4.19.2018

Bad Movie Night: Hercules II (1985)

by robotGEEK

Let me start off by saying that if you've never seen either of these early 80's Hercules films, courtesy of the legendary Cannon Films studio, then you're sorely missing out on some of the cheesiest, most ridiculous, most entertaining Bad Movie Night films ever made. The insane amount of absurd WTF?! moments will just blow your mind at a breakneck pace, and that's what makes these so amazing. They make zero sense, but pack a serious visceral punch of awesome because they're some of the most visually impressive (and bizarre) films you will ever see. Moving on.

I'm not even going to bother with a synopsis because it literally makes zero sense. Rather, it's a random collection of sequences at different locations, with none ever connecting to the other in any way, where writer/director Luigi Cozzi literally rewrites the history of Greek Mythology into something so fantastical that it makes absolutely no sense. But it's so much fun! In a purely absurd way.



Much like the first film, Hercules II aka The Adventures of Hercules, is filled to the brim with fantastical creatures, lazers, outer space, giants, robots, claymation, sword  sorcery, and of course, science! Our hero Hercules wanders Planet Earth in search of Zeus's 7 Thunderbolts mischievously stolen by renegade gods. That's roughly the story, and the only thing that resembles any sort of coherence. But it doesn't matter, because every single totally random sequence, which mostly feel made up on the spot, are so damn entertaining and downright bonkers, that you just can't help but enjoy the absurdity of it all. Plus, it's a helluva great looking film, full of outrageous visuals and old school camera tricks flying at you a mile a minute.

I think what makes it work so well, and what "sells it", is the fact that Lou Ferrigno is just so 1000% serious in this and totally committed, playing it straight. It makes for a much better experience that way, and the fact that he can spout some of the most silly and absurd dialogue ever written, and do it with a straight face, is a testament to his commitment and professionalism. Seriously, just listen to the dialogue and try to imagine saying these lines with a straight face. It's damn near impossible.



In short, it's probably some of the most ridiculous fun you'll ever have with a film like this. The fact that it's a Cannon film only makes it all the more special. These are films that carry so much visual eye candy that you'll be doing them a disservice by watching them on VHS. I strongly recommend picking up the Shout! Factory Blu-Ray's. They're simply stunning to watch in HD. While I prefer the first one to this, it's only by a slight margin, because having both been written and directed by Luigi Cozzi (Starcrash, Contamination), they're near identical in quality, craftsmanship and absurdity. The fact that these were PG just blows my mind! You'll know what I mean when you see them.

Shout! Factory's 2017 Blu Ray releases of both Hercules (1983) and Hercules II: The Adventures of Hercules (1985) are Must-Buy's. They're pure enjoyment from beginning to end, with some of the most bizarre and fantastical images you'll ever see on screen.



4.17.2018

Animation Attack!: American Pop (1981)

Check out the newest font: Ransom
by Gabriel G.


Hello there! Me again. If you are a steady follower of robotGEEK, and even if you aren’t, there’s a fair to good chance you know that not all animations are created equal. By that, I mean it’s not all just 22-minute clips of goofy, colorful anthropomorphic creatures yelling at each other, whose content and aesthetic are geared towards those who probably don’t know what the words ‘content’ or ‘aesthetic’ mean. (closing Google’s “Define:” tab) And while this particular subset of media always has and continues to make great leaps and strides in bringing important current social issues to light, by and large, it is still underestimated, thought of as mindless entertainment for kids. But guess what? I’m here to tell you that that just isn’t true. Some of these works can be surprisingly poignant and moving. American Pop was one of those surprises. So hand over your laser blasters and bastard swords, robotGEEK: ANIMATED Edition is about to begin. I promise to give them back at the end of the article. (Unless I like them, then I’m keeping them.)

"I'm tellin' ya, Country Polka is gonna make us stars!"


First off, if you’re looking for a fast-paced, action-packed, T&A gore-fest, then I’ve got great news for you. You can read some of my previous articles, where I talk about movies that are just that! But seriously, while it does have its violent, dramatic moments, this isn’t your typical flick in that respect. Rather, it’s about a musically-inclined immigrant family living their lives out in America, growing and changing with the music. Spanning multiple generations and genres, it has of the most eclectic soundtracks I’ve heard yet, ranging from the pre-jazz age and spanning all the way to the 80s with a New Age finish.

