Written by: Michael Den Boer on December 30th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong 1985 (Ninja Thunderbolt), Hong Kong 1983 (Invincible Hero)
Directors: Godfrey Ho (Ninja Thunderbolt), Yang Tao (Invincible Hero)
Cast: Richard Harrison, Don Wang Tao, Shoji Kurata (Ninja Thunderbolt), Barry Chan (Invincible Hero)
DVD released: January 10, 2006
Approximate running time: 91 minutes (Ninja Thunderbolt), 84 minutes (Invincible Hero)
Aspect Ratio: both films are 4.3 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital stereo
DVD Release: BCI Eclipse
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.95
Ninja Thunderbolt: A ninja named Li Chieh is forced to flee after breaking into to a safe and being discovered. A detective named Harry follows him is a high speed chase that leads to Li Chieh’s driving off a cliff into the ocean. The police are unable to find Li Chieh’s body and they believe that he is now dead. A young Sara see something in the surf while walking on the beach one day and when she gets closer she soon discovers it is a man. The man is Li Chieh who despite being badly wounded is very much alive and she takes him home to help him recover from his injuries. Sara and her father are in possession of a valuable Jade horse statue which they report stolen and they police assign detective Harry to the case. Harry doesn’t believe that the statue was stolen and he thinks that Sara and her father are just trying to scam the insurance company. Li Chieh now feeling better founds out that Harry is once again involving himself in his business and he decides to take away something near and dear from him.
Ninja Thunderbolt was directed and written by Godfrey Ho a B film movie maverick who would often film actors in more then one film at once similar to another director named Jess Franco. What Godfrey Ho lacked in skill as a director he always made up for in his all out assault of the senses that in many cases are entertaining because they are so bad the are bad type of films.
This film’s immediately grabs you with its round table of ninja’s gather at the beginning and the films catchy main theme. If your are expecting anything that remotely resembles acting look elsewhere as this film is all over the place sometimes that even better performances wouldn’t clear up any of this mess. The action is first rate with some amazing car chases and the marital arts is pretty solid also. Richard Harrison is barely in any of this film and his part almost feels like it was inserted to fill time. One other same complaint is that the title of the film is Ninja Thunderbolt and after the opening heist and car chase there is virtually no ninja’s until the films final showdown. This film is filled to the brim with action and sleaze which is also its main selling points. If you like your marital arts films to make little or no sense then you will love Ninja Thunderbolt as much as I did.
Invincible Hero: Master Chow is new in town and he wants to open his own kung fu gym. He visits Mr. Lang one of the towns’ foremost kung fu experts in hope of gaining his approval. Mr. Lang refuses to indorse the stranger and he informs master Chow that it is a town law that no one new to town are allowed to open their own kung fu schools. Master Chow now more determined then ever rapes and kills a young woman and frames Mr. Lang’s kung fu school as the culprit. The police investigate and when this set up doesn’t do the trick master Chow has no other alternative so this time he kills Mr. Lang framing the murder on Mr. Lang’s best student Kinchu. Now with the with his back to the wall Kinchu is a fugitive who own life in now in danger until he can prove that he did not kill Mr. Lang and that master Chow is to blame for all the towns recent troubles.
The main plot in Invincible Hero is pretty standard in the realm of kung fu films. There are very few surprises and at times there are moments of déjà vu. For me this part of the charm of classic marital arts film and even though many of them are a mirror image of each other they are enjoyable in their own special way.
The films lead actor Barry Chan is a solid lead who also shows that he is more hold capable of delivering some first arte kung fu. The action sequences in this film are all well done and one of this films major selling points. The last third of the film does get a little crazy as it mostly consists of games of cat and mouse as Kinchu fights the bad guys and tries to prove his innocence. The abrupt shift to almost nothing but fighting is jarring. This film also uses a famous music cue from the film Carrie that oddly enough works with in the context of everything that is going on. Even though Invincible Hero is pretty straight forward in its delivery it does have a few solid moments that make up for its shortcomings.
Ninja Thunderbolt is presented in a full frame aspect ratio that retains the action without any serious cropping issues. While I was unable to determine this films exact aspect ratio it is safe to say that this release of the film in not the films original aspect ratio. Colors look pretty good and flesh tones look natural. Details look sharp just not razor sharp with some noticeable softness during darker scenes. There is some noticeable print damage still nothing that ever becomes excessive or distracting. Overall the image for this transfer is pretty solid despite some of its minor flaws.
Ninja Thunderbolt comes with only one audio option an English dubbed audio track which is presented in a Dolby Digital stereo. The dialog is just about the right level as it is always easy to understand. The music and effects sound evenly balanced. There is some minor hiss and a few minor instances of were the mix sounds distorted. Overall the audio mix for this release might not have all the bells and whistles, still it more then gets the job done.
Invincible Hero is presented in a full frame aspect ratio that retains the action for the most part with a few minor instances when the image looks tight. The IMDB says that this films original aspect ratio is supposed to be 2.35:1 which would mean that this image is cropped. Colors look muted and flesh tones look healthy. Details look sharper in the foreground then the background. There is noticeable print damage through out most notably at the beginning. As the film settles in the image does look cleaner. Overall the image for this transfer is about average at best; still it is more then watch able.
Invincible Hero comes with only one audio option an English dubbed audio track which is presented in a Dolby Digital stereo. Dialog is crisp and easy to understand. The music and effects sound evenly balanced. There are some minor instances hissing and crackling. Overall the audio mix for this release is in slightly better shape then the image.
Each film comes on their own single layer DVD and they are in a keep case that comes with an outer sleeve that slips over the main box. The box art for this outer sleeve is exactly the Sam art used for the main box. Both films come with a trailer for Pride Fighting Championship. The only real extra include for this release is a fifteen minute interview with Don Wang Tao who was one of the actors in the film Ninja Thunderbolt. Besides discussing Ninja Thunderbolt he talks about the various stages of his career like how he got into the business. Through out the interview Don is always enthusiastic and full of insightful stories. This interview is in English.
BCI Eclipse’s kung fu double feature collects two rarely seen martial arts films at an affordable price. Ninja Thunderbolt and Invincible Hero make for one hell of kung fu entrainment.