The Ninja Dragon (Japan 1990)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 4/30/00
Written And Directed By: Go Nagai
Cast: Cutei Suzuki

A fun and exciting sci-fi ninja adventure from Go Nagai, the creative genius (?) who brought us such gems as "Cutie Honey", "Kekko Kamen", "Devilman", and "Legendary Panty Mask." Shinobu is the young daughter of a powerful Yakuza boss who is visited in her dreams by a group of ninja defenders who pledge their allegiance to protect her. Soon thereafter, a Yakuza power play gets put into motion, resulting in a series of grim and brutal gang assassinations. The rival Yakuza gang turns out to be a bunch of space aliens, and their leader wants to marry Shinobu to take advantage of her ninja bloodline (among other things, I'm sure). Shinobu's ninja defenders come to her rescue, and eventually the alien threat is eliminated.

Definitely low budget, but it hides that fact pretty well. It looks good and is well made, suffering only from video grainiess, shaky camerawork, and a handful of ultra-embarrassing special effects. Unfortunately, the final effects shot in the film is by far the worst, leaving a very bad taste in your mouth as the credits start to roll. A little more linear than some of Go Nagai's other works, but still confusing and a tad bit surreal. The martial arts sequences are surprisingly good and hard hitting, which is rare for a Japanese production of this caliber. In the film's most surreal scene, ninja defender Cutei Suzuki (star of the god-awful "Living Dead In Tokyo Bay") sheds her ninja outfit to reveal a spandex wrestling bodysuit. There conveniently happens to be a large wrestling mat in the center of whatever building they're in, and she and the bad alien chick duke it out in amazing pro wrestler style. (Ms. Suzuki is a pro wrestler in real life) These gals dish out some serious punishment - I was impressed. (not like I'm going to take up watching Japanese female wrestling anytime soon, though) Overall, it's quite a lot of fun - you've got cute schoolgirls, space aliens disguised as humans, wacky ninja action, female wrestling, rubber monsters, and over-the-top gore in true camp horror fashion. What is there not to like?