If you’re an American history buff, you may be impressed at the amount of historical Easter eggs the film features. Several momentous events that helped shape America are mentioned, including the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, while others are manifested through various still frames and live-action stock footage. The director, Ralph Bakshi, even borrowed scenes from the 1931 film The Public Enemy, rotocscoping them for the final product. What was probably one of the most surprising things about this film is that it is reportedly Kanye West’s favorite musical, and he even paid tribute to it in his music video “Heartless”. (Sadly, I have no punchline for this.)

"That creepy guy in the vest...He's staring at me again, huh?"


With its unique combination of animation, stock footage, and still frames, American Pop has its own rich style. The dynamic mix of music-fueled and moving moments further engage the audience by telling the story on two fronts. Though the music is the real star, it doesn’t diminish from the human struggle the characters are enduring. In the end, I highly recommend this flick, as it is now one of my new favorite musicals. Just don’t tell Kanye I said that.


Gabriel Joseph (contributor)

Gabriel Joseph is a doer of several things, including but not limited to writing sci-fi and developing software. Enjoy his latest work, Althea: An Oneiric’s Tale, available now on Amazon.

4.14.2018

Robot Ninja Coming to Blu-Ray; Support the INDIEGOGO Campaign Now!

by robotGEEK

Those of you who are into low-budget, sleazy Direct-To-Video, VHS era splatter-fest's should need no introduction to this cult classic. For those of you who don't know what Robot Ninja is, or maybe you've heard of it or haven't seen it, here's some info from the man responsible for this film, J.R. Bookwalter. 




My name is J.R. Bookwalter, and in 2015, Indiegogo members like you helped make possible a 2K restoration for my first feature film, THE DEAD NEXT DOOR. Now I’m back doing the same for my follow-up effort, the notorious direct-to-video comic book vigilante epic ROBOT NINJA, which celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2019.




Shot in 1989 on 16mm film, ROBOT NINJA isn't quite what it looks like — in fact, there’s not a single robot or Ninja anywhere in the movie! I chose to adapt this mandated title into the dark, splatter-drenched tale of a comic book artist who dons the persona of his most famous character to battle a gang wreaking havoc upon a small town. This is easily the most gruesome film I ever directed — instead of the late ‘80s martial arts action extravaganza promised by the original cover art, viewers are assaulted by a unique spin on comic books, superheroes, and vigilante justice that goes horribly wrong for the protagonist.

Despite being out of print since the early '90s, this movie has remained a hot item with collectors over the last three decades. That has a lot to do with its absence during the heyday of the DVD format — outside of the original VHS release from Cinema Home Video, ROBOT NINJA has never been reissued in the USA. By comparison, the movie has been released internationally in Italy, Spain, Argentina, and several other countries including Germany, where it's been available in more VHS and DVD editions than I can count! But never on Blu-ray, until now..




About the restoration

The film’s executive producer, David DeCoteau, recently unearthed the original 16mm A/B roll cut negative, which has enabled me to do a proper 2K film scan and begin the restoration process even before launching this campaign. At this point, the film already has an initial color grading pass and work is underway to create new main and end titles to complement a pair of shiny new 1080p HD masters being created — one in 4:3 original aspect ratio, the other cropped to 16:9 widescreen for modern displays.
For side-by-side comparison frame grabs, be sure to visit our Facebook page!
Your Indiegogo preorder will help fund the remaining restoration and cleanup work, producing bonus features, as well as authoring, replication, and shipping costs. We're aiming to have the Ultimate Edition in your hands by the end of this year!

