Ninja: The Final Duel (HK 1986)

Rating: **
Director: Robert Tai
Cast: Alexander Lo, cameo by Alice Tsang

Bizarre. Reportedly, this ninja epic was originally eight hours long, which immediately raises two questions. How do you make an eight hour ninja film and how do you cut six and a half hours out of a movie and still have it make sense? The answer to both is that you can't. Most of this film is laughably incomprehensible, but like most martial arts films, it doesn't matter. You're only watching to see the combat sequences, and apart from some ridiculous wire work, they are quite spectacular. Alexander Lo is a Japanese monk who goes to Shaolin Temple in China to learn the ways of Chinese Buddhism. But something bad happened at the monastery in a series of confusing flashbacks that causes a band of evil Japanese ninja to set out on a mission to destroy Shaolin Temple. Alexander Lo lends his considerable acrobatic and fighting skills to the cause and ultimately saves the day at the cost of his life.

All of the classic ninja tricks are used, as well as a few new ones, including the extremely memorable ninja water spider attack team. The ninja water spiders are one of the most ridiculous things I've ever seen put to film. No review can do the water spiders justice - they simply must be seen. Then there's the couple of flaming gay Hare Krishna monks from California (!) that come to study at Shaolin Temple, and the highly revered Black Monk Of Harlem (whom our hero says he will send to "the great ghetto in the sky"). Wow. But that's not all. There's the music score that is liberally borrowed from "Rambo," and even the theme song from "Ghostbusters" shows up at one point. Huh?!? Another big continuity hole shows up when an injured girl is inexpicably introduced, nursed back to health, and then inexplicably killed. Oddly enough, I've seen two versions of her bathtub fight scene. One where she fights totally nude, and the one on this tape which has her putting on some skimpy underwear before fighting. Weird. Apart from the flying water spiders (yes, they can fly), where the film really shines is in the exhausting martial arts sequences. Although often undercranked and peppered with some horrible wire work, the choreography is intricate and stunning, and the execution is hard hitting and very precise. Very impressive stuff that kung fu buffs will undoubtedly cheer for. Just don't take it seriously or try to make any sense of what's going on.

The infamous Ninja Water Spider And they can fly, too