (linewoman?) and an aerobics instructor in Arizona (hey, that's where Kingdom of the Spiders took place!) who has a chance encounter with a ninja (David Chung) and is possessed by his spirit through his sword.

 Well, let's step back a bit, because I think recapping what happens before Christie's encounter with the evil ninja. After the Cannon Films logo (always a promising sign for movies made between 1980 and 1994), the ninja goes into his cave and opens a secret compartment, revealing his ninja gear, which he'll need to assassinate some guy playing golf. So right off the bat, we have a ninja on a golf course in broad daylight, killing his target and all of the guys bodyguards, and then the police arrive, and he kills most of them (including taking down a helicopter) and escapes two cops on motorcycles by running between them. Even after being filled with more bullets than the guy who "tested" ED-209 in Robocop, he manages to throw a smoke pellet and disappear (SPOILER ALERT: in true misdirection, he just buries himself where he was standing) and then Christie comes over to check out the ruckus.

 I know it's a cheap and easy out to drop the phrase "phallic imagery" when talking about a movie, but it's hard to argue that going from "mounting a pole" to "gripping his sword" is just a cigar, to mix metaphors a bit. There's a lot of "does that mean penis" imagery going on in the film, and I haven't even begun to cover what Ninja III is actually about. Oh no, the golf course is just the set up, because Christie is possessed by the ninja so that he can take revenge on the police who killed him. For reasons the narrative doesn't necessarily need but the audience most certainly does, we know she's being possessed by the ninja when his sword starts glowing and floats around her apartment.

 Oh yeah, did I mention that this movie can roughly (and fairly) be described as "Enter the Ninja meets The Exorcist"? Because it can, but if Exorcist II: The Heretic exemplified everything people think of about trashy 70s culture, Ninja III epitomizes what people who didn't live through the 1980s imagine the decade was like. I have no idea how, even with two jobs, Christie can afford the studio apartment she has, or how she managed to decorate it like every guy in college would imagine his first apartment would look like, but the set designer and art department must have cleared out every dorm room in Arizona to make it so. In addition to free-standing lockers, a payphone, a coffee table that's clearly just a spindle, and steel girders as a bed frame, Christie also owns an arcade box with a game that looks suspiciously like a proto-Diner Dash. It turns out only to be in the movie so that it can hypnotize her with lasers (I cannot make this up) BEFORE the floating sword flies out of her closet.

 During one particularly fantastic scene, the sword decides it's time to possess Christie, but she's having none of it. The apartment goes all Poltergeist and instead of freaking out she turns up her boombox and starts dancing. Take that, ninja! (SPOILER: She doesn't win - the boombox explodes).

 Christie's new found ninja powers raise the attention of police officer Billy Secord (Jordan Bennett), who watches her take out would-be rapists while standing there and doing nothing, and then arrests her as a pretext for asking her out. This begins their awkward courtship, which includes the sexiest use of V-8 you're ever going to see (I'm certain of that). While Billy does wear ball-hugging pants at some point (every movie during Summer Fest apparently must have this), it's his out-of-control back hair that provides most of the "ewwww" factor. Oh, Billy is also one of the police responsible for gunning down the ninja, so conflict!

 I'm leaving out so many amazing moments because you really need to see Ninja III: The Domination for yourself, but just in case I haven't sold you already, James Hong appears as a kind-of Japanese exorcist about halfway through the film, there's a ninja massacre during a policeman's funeral, a battle involving a pool table, a showdown at a Buddhist Temple, and that's all before Shô Kosugi shows up as a rival ninja who wants to stop the spirit of the ninja who took his eye. He wears the hilt of a sword as his eye patch. Again, I cannot make up how insane Ninja III is. The movie's rampant insanity caused one viewer to lose an hour and a half's worth of sewing because she was too focused on the ridiculous shenanigans onscreen. This is not a "maybe" watch - Ninja III: The Domination is a MUST watch, and the highlight of an already stellar Fest.

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