Ultimate Edition breakdown

Like THE DEAD NEXT DOOR campaign three years ago, ROBOT NINJA Ultimate Edition will be a loaded three-disc set with two feature versions and HD extras on Blu-ray, a DVD with the original VHS version of the film, behind-the-scenes footage and additional SD extras, plus the complete original motion picture soundtrack available for the first time on CD.
Here’s a tentative breakdown of what's planned for each disc:
Disc 1 (Blu-ray)
  • 2K Restored Feature Presented in 4:3 Original Aspect Ratio 1080p HD
  • 2K Restored Feature Presented in 16:9 Widescreen 1080p HD (first time ever!)
  • DTS HD-MA All-New 2018 5.1 Surround Remix
  • DTS HD-MA Original 1989 2.0 Stereo Mix
  • 2018 production commentary (participants TBA)
  • Cast & crew interviews
  • Still Galleries (including all original artwork by David Lange)
  • "The Robot Ninja" 2014 fan film by Johnny Dickie
  • Optional English subtitles
  • Tempe Digital Trailers
Disc 2 (DVD-9)
  • 1989 VHS Release Version in 4:3 Original Aspect Ratio (Standard Definition)
  • Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Original Mix
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Remix
  • Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo German Dubbed Mix
  • 2018 Audio Commentary with writer/director J.R. Bookwalter
  • Audio Commentary with Doug Tilley and Moe Porne of No-Budget Nightmares Podcast
  • Behind-the-Scenes Footage
  • 1989 Original VHS Release Trailer
  • Optional English subtitles
  • Tempe DVD Trailers
Disc 3 (CD)
  • First time on CD! Original Motion Picture Soundtrack with complete score by J.R. Bookwalter plus songs by J.R. Bookwalter, Foxx, Argus, and Rodney Shields
Packaging
  • Slipcover with vintage artwork by David Lange (first 500 units only)
  • Reversible wrap with newly-commissioned artwork by David Lange and original 1989 Cinema Home Video VHS artwork
  • Eight-page color booklet with liner notes and behind-the-scenes photos (first 1,000 units only)
  • First 1,000 units numbered and autographed by writer/director J.R. Bookwalter
Stay tuned for a few more surprises yet to come!
So there you have it. A brand new 2K Restoration from the writer/director himself, packed full of goodies and perks. This is really only a small bit of info regarding this release. Please visit the official Indiegogo Campaign HERE to get all the details. I encourage you to hurry, because this is a limited release and will surely sell out fast.







4.12.2018

John Carpenter Classics Coming to Blu-Ray: In The Mouth of Madness, Memoirs of an Invisible Man and Someone's Watching Me!

by robotGEEK

This is a few days old by now, but just in case you missed it, Scream Factory (Shout! Factory's horror off-shoot) just announced a few John Carpenter classics getting the Blu-Ray treatment for the very first time in the U.S.

This is incredible news for a lot of people, because these tend to be shockingly overlooked gems from Carpenter's filmography, especially In The Mouth of Madness, which is the one most people are excited about, and they should be. It's just great. A true WTF? bizarre Carpenter masterpiece that holds the distinction of being one of his last "great" films.

I can't say I've ever seen Someone's Watching Me!, but I'm always down for a good thriller and this one looks to fit that bill. Even better that it's a JC film both written and directed by the master. This was his first film after his breakout hit Halloween, and his first TV Movie gig, which he would follow up with another TV Movie, Elvis.

As great as this news is, and as excited as people are for In The Mouth of Madness, I have to say the one I personally am the most excited about is Memoirs of an Invisible Man, a vastly underrated thriller that never quite found it's audience, despite the fact that it's an excellent thriller/drama/love story all around, full of incredible effects and a solid performance from Chevy Chase, here breaking far away from his usual comedy. And I know it was the casting of Chase that was this film's ultimate downfall. I remember. People automatically assumed it was a comedy because of his casting, and it truly is not. Quite the opposite. It's a great thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat, full of great visuals, tension, thrills and a better than you'd expect turn from Chase in a serious role. I can't wait to see this on Blu, in HD for the first time. Of all these new releases, this will be the one I'll grab first.

