Friday, December 6, 2019

Ninja Commandments

Ninja Commandments
Joseph Lai, Godfrey Ho

Godfrey Ho is the unassailable king of cheap ninja movies. His secret was to purchase other Asian films for little money and then splice in his own cheaply shot ninja footage creating a bizarre hybrid movie that usually saw the ninjas seeking some object like spy plans or a magic sword.  The other half of the movie was most often a crime film of some kind, this seems like it would a natural fit, there is usually some action, some sneaking around, and maybe a little sex. The end result was mixed at best, it usually resulted in two narratives that had very little interaction. Not all of Godfrey Ho’s ninja movies were paired with crime films, there was also fantasy, comedy, and in one notable entry an incredibly grim drama.

Enter Ninja Commandments.

Ninja Commandments opens with a ninja leader informing us that the ninjas, Rodney and Janet have been kicked out of the clan for breaking that most precious of ninja commandments: “No sex before marriage.” While Rodney and Janet live a pastoral life stripped of their ninja powers, Rodney makes some enemies out of a gang of gamblers (by stacking dice?), who promptly beat him up and get him thrown into prison. Janet, meanwhile, is not only forced to raise their child on her own, but she is also horribly disfigured rescuing her ungrateful child, Daniel from a fire.

Everyone playing D&D has done this at some point.
These increasingly grim turns of fate create complete tonal whiplash when we jump over the see what eternal Godfrey Ho star, Richard Harrison here playing a ninja named Gordon, is up to. It seems that the master has been murdered by a ninja named Stuart while Gordon was away on a mission. Now Gordon must murder the bad ninjas of his clan and take control once again. So here we are facing a brutal family drama when we suddenly cut away to see Harrison in his glittering ninja costume run up a hill and shout, "NINJA" to no one in particular, it is a peculiar experience, to say the least.

The ninja footage in these Godfrey Ho films is generally enjoyable, there are flashy costumes, ridiculous weapons, and the actual fight choreography is well done. It is usually the other movie filling that is tedious to sit through, but here with Ninja Commandments, the heavy drama is a welcome change and it is decently made too. The acting and the story are interesting mainly due to the drama becoming so bleak that it dips into absurdity.

"Ninja? Never heard of them."
Ninja Commandments is not a good movie, but it is a great Godfrey Ho ninja movie. It is refreshingly bizarre even by the micro-genre’s standards. Both halves of the stitched together story have something to offer even if neither part has much to do with the other. Grab some friends and sit them down in front of this film without letting them know what awaits for, “A ninja should never reveal his secrets.”

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