Review: Ninja III: The Domination

VHS cover scan courtesy of VHSwasteland.com


Directed by:
Sam Firstenberg
Category: Exploitation

I have to be honest, this ninja series is quickly becoming one of my favorite film trilogies ever. The names alone are awesome but add in the fact that cult film legend Sho Kosugi appears in each one, well that's just extra awesome. I need to be upfront because so far, as of this posting I still haven't seen the first entry, Enter The Ninja (1981). 
But if Revenge Of The Ninja (1983) and now Ninja III: The Domination (1984) are any indication, then I'm sure I'm in for a blast.

First off, I gotta give a shout out to two of my fellow bloggers, A Hero Never Dies and Comueppance Reviews, who both recently did badass reviews on this wonderful gem. Check out A Hero Never Dies review here and Comueppance Review's here. Both really great reviews and worth checking out where we pretty much all agree that we seriously love this ridiculous film.

One of the things that makes this film series unique is that all three films seem to have nothing to do with the other, other than the fact that the awesome Sho Kosugi appears in each one, but as a different character in all of them. I only recently saw the second in the series, Revenge of the Ninja (click the link for a recap), back in August of this year and for the first 30 minutes or so I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. I had in my mind a completely different kind of film that I was about to see and when I finally sat down to watch it, something totally different was transpiring. Basically I thought I was going to see a badass revenge type of film with ninjas. What I got instead was an Asian film about ninjas directed by a white guy who clearly didn't know how to handle the material. It was ridiculous, horribly executed and with the exception of but a few, horribly acted. But once I got past the fact that I was not going to be seeing a badass ninja flick from 1983 starring the awesome Sho Kosugi, then I had a blast with it for all the reasons that made it a bad film. Because it is indeed a really bad film in almost every aspect except for maybe 2 reasons. 1) Sho Kosugi kicking all kinds of serious ass and 2) for casting that hot chick who double crosses him but then sides with him at the end who always seems to wear the skimpiest outfits as well as for that sequence where she decides to train with Cho in the studio with only the top half of her karate outfit on without any underwear. But in the end it ended up being one of my favorite "so bad it's good" films for all the reasons that make it a ridiculous film.

Same thing applies here. Ninja III: The Domination was made exactly a year after Revenge of the Ninja and by the same director, Sam Firstenberg who also directed Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo the same year he made this film. Such a weird filmography from one guy. But anyway, this film rules on so many different kinds of levels. I mean, it's seriously preposterous from beginning to end and I honestly couldn't stop laughing at how ridiculous it all was. I don't know if they intended for this film to be so cheesy and corny or if it just suffers from being a product of it's time, but Ninja III: The Domination just might be the absolute "best" example of the "It's so bad, it's good" film genre in the American film market of the 1980's. Sure, the Italian films were knocking them out left and right about this time but how many American films can you say successfully produced them as good as this. Maybe Never Too Young To Die, but I can't think of many. I don't know a single person who has seen Ninja III and didn't have a great time. Mad props needs to go to writer James R. Silke for having the genius and balls to come up with the insane combination of pairing a ninja film with an exorcist film while throwing in some Poltergeist nods, a zombie ninja, the indelible talents of the one and only Sho Kosugi and for thinking V8 juice is sexy and having it set in the good ol' 1980's. Pure genius I tell you!

He's the ultimate killer. She's the perfect weapon.

So here's my attempt at a synopsis for a totally strange film:
A deadly ninja sneaks into a mountain and dresses in secret ninja garb complete with weapons he has hidden in a glowing box. Are they his? Does he do this kind of thing often? Never explained. So he heads out to a golf course where he kills a guy and his girl who are playing golf but is fired upon by the guy's bodyguards, who he also kills. Only now the cops are involved and in one bloody, long and ridiculous sequence he's outrunning the cops on foot while they're in cars, motorcycles and helicopters as he kills a whole mess of them until being outnumbered and seemingly killed in a barrage of gunfire. Except he seems to be semi-invincible as he still has the strength (after about several hundred bullets) to throw a smoke bomb as a diversion and disappear under the dirt. The cops think he vanished and after they've left he resurfaces and comes across Christie (Lucinda Dickey) a utility worker and part-time aerobics instructor who just happens to be working in the area but apparently never heard or saw the insane battle between the evil ninja and the entire police force nearby, even though she was at the top of a utility pole. Only in this kind of film can a hot aerobics instructor also be a utility worker. 
When the evil ninja comes across Christie he transfer's his evil soul to Christie. Only he's not always present and doesn't make his presence known for a while afterwards until Christie comes across cops that were part of the massacre of the ninja and the soul of the ninja recognizes them as the ones who shot and killed him. That's when the evil side starts to come out of Christie. One by one she singles out the cops that killed the ninja and kills them in deadly fashion. In the meantime, a local cop has taken a liking to her and through strange and almost "stalkish" circumstances has almost forcibly inserted himself into her life and the two become lovers. Enter Yamada (Sho Kosugi), a ninja who seems to show up out of nowhere who somehow knows the evil ninja has transferred his soul to another person and is hell bent on destroying it at any cost.  