Here's the announcement and spec's via Scream Factory:

A wave of more John Carpenter films comes crashing into Scream Factory on July 24th! Two make their blu-ray debuts and another highly-requested one receives a serious upgrade. Extras will be announced at a later date but here are the details we have at this time...
IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1995)

Sutter Cane (J├╝rgen Prochnow, Dune, The Seventh Sign) is the best-selling author whose newest novel is literally driving readers insane. When he inexplicably vanishes, his publisher (Charlton Heston, Soylent Green, Planet Of The Apes) sends special investigator John Trent (Sam Neill, Daybreakers, Dead Calm) to track him down. Drawn to a town that exists only in Cane's books, Trent crosses the barrier between fact and fiction and enters a terrifying world from which there is no escape. Inspired by the tales of H.P. Lovecraft, this shocking story is, in the words of its acclaimed director, "horror beyond description!"
• This will be branded as a “Collector’s Edition” that will come with a slipcover (guaranteed for three months after its original release date). U.S. and Canada territories (Region A).
• The newly-commissioned artwork pictured comes to us from Joel Robinson (Firestarter, Rabid, Species, Drag Me to Hell). This art will be front-facing and the reverse side of the wrap will the original theatrical poster.
• Extras and specs are still in progress and will be announced at a later date. However, we can confirm today that we will be doing a brand-new film transfer!
Pre-order now for early shipping directly from us @ https://www.shoutfactory.com/…/in-the-mouth-of-madness-coll… Plus, you will also receive an 18' x 24" rolled poster of the newly-commissioned art. The posters are made at a limited quantity so act fast.
SOMEONE’S WATCHING ME (1978) 

Los Angeles newcomer Leigh Michaels (Lauren Hutton) moves into a chic high-rise apartment building. She loves the view. So does the Peeping Tom who lives somewhere in the adjacent tower. For Leigh, it's the beginning of terrors that escalate from anonymous calls and gifts to lights that mysteriously flicker to prove that someone watches every moment of her life. Leigh fights back, matching her tormentor's obsession with her own relentless drive to uncover his identity. The prey is now predator – and that escalates the stalker's game to a deadly new level. Someone is watching. Also starring Adrienne Barbeau 
and Charles Cyphers.
Pre-order now for early shipping directly from us @ https://www.shoutfactory.com/product/someone-s-watching-me…


MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN (1992)

The laughs and visual effects are out of sight when Chevy Chase headlines Memoirs of an Invisible Man. Invisibility makes it easier to spy on agents (particularly chief adversary Sam Neill) who've put him in his predicament. And he can romance a lovely documentary producer (Daryl Hannah) in a way she's never "seen" before. John Carpenter directs and Industrial Light and Magic create eye-opening effects as Nick embarks on his manic quest. Seeing is believing!
Pre-order now for early shipping directly from us @https://www.shoutfactory.com/p…/memoirs-of-an-invisible-man…








There you have it. As you can see, no real info "yet" on the extra's, which Shout! and Scream have been really great at making the extra's the best parts of these new releases, so you can bet we'll be getting some good news on that in the coming months. Stay tuned!

4.11.2018

80's Action Attack!: The Soldier - The Greatest Arthouse Action Movie Ever Made

Arthouse Surrealism Combines With Ultimate Action in The Soldier (1982)

by The Cinema Drunkie

September 19th, 1980 saw the release of The Exterminator, a film by an up and coming  filmmaker by the name of James Glickenhaus that did incredible business. Made for only $2 million, it grossed $35 million during its initial release. Adjusted for inflation, that adds up to $105 million in 2018 money. That’s a lot of guap for a low budget grindhouse style vigilante movie. After The Exterminator’s massive success, Glickenhaus got a call from a financier to make an action movie as long as he used international locations in which said financier already had money placed. Glickenhaus immediately went to work, and the culmination of that was… The Soldier.
Released on August 27th 1982, The Soldier was only a minor success, earning nowhere near the grosses that The Exterminator pulled in. But that’s fine, because as much as I love The Exterminator, I think The Soldier surpasses it in every way. But don’t just take my word for it. Somebody else had to have found the footage impressive, because Glickenhaus’ next movie after this was the Jackie Chan vehicle The Protector. So that’s saying a lot right there. I mean, Jackie ended up hating the finished movie (I love it, though. Who cares what Jackie says?), but he obviously liked what he saw in The Soldier enough to pick him as director for his second big attempt at making an international cross over (The Big Brawl being his first).
But there’s something more to The Soldier than just badass stunts and action. So much more. And that something more is… Surrealism. This movie is so surreal it is practically an arthouse action movie. Hold on… Now that I think about it, this is definitely an arthouse action movie. What’s an Arthouse action movie, you ask? Well, according to Wikipedia, “The arthouse action genre is an emerging film genre in contemporary cinema that traces its roots back to Asian and European films.” Some examples listed were HaywireLooperGhost Dog: Way of the Samurai, Sorcerer and Drive. I don’t know about Haywire or Looper, but I can fully attest to the validity of Ghost DogSorcerer and especially Drive being Arthouse action. But what about The Soldier? What makes it so Arthouse? Let’s find out!

