Director – William Lee (Dragon vs. Ninja, Demons Rising)
Starring – William Lee, Gary Burton, and John H. