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Ninjas and Dragons 
Written by: on May 23rd, 2006

Release Date: Hong Kong/Japan , 1984
Director: Ding Zhuolun
Cast: Junya Takagi, Dong Li, Xia Qing

DVD released: May 23rd, 2006
Approximate running time: 84 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital mono
DVD Release: BCI Eclipse/Rarescope
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $9.98

A bushido master Hayate (Junya Takagi) travels to China to find the ninja warrior who murder his father. He also helps those in need and makes criminals give back everything they have taken. Hurasi is a Mongolian general who hatches a plan to overthrow the Chinese government. In order to win he will need well feed and armed troops so he kills a government official who is possession of a seal that once acquired comes with great power. The man’s last dying words put Hurasi’s plans on hold when he reveals to him that this is only half of the seal and that the other half is with his brother another prominent official in the Chinese government. Naturally this doesn’t faze Hurasi who gathers his troops to obtain form this man the other half of the seal at nay cost. Hurasi now in possession of both half’s of the government seal puts the final stages of his plan on motion.  Along the way Hayate meets up with some Kung Fu freedom fighters that convince him to help them in their cause to stop Hurasi from overthrowing the Chinese government.

Junya Takagi a Protégée of Sonny Chiba’s stars in Ninja and Dragons as a bushido master in search of his fathers killer. This premise is your standard revenge theme that you will find in numerous martial arts films. The plots other half is a renegade general who wants to overthrow the government while this idea is not as exploited as much s the other it is a theme that has been explored in many martial arts films. Ok so the story is not that engaging and most of the performances are lacking so what are we left with? This film’s has one saving grace and it is high flying action sequences.

Also let’s not forget to mention this movie has Ninjas (lots of them), didn’t find any Dragons and most impressively is the three headed assassin which is actually three separate individuals who fight as one person. One of the assassins is a midget who hides between the other assassins’ legs and when he shows himself be prepared to see kung fu like you have never seen it before. These fights scenes with this trio are the most impressive. The films final twenty minutes is non stop action and after nearly sixty minutes of sitting through a convoluted plot it couldn’t come any sooner.

Overall Ninjas and Dragons is merely an average martial arts film with an impressive series of showdown’s near the end.

The DVD:

Ninjas and Dragons, is presented in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Many martial arts films especially some of the rarer independently made ones have not been well preserved through the years which have lead too many films being lost forever. The box art for this release states that this film had been though lost for many years until a film print was recently discovered and used as the source for this releases transfer. This transfer is an improvement of the previous Rarescope releases and even though there is print damage it is minimal. Colors are strong and the image looks sharp through out. There are also a few instances when the image looks a tad to soft or when its looks to bright.

This release comes with one audio option the films original Mandarin language track which is presented in a Dolby Digital mono. Outside of some minor hiss the rest of the mix is clear and easy to follow. Burnt in Chinese and English subtitles have been included for this release that is easy to follow and understand. The subtitles move at a reasonable pace and for the most part they don’t get obscured by the background image.

Extras for this release include the films original trailer in Mandarin with burnt in Chinese and English subtitles. Other extras include a six minute promo reel that shows the various Rarescope titles slated for future release. Rounding out the extras is a twelve minute interview with Yukio Someno who talks about working as a stunt man with the Shaw Brothers and his stunt work on Ninjas and Dragons.

Rarescope continues to release entertaining marital arts obscurities. Ninjas and Dragons is their best audio/video presentation to date.

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