“THEIR LEADER. CODENAME: THE SOLDIER.”

The Soldier stars Ken Wahl as a government anti-terrorist agent known only by his code name: The Soldier. He takes on his most dangerous mission yet as he’s tasked with stopping rogue Russian bad guys from blowing up a Saudi Arabian oil field. And that’s pretty much it…

“THEY’RE CHANGING THE GAME IN A MAJOR WAY!”


I’ve seen many action movies in my time, but never one more awesomely badass yet so artistically strange (For this type of movie, I mean) as The Soldier. It’s a film that’s simple yet almost avant garde in its storytelling. It’s like Glickenhaus wants you to figure out what’s going on instead of him having to tell you. Just pure storytelling by images, with minimal dialogue. I love that. I love a filmmaker who rejects the “hand holding” style of filmmaking that has been so prevalent in movies, even to this day.
Take the first scene for example. I’m going to try to avoid spoilers as much as possible because I want you to see this movie immediately (it’s just been released on for the first time on DVD and Blu Ray by Kino Lorber), so I’ll be very vague in my description of the scene: It involves a limousine, 3 bystanders, a woman with a baby carriage, a bucket load of bullets flying, and a helicopter. And I promise you, it is the most WTF opening to an action movie ever. Matter of fact, the first 20 mins of the movie are all so incredibly WTF. Glickenhaus creates a puzzle with his scenes, but gives you just enough to put it all together without having to explain it. But you better think fast, because the pace of this movie is absolutely relentless!

“ONE MAN. ONE UNIT. RENEGADE AGENTS OUT TO SOLVE A CRISIS…”

Oh yes. The Soldier moves at breakneck speed, rarely letting up for a second to let you catch your breath. Glickenhaus improves considerably from the deliberately slower pace of his previous movie by giving the audience so many awesome action moments so fast throughout the movie’s brisk running time that it almost feels like one long action scene. It all just beautifully blends together. Glickenhaus really came into his own with this movie, proving himself to be the most underrated action director of his era, and quite possibly all time.
And the way every shot is set up and executed gives the whole movie a dreamlike, almost haunting quality. Especially with Tangerine Dream composing a pulsating, but almost trance inducing electronic score. The movie feels like you’re sitting inside the mind of a 13 year old David Lynch who’s dreaming he’s a rated R version of James Bond. It’s all so awesomely straightforward, yet beautifully weird. You wanna know how weird? Klaus Kinski shows up in a damn near wordless cameo wearing an all white ski suit that Ned Flanders would love, but would piss Homer Simpson off. That’s right. Klaus Kinski. Werner Herzog’s favorite actor himself. And all he really does is have a tense staring contest with Ken Wahl in a cable car. I. Am not. Kidding.
The acting is serviceable enough. Ken Wahl isn’t going to win any awards, but he’s pretty good in the lead role. Tough and effective. Glickenhaus reportedly wanted Tommy Lee Jones for the part, but the studio wanted Wahl. Although I weep to think what could have been had Jones gotten the part, the movie works just fine with Wahl. I have no complaints. The supporting cast isn’t so bad either, with familiar faces such as Alberta WatsonWilliam PrinceJoaquim de Almeida, the aforementioned Kinski (Who shouldn’t really count, because he’s only in the movie for like 3 mins, and says nothing for 2 and a ½ of them) and the late, great Steve James all making appearances.

