Ninja In The Dragon's Den (HK 1982)

Rating: **
Review Date: 3/12/00
Director: Corey Yuen Kwai
Cast: Conan Lee, Hiroyuki Sanada

Who would have thought that I'd go into my local Japanese video store and come home with a Chinese film? This is a Hong Kong ninja film from master director Corey Yuen, featuring a young Conan Lee as a kung fu fighter and Japanese heart-throb Hiroyuki Sanada as a ninja. It's completely incomprehensible, but at least the fighting is good. The beginning of the film features a dreadful theme song with English lyrics called "Legend Of The Ninja", and we get to hear it over and over again. We're also treated to some great ninja acrobatics and the obligatory ninja trench digging scenes. Next we're at a traditional Chinese lion dance festival and a group of stilt-walking entertainers show up. However, they're attacked and beaten by an evil guy on stilts, until Conan Lee shows up and evens the score. This stilt fighting scene is among the most incredible things I've ever seen, and it goes on for several minutes. Utterly amazing! A few wire tricks were incorporated here and there, but the rest of the stunts are just genuine displays of incredible skill and balance. Sadly, the rest of the film can't live up to this level of excitement. An old man who makes mirrors has become a target for Sanada's ninja character, and Conan Lee decides to protect him. This naturally pits Lee and Sanada against each other, leading to some very impressive, and sometimes silly fighting. Unfortunately, much of the fighting is shot in almost complete darkness, and it suffers greatly from the injustice of pan and scan cropping. At the end, after beating each other senseless, Lee and Sanada team up to fight a common foe in the form of an evil Taoist priest. (where the hell did HE come from?!?) He's too much for them to handle, until Lee exposes Sanada's girlfriend's bare breasts. The sight is too much for the monk to withstand and he is killed, followed by yet another "Jesus Christ Superstar" gag. (why is this so popular in Asian films?) Too weird. Anyway, to summarize, the fighting is spectacular and the rest of the film reeks.