Written by: Michael Den Boer on December 31st, 2006
Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1981
Approximate running time: 101 minutes
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame Open Matte
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (Theatrically)
Director: Menahem Golan
Screenplay: Dick Desmond, Mike Stone
Cinematography: David Gurfinkel
Cast: Franco Nero, Susan George, Shô Kosugi, Christopher George, Alex Courtney, Will Hare, Zachi Noy, Michael Dudikoff, Robert Wall
Warriors of a lost martial art! Hired assassins …human killing machines!
Synopsis: Cole (Franco Nero) is a former army veteran trained in the arts of all things ninja. While visiting his old army buddy Frank who is being harassed by a man named Charles Venarius (Christopher George) and his henchmen. Charles Venarius wants Frank’s land and his is willing to do anything to get it including murder. Cole decides to stay and give his friend backup against Charles Venarius and his thugs. Will Cole be able to help save his friends property or will a former enemy from his past intervene?
Dollars: “So who are you going to kill next, Mr. Ninja?”
Cole: “My friend, a ninja doesn’t kill. He eliminates and only for defensive purposes.”
In the 1980’s Menahem Golan and his cousin Yoram Globus would forever change the action film genre with a string of international hits released by their company Cannon films. They would help launch the careers of Michael Dudikoff and Shô Kosugi and make action heroes out of veteran actors like Franco Nero, Chuck Norris, Charles Bronson and Sylvester Stallone. Menahem Golan was also a director in his own right having directed twenty two films before he directed Enter the Ninja.
Enter the Ninja, like all the imitators that would follow it. Is all about action and unintentionally funny dialog that works better then it should. The plot while not to complicated does leave one scratching their head how a white man named Cole from the West could not only learn the ancient Japanese art of being a ninja but also be better then all those who taught him. The casting of Franco Nero as Cole helps make this oversight easier to swallow since Nero is an actor that always seems to make everything he is in better no matter how flawed the film is. Another plus for this film is just how good Nero looks during the fighting scenes. The same can not be said for his wardrobe choices of white leisure and track suites that look a tad to tight and offer very little circulation.
The action at times is brutal and bloody still it is amazing just how many places this one was banned during its original theatrical release. The action sequences are all well done and for the most part exciting. The rest of the film in between the action tends to drag and the direction also suffers during these moments.
The cast for Enter the Ninja is better then most action films with Nero being the stand out performer. One other performance that I found humorous was that of Zachi Noy as Siegfried ‘The Hook’ Schultz. The scenes in which he interacts with Franco Nero are the most memorable in the film. The rest of the cast never really shine enough to warrant any accolades about their performances. To actors who have made their fare share of martial arts films Michael Dudikoff and Robert Wall both make uncredited appearances in the film.
Enter the Ninja is a flawed film that manages to overcome most of its shortcomings and the end result is a highly entertaining film loaded with first rate action sequences.
So far to date the only DVD release of Enter the Ninja is MIA Video’s region 2 DVD in the UK which presents the film in a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. For this review I watched Enter the Ninja via MGM/UA Home Entertainment’s 1995 VHS release. With most of Cannon’s other action films from the 1980’s already released on DVD by MGM is should not be to long before they give Enter the Ninja its long overdue region 1 DVD debut.