“THEy DON’T SOLVE PROBLEMS. THEY TERMINATE THEM!”

But… I know, I know. You come here to read about action. Well, you’ve come to the right place, because The Soldier is full of it! The first hour of the movie is a non-stop rollercoaster ride. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but it’s the truth. The god honest truth. This movie just does not stop! Shootouts, car chases, fights with ninjas, ski chases and more slow motion explosions than the climax of a Michael Bay movie. And the stunt work is simply fantastic. You’ll really be blown away by the stuff they accomplished on the low budget they had. There is an especially spectacular stunt that’s caps off an exciting ski chase in the middle of the movie. You actually get a glimpse of it in Shakedown, also directed by Glickenhaus. It’s the movie Sam Elliott is watching in the theater when we’re introduced to his character. But, even that small clip doesn’t do the stunt justice. It’s a stunt that you can only fully appreciate when you watch it in its entirety.

“THE SOLDIER. YOU DON’T ASSIGN HIM. YOU UNLEASH HIM.”

The whole movie is like that for that matter. The Soldier truly stands out by refusing to be just like every other movie of its kind. It contains everything you recognize and love about those type of movies and does it its own way. No care at all to even try to fit in. And as an action movie junkie, that’s so rewarding. And we all have Glickenhaus to thank for that. Hopefully, my review has piqued your interest enough to seek this out as well as his other films. Because, in my opinion, recognition for the man is long overdue.

4.10.2018

Blu-Ray Review: Animal Factory (Arrow Films)

by Jason Elizondo

Animal Factory tells the tale of a troubled youth (Edward Furlong), who's sent to prison on a drug conviction. Being young and considerably smaller than anyone else in there, fellow inmate and reputed head honcho Earl Copen (Willem Dafoe) takes him under his wing, keeping him safe and showing him how to survive in this hell of a world. It's not long before they begin planning an escape. Will they make it?

This 2000 gritty prison drama comes to us courtesy of Eddie Bunker and Steve Buscemi, two actors who appeared in Reservoir Dogs, but have dipped their toes in filmmaking throughout their respective careers, culminating into this passion project of sorts. I say passion project because it immediately comes across as a film where all of the actors worked for scale to make it happen. And boy what a cast this has, all under the sure-handed direction of Steve Buscemi. Danny Trejo does a fantastic job in a dramatic role, and it's roles like this that remind me that he's much more than just a cult icon. He's a damn fine actor when given the right material to work with. Mickey Rourke turns in another memorable and very "different" performance, with Tom Arnold (scary as fuck), Seymour Cassel, screenwriter Eddie Bunker (in a minor role) and John Heard all delivering strong performances. Of course, this is Furlong and Dafoe's show, and as the two leads, they're quite remarkable.



Eddie Bunker is a real life former criminal, and accomplished author of several books and screenplays, who turned some of his firsthand experiences into this book, which was then adapted by Bunker himself into this film. Bunker's 1985 screenplay for Runaway Train would go on to be his biggest claim to fame, and there would be a long gap between that and his next screenplay, Animal Factory in 2000.

Until today, I had never even heard of Animal Factory, and that's a damn shame because it's a very well made film, full of strong performances, an insider's view of what life is like in prison and the whole operating system that the inmates create for themselves inside. In effect, it's a great prison drama.

Another element that really surprised me was the outstanding score by John Lurie (Get Shorty). I don't know how else to explain it other than it's unique, but does wonders for the vibe of the film. It adds an extra layer to the experience, and I often found myself somewhat mesmerized by it. I'd honestly never heard a score like this before, and it was awesome.

Steve Buscemi would go on to become a solid director in his own right, directing a few critical darlings but mostly sticking to television work. Of course, he'll always be known more for his acting, which easily makes him one of the best, most recognizable actors on the planet. But if Animal Factory is any indication, he's also a fine director as well.

Arrow Films released Animal Factory for the first time on a Region-Free Blu-Ray back in November of 2017 and comes with new killer artwork and some nifty extras. Let's dig in.


