Friday, December 20, 2019

Ninja, the Violent Sorcerer

Ninja, the Violent Sorcerer
Godfrey Ho

In which I attempt to summarize this film: Myer, a master gambler, is challenged by Baker, a man who is using the dark powers of an evil priest named Collins to cheat. Myer kills himself after losing a bet. Myer’s son searches for another gambler named, James to help him defeat Baker. Meanwhile, Myer’s dead wife Rose contacts two ninjas, in hopes of stopping the vampire menace.

Ninja Commandments (1987) featured high-stakes gambling, and Vampire Raiders vs. Ninja Queen (1988) featured hopping vampires, so it makes sense to combine those two things in Ninja, the Violent Sorcerer… well, maybe not ‘sense’ exactly, but you take what you can get in the world of Godfrey Ho ninja cinema. The notion of bad magic influenced gambling isn’t even that far-fetched of an idea coming from Asian cinema, but when it is created via splicing some ninja/hopping vampire/Taoist sorcerer footage into a gambling action movie the results are barely coherent.

Taiwanese Rocky Horror was very different.
What sets Ninja, the Violent Sorcerer apart from much of Godfrey Ho’s output is that there is quite a bit of original footage included here. The supernatural elements are grafted onto a Taiwanese film called The Stunning Gambling (1982) which, as far as I can tell, contains not a single vampire hopping or otherwise. Is this new footage any good? There is a certain sameness to it all, evil priest commands some vampires to do a thing, ninjas find vampires, ninjas fight vampires to a standstill, and repeat. The secret joys of most Godfrey Ho movies are the moments of ninja insanity that are sprinkled throughout an often dull film. These moments work as short bursts of energy and color but when they are drawn out into lengthy scenes meant to support some kind of larger narrative they wear out their welcome rather quickly. There is still some fun to be had watching ninjas mix it up with hopping vampires but around the third time this happens, it fails to excite.

Hopping vampires sponsored by Spirit Halloween™
Admittedly, I don’t know much about Asian gambling movies, I have no idea what the rules of the game being played in Ninja, the Violent Sorcerer are supposed to be. There just appears to be a lot of flipping cups of dice around to get sixes or ones? At one point someone cuts a die in half and no one seems to regard this as unusual. The dynamic acrobatics of the gambling end up mirroring the equally flamboyant motions of the Taoist priests in the film. A more focused film (i.e. one not cheaply made out of two unconnected features) might have found a way to bring these similarities into an interesting comparison.

In the landscape of Godfrey Ho films, Ninja the Violent Sorcerer lands somewhere in the middle in terms of “quality”. The plot, as it exists, is actually novel enough to be interesting but the structure and editing undermine it. Often, in this case, a Godfrey Ho ninja film can just dazzle the audience with oddities and action, but  Ninja, the Violent Sorcerer turns to this trick once too often to save itself from being a slog.

Oh yeah, here are the ninjas.

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