So I could be wrong, but I don't ever remember there ever being an explanation as to why the evil ninja killed that couple in the golf course that started this whole series of events. Or who Yamada is and why he knows almost everything there is to know about the evil ninja and how he transferred his soul to somebody else. Maybe there was and just wasn't paying attention because I was laughing so hard. But you know what? None of it really makes any sense. Like why she uses V8 juice during sex with her new boyfriend (huh?), or why she's even attracted to this guy who is scary hairy and tries a little too hard to be with her. Seriously, the guy should never be allowed to wear wife-beaters....ever. Keep that shit covered up man! Or why, when the ninja transferred his soul to her body, she took his ninja sword with her home. She seemed kind of disoriented and certainly didn't know she was possessed by him yet, so why take the sword and hide it in her closet?

This film is hilarious in almost every scene. That V8 juice sequence was completely baffling for one. But there's a scene where her apartment goes all Poltergeist and stuff starts flying around and weird scary sounds and all that. What would you do? Probably run out the door or something like that right? Instead Christie turns on her stereo full blast and starts dancing. I shit you not, she starts dancing! WTF?
And speaking of Poltergeist, there's another full on and shameless ripoff of Poltergeist scene where the evil spirit of the ninja is in the closet and sucks everything from the bedroom into the shining light in the closet, complete with Christie holding on for dear life to her bed before being sucked into the closet; just like Carol Ann did in Poltergeist. I couldn't believe how completely identical that sequence was in both films. And don't even get me started on all The Exorcist references, there really are too many to name. You also gotta love the scene where she just so happens to have a classic stand up arcade system called Bouncer sitting in her living room, which the evil ninja just so happens to use to program her into the evil ninja at his beckoning by shooting lasers at her head. Who knew ghost ninja's also mastered the art of electronics?! A truly strange and unbelievably awesome sequence that screams 80's cheese. It really needs to be seen to be believed.

Sho Kosugi is of course awesome and owns every single frame he's in. Especially cool is that badass eye patch which he uses to hide weapons in. Awesome. And though his name appears first in the credits and on the box art, he's really a secondary character and doesn't show up until 30 minutes into the film because in this film, it's all about Lucinda Dickey. I have to admit, she was impossibly cute in this and took everything so seriously that you just gotta love her for it. When she wasn't wearing her jumpsuit for her day job, she was pretty much always in some kind of skimpy outfit or something. I never really took much notice of her in the Breakin' films, but here she's pretty damn hot. I think the longer hair works for her.
Just to add another bit of awesome in the mix they also added legendary character actor James Hong (yes, Lo Pan himself from Big Trouble in Little China) to play the Asian Exorcist who tries to free the demon from Chirstie's body in another god awful and hilarious Exorcist ripoff sequence.

As with Revenge of the Ninja, director Sam Firstenberg just does not know how to film an action sequence. I know I beat that topic to death with my review for Revenge of the Ninja, but I'm sorry, he just doesn't. Any fight sequence without Kosugi is executed pretty horribly with bad angles where you can clearly see the punches and kicks are not landing, bad editing and fighting altogether as with in the case of Chirstie and the scenes with the evil ninja from the beginning there's just no force behind any of the moves. They looked more like a choreographed dance than anything else. Now Sho Kosugi is another thing. The guy can fight like nobodies business and his fights are the best of the bunch, even with only one eye in this film. Though you can tell it's clearly not him doing the flips and summer salts (again bad camera angles), it's still hilariously awesome to see the next cut when he's improvising a land with the full on facial expressions to match. Classic. He also has an awesome killer fight sequence with a zombie ninja at the end after the evil ninja's body gets resurrected for one last fight. I'm telling you man, classic stuff here.

This  has got to be one of my absolute favorite 80's flicks ever. You will have such a good time watching this, but trust me, it deserves to be seen with friends to fully appreciate it. Of course, 27 years later we still do not have a U.S. DVD release. I still can't understand why to be honest. Revenge of the Ninja is available and so is Breakin' 2, so why not this one? I'm not even sure if it ever made it to Laserdisc either, so VHS is going to be your best bet, which looks amazingly well since there are hardly any night sequences in the entire film. With VHS that makes a big difference in picture quality. Ninja III: The Domination deserves an official and proper DVD and Blu ray release and I hope that one day soon a genius will buy the rights and make that a reality, because I'd be all over that.


  1. Great review rG. Ninja III has to be one of the most fun movies I've ever seen! Thanks for the plug too.

  2. Excellent write-up! Thanks for the link. Sho Kosugi was awesome in this! The Zombie Ninja bit was great.

  3. My pleasure guys. Great reviews all around. And just doing my part to spread the word! Hope you get more hits out of it!