  • High Definition digital transfer
  • Lossless original 2.0 stereo audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Interview with critic Barry Forshaw covering Eddie Bunker's varied career
  • Audio commentary by novelist/co-writer/actor Eddie Bunker and co-producer/actor Danny Trejo
  • Theatrical trailer

The interview with Barry Forshaw where he discusses Eddie Bunker's life and career is great, digging deep into his history from someone who's actually met him in person and discussed these very things before Bunker's untimely passing in 2005.


Animal Factory can be ordered directly from Arrow Films or any number of online retailers.  

4.07.2018

Blu-Ray Review: Pray for Death (Arrow Films)

"The most famous ninja ever to grace the screen delivers what could very well be the best ninja film ever made"
~ robotGEEK

by Jason Elizondo

The Film:

While I went through a pretty heavy Ninja Phase back in the 80's when I was a kid, my only real memory of this particular film is of it's crazy cool VHS Big Box cover. That's it. Which is surprising because I was just all about Ninja's and Martial Arts flicks back then. I even wore Ninja shoes that I would get from a small local Asian shop, and my very sweet Asian neighbor would often bring us plastic Ninja swords and whatnot as random gifts. I'm telling you, I was so far into these films and this genre as a 10 year old, yet for some reason I have zero memory of this one. Other than of it's existence.

Flash forward 3 decades and despite some forgettable no-frills DVD releases, these Ninja classics are finally getting some love and true respect with some killer Blu-Ray releases packed full of extra content, on top of their impressive new transfers. Recently a fellow friend, action lover and film reviewer, The Cinema Drunkie, wrote a piece on this long-forgotten classic, which fueled my instant desire to revisit this. Lucky for me, there was a fairly recent Arrow Films release of this on Blu, which I was completely unaware of. For a great price no less! Let's dig in.



Going in with absolutely zero knowledge of what to expect, I can honestly say I was as giddy as a little kid watching this. I had a grin a mile long, and truth be told, I really felt like a 10 year old kid watching a Ninja movie for the very first time. It's experiences like these that I crave, that give me the drive to keep doing what I do, and it's the kind of feeling I'm always hoping to get when I pop in a new flick, yet seldom ever do. Why is that you may ask? Well, it's not entirely because of it's production value or high-end quality, but more on that later. No sir. This one is special for a number of reasons, not the least bit being it's just a grande ol' time.

You see, Pray for Death would never qualify as a great film in terms of craftsmanship. To be blunt, it's a cheesy mess and oftentimes feels like it was written by a 15 year old. But that's not a complaint! Quite the contrary. It's actually some of it's greatest assets! It looks and feels like the type of film we all wanted to make with our friends as teenagers after having seen a really badass Ninja flick on VHS or BETA. That's exactly what Pray for Death feels like, and it's glorious.



There are moments that standout for sure, where director Gordon Hessler actually does a fine job (albeit brief) behind the camera, giving the film a slick few moments of true cinematic badassery. But the best moments are when you realize that he probably wasn't the best choice as director for a film of this type, because his inability to shoot a decent fight sequence (sometimes it's laughable), combined with the sloppy editing and sometimes awful acting, Pray for Death succeeds despite all of these issues because while they might not be bringing their A-Game, it's done in such an endearing and purely dedicated manner that you just can't help but fall in love with it.

Speaking of which, let's talk about who actually made this. For starters, James Booth is credited as the screenwriter. He also happens to play the bag guy in this, and if you need further proof of his very specific flavor of ninja film, you should know that he also wrote American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (easily the best in the series because of how bonkers it is). You see, I don't think Booth actually did any research on ninjas (that's my feeling anyway) or their lifestyle. Instead, it comes across as more of the type of film he "thinks" ninja films should be like, and that's quite okay with me because, let's be honest, American Ninja II and now Pray for Death fucking rule. James Booth is no master of the screenwriting artform, nor does he shy away from racist stereotypes and insulting slang, but we can kind of forgive him for that because the mid-80's was a very different time. But he is a decent actor, so I will give him that. Does he come off as the brutal badass he writes the character as? Absolutely not. But he certainly does try. But all I can say is that I'm quite happy that he's as delusional about the ninja mythology as he is, because it's fucking fantastic and makes the film a thousand times better and far more entertaining.

