Ninja Champion

Director: Godfrey Ho                                    
Bruce Baron, Pierre Tremblay, Philip Ching

Reading Mike's Dante's Inferno site recently reminded me that, besides covering Albert Pyun at least once, that B movie web sites should at least once cover one of those "ninja" movies released in the 80s. No, I don't mean the ones made by Cannon (American Ninja, Enter The Ninja, etc.) - I mean the ones made in Hong Kong, and released on video by Trans Word Entertainment or Imperial. Ninja movies from Hong Kong? I know some people will need an explanation, so I'll give one now.

In the mid '80s, the ninja craze was at its highest, with Cannon Pictures releasing several Sho Kosugi ninja movies, and the Michael Dudikoff American Ninja movies. So it was inevitable that other outfits even smaller and more low-budgeted that Cannon would crank out their own ninja movies for a few quick bucks. A lot of these were made overseas, and this is where it gets interesting. Hong Kong movie producer Joseph Lai and director Godfrey Ho (a.k.a. Benny Ho, Chung Sing Ho, Charles Lee, and other names) made the bulk of these ninja movies. Only these movies weren't originally intended to be ninja movies! Godfrey Ho has made a career of taking movies that were never finished for one reason or another, and then shooting wrap-around footage to make something that could technically be called a movie, but is really a mess. My previous experience with Ho is limited; I though that the non-ninja Under Police Protection (a.k.a. Princess Madam), was passable, but I found out recently that the reason for its overall competence seems to be that the movie was almost finished by others before it was stopped.

With these ninja movies, Godfrey Ho took unfinished movies that seemed to cover a number of different genres (the other Godfrey Ho pseudo-ninja movie I've seen - I forget the title - seemed to originally been a kind of a clone of Fatal Attraction!), then hired some anonymous Caucasian actors dressed in multi-colored ninja suits and wearing headbands that read "Ninja". (Actually, not all of these Caucasian actors are anonymous - Italian star Richard Harrison is also a regular. Reports I've read claim he was hired for  one Hong Kong movie, but his footage was used for dozens of these pseudo-ninja movies!) Then for each uncompleted movie, Ho shot several minutes of footage of these Caucasian ninjas beating the crap out of each other, then edited them into the movie, using dubbing to attempt to link the old footage to this new footage. The result is, as you might be thinking, a big mess. Some of these movies are supposed to be highly entertaining in a so-bad-its-good sense, but the two I've seen in my lifetime haven't reached that level. But these movies are so wacko, I have a feeling some people will think higher of the two I've seen, including Ninja Champion. This is another movie where the best way to review it is to give more or less a description of it - which I'll start doing now.

Ninja Champion was released on video by Trans World Entertainment, and like the others they released, each entry of this "Ninja Theater" is hosted by ninja star Sho Kosugi. The very badly videotaped opening shows Kosugi bowing before a Buddha statue. He then speaks a few words to us in slightly slurry English about the weapon he's going to show us for this video - the bo! He waves it around a bit. Then we suddenly change to an outdoor scene where two ninjas attack a ninja with a bo. (All the ninjas are masked, so you can't tell if Sho is the central ninja.) In about five seconds, the ninja with a bo takes down his opponents, and we suddenly cut back to Kosugi saying, "Welcome to the Ninja Theater!" Fade out. Between this and the beginning of the actual movie, I was thinking that I had found the answer to the question, "What caused Sho Kosugi to disappear from public view?"

Ninja Champion then starts, with shots of Hong Kong from the water, which seems to be the way a third of Hong Kong movies start. Suddenly, we are taken to the Hong Kong countryside, where in a slightly wooded area, we see a tent vibrating, and hear the sounds of voices. It's caused by three punks (one wearing clown makeup) tormenting a married couple inside. Everyone eventually bursts out and runs around, with the punks making "Ooga booga! Ooga booga!" noises. The punks tie up the man, and start to further torment the bikini-clad woman, giving her a BIG punch in the stomach and then whipping her.

Next, we see the woman lying on an operating table at a hospital. Apparently (this is the first of many "apparently"s in the movie) she was raped, and apparently she has some kind of serious injury. The lead surgeon wants to give her gas, but she refuses - she wants the pain. Huh - why? Folks, I'm just getting started with what the movie fails to explain.

Next, we see this same woman pull up to some office building downtown, and go up to this office, where some people looking like gangsters are. There's some senior guy (unnamed) behind the desk who is apparently wanting to look at some diamonds or something. The woman starts to pull off her top, and the camera starts to zoom in. But before things start to get interesting, the bottom part of the screen frosts over! Hiss! Boo! What the hell is up with that censorship? And we don't know if she's actually wearing any diamonds or not, despite her immediately saying next, "This is just a sample of the diamonds." Does she actually have diamonds, or is just being jokey? Anyway, she is invited to the senior's party that night, where she dances with his brother, an Asian boxing champion. We still don't know anyone's name.

At the same time, elsewhere in Hong Kong (though it's daylight in this part of the city), a mustached Caucasian named "Donald" gets a call from "Richard" from Washington, who seems to be some sort of secret agent boss. Richard starts explaining things to Donald about the situation, though he's unsuccessful in fully explaining things to the audience. We do learn from Richard that the three rapists belong to some sort of diamond ring. Several second later after hearing this, Donald exclaims, "Wait a minute! Do you mean there's some connection between the rape and the diamond ring?" What the hell???? You moron, he just told you that! Anyway, we also learn that the name of the woman is "Rose" and apparently the name of the senior guy she was talking to is "Robert". Richard tells Donald to back off for now, for no apparent reason except to allow more showing of the original footage.