Actor James Booth, who plays the villain, also wrote the screenplay


German director Gordon Hessler, who cut his teeth directing episodes of classic shows like Wonder Woman, Hawaii Five-O, Kung Fu, ChiPs and The Master does about an equal job in his efficiency. Not that I'm complaining, because I'm not. He shoots the film in such an uneven amateurish way, full of terrible camera setups, and fight sequences that clearly show that the punches and kicks never land, but that's okay! Because that's part of what makes this so great! It's unintentionally cheesy and unintentional silliness that makes it so much fun. Like I mentioned before, it feels like the ultimate ninja movie made by a bunch of teenagers, or grown men who made it all up on the spot and it's fabulous. There are fantastic moments to be had for sure in the middle of all the amateurishness, like when Akira (Sho Kosugi), in full ninja gear in broad daylight, is running down a street towards a red truck driven by the main bad guy (James Booth), who's barreling towards this mysterious ninja at full speed. Akira jumps over the truck seconds before it nearly strikes him, doing a flip through the air and landing perfectly. It's one of many highlights of the film that leaves a foolish grin across your face and you keep begging for more. And boy does it deliver, and keeps delivering the badass goods on a consistent basis. Gordon Hessler and Sho Kosugi would go on to work together again the following year with Rage of Honor, which if this film is any indication, looks to be just as crazy good and entertaining.

Sho Kosugi, arguably the reining champ of ninja films, made a total of 6 ninja films during his reign in the 80's, and only appeared in a total of 19 productions in his entire career, which is shocking to say the least. You would think having that kind of killer track record would have led to a long and lasting career, but it did not. If you were wondering whatever happened to the guy, be sure to check out the Special Features located on this Blu-Ray release.



Plausibility is completely thrown out the window in favor of kickass action under the most ridiculous circumstances and I loved every fucking second of it. Pray for Death, for now, might very well be the best damn ninja film ever made.

Just the Disc:

I had no idea that Arrow released this, along with the followup Rage of Honor, on Blu-Ray back in 2016, which is a damn shame that it didn't get more fanfare. But I guess being late to the party is better than never showing up right? And it's surprisingly affordable too, which automatically makes it a must-buy. I have to be honest though and admit I'm not much of a fan of the new cover art. I feel that original closeup of his face is so iconic and says so much, while also looking and feeling so retro cool all at once. But that's just me.


  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation from a transfer of original elements by MGM of the unrated version
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Brand new interview with star Sho Kosugi
  • Archive interview and Ninjitsu demonstration with Kosugi from the film s New York premiere
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin
  • The first pressing also includes a collector s booklet featuring an extract from Sho Kosugi s upcoming biography



    The new HD remaster is incredible. The film looks great and the best part is that it's in widescreen and Uncut for the first time. These "Uncut" scenes are clearly noticeable because their quality is so different from the rest of the film, so they'll be easy to spot. Ironically, you have to wonder why they were even cut to begin with because the violence isn't anywhere near as graphic as you'd expect. In fact, these new scenes added to the action and fight sequences, while bloody, are rather tame compared to violence found in movies and tv shows today.

    The Special Features include a vintage TV Spot/Interview when Pray for Death was premiering in New York, and you see Sho Kosugi talk about the film in depth and also about the appeal of ninja films, and his involvement in trying to make the best film they can. He also does a killer routine for a live audience ahead of it's premiere. Fun stuff!



    The best bonus to dig into is the brand new interview with Sho Kosugi. Honestly, this Blu-Ray release is worth the price alone just for this interview. Sho, while looking good for his age, is damn near unrecognizable. I never would have assumed it was him. Here he discusses his entire career, what led to his transition to the U.S., his start in the film industry as an extra before being noticed by Menahem Golan from Cannon Films, to his reign as "the" baddest ninja on the planet in the 80's, to what he's been up to since then. This interview is a Must-Watch.

    This release also comes with a booklet that includes an excerpt from Sho Kosugi's upcoming Biography.

    You can order Pray for Death directly from any number of online retailers typically for under $20.
    Buy it. Just buy it. You'll thank me.