We then go back to Rose, who is in the Asian boxing champion's hotel room, and both of them are drinking wine and making out. He soon has Rose's blouse undone, and is applying oral pleasure to her boobies. After a few seconds, he starts to choke and gasp. "There must have been something in the wine!" he gasps. Rose sneers at him and says, "Not the wine - my nipples, you jerk!" As he struggles to stay alive, she gets information about the other rapists from him, at one point taking out a piece of black string to whip him into submission. Of course, he dies, and we finally find out his name from the obituary on the TV. If you still care, his name was "William Wong".

Where are the ninjas?

We go back to Donald, who is talking to the man we saw tied up at the beginning of the movie. We find out his name is "George", and that he was formerly married to Rose. Donald tells George that he wants George to find his former wife - so that together they can wipe out the gang! Donald says to George that since George is an Interpol agent, he has a license to kill! ("You'll have the responsibility for the job," Donald reasons.) George doesn't know what to make of all of this - maybe he's also puzzled by the fact that in this scene there's not one shot that shows George and Donald together! Obviously, Ho did some cut-and-paste here. When George leaves the room, he gets a phone call from Rose.

Apparently, they set a meeting time and place, for the next scene shows them meeting in some isolated spot. George seems happy to see Rose, but Rose doesn't seem happy. She tells George that she plans to kill George for abandoning her after the rape. "Heh heh...Well, I've changed my mind," laughs George. We also find out in this scene that George has remarried. And we also find out that the rape just happened two months earlier!!! Wow, that was one quick divorce, courtship, and remarriage! Rose tells George, "You can help me if you like, but I'll still kill you." George is a good sport, and agrees to help neverless.

It's fortunate for Rose that George agreed to help, because all of a sudden they are attacked by several people skilled in the martial arts! Who are these people? Why are they attacking? Never explained. Rose gets her top ripped off by one of the attackers, and flees the scene, leaving George to use his own martial arts skills to beat these people up. As he fights, Rose makes her way to the bottom of a hill where there's a road. Not only has her top suddenly returned, it's a different color now!

We suddenly cut to a different scene happening at the same time. Oh, here are some ninjas! Three or so ninjas with red outfits are bowing to a fourth ninja on top of a big rock. This ninja (who's Caucasian) laughs and makes mention of some secret plans these ninjas have. He then says, "There's a woman doing the killing for us," - I guess he means Rose - and says that they don't have to act right now. However, they will keep an eye on Donald...

Wow! Slam-bang ninja action!

Back to the bottom of the hill, Rose is suddenly arrested by a mysterious cop, and placed in his car. They drive out to some abandoned warehouse, where the "cop" reveals that he's actually one of the three rapists! Though handcuffed, Rose amazingly makes good work on him by whacking him with her high heeled shoes in hand, leading him around a merry chase around the warehouse (where her handcuffs mysteriously disappear), and soon greatly injures him in a crash in his car. But before Rose can finish him off, she hears approaching sirens, and runs off.

The rapist is taken to hospital, all bandaged up. Rose then disguises herself as a nurse and enters the hospital. When the guard outside the rapist's room sees this nice nurse enter the room, he gets up for no apparent reason and leaves the area. Alone with the rapist, Rose tortures him for information about the third rapist, jabbing a hypodermic needle in his groin when he's initially reluctant to talk. When she gets the information she needs, she pulls out a gun and shoots him twice in the head. I don't know about you, but if there was a shooting in a hospital, I think it would bring immediate attention to the area. Not in this hospital - Rose gets away.

Meanwhile, in some wooded area, a guy practices using a staff with some sort of blade on it. A white ninja (who I think is Donald - his face is hooded) enters the area, and starts to get in a fight with this guy for no apparent reason. I think Ho figured out during this fight that audiences were expecting ninja vs. ninja fights, because at one point, the white ninja is suddenly fighting a red ninja! Where did the guy with the staff go - did he turn into that red ninja? Anyway, after a few seconds more, the white ninja bloodlessly kills the red ninja. The scene ends.

Rose and George meets again. He wants to start their relationship over, but Rose isn't that enthusiastic. She goes after the third rapist. While she is planning the way to kill the third rapist, George takes a walk in the countryside, where he is suddenly attacked by more anonymous martial arts attackers. George kicks the crap out of these guys like before, but with a little twist. At one point, he jumps into the air and disappears! That's one martial arts move I never heard of before.

Rose's plans for getting the third rapist fails - the bad guys have finally caught on, and they capture her, and seal her in some kind of cylinder. The white ninja then pops up again at another isolated place, where he sees a red ninja with some sickles, and is spinning a plate on one of them. The two clash swords for several seconds and the red ninja is unspectacularly killed. Then someone who looks just like Rose, named "Cherry" pops up and captures one of the bad guys, before the diamond trade is to begin. Then...

Well, I have more notes, but I have a feeling that it's not necessary to type anymore. Ninja Champion is simply one of the most insane so-called "movies" that I've ever seen. From rereading my description, I know it sounds funny and pretty zippy in its pace. Actually, though, the movie is a little slow and clunky, and it's not quite as amusing as it sounds. It's so messed up, that I got a little headache after a while. Still, it has quite a few hilarious moments, and it's so screwed up that in a way it must be seen. So I'm giving it a luke warm review - because I know from experience there have been a lot worse Hong Kong cheapie catastrophes made. On the other hand, there have been a lot better Hong Kong hilarities. I have a feeling that of these dozens of "ninja" movies, there must be at least a few that are so-bad-they're-good. Since there are so many out there still in video stores, there must be people out there who have seen the others, and have found the few gems. If you are one of them, let me know.

Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)

See also: Ninja: Silent Assassin, Fantasy Mission Force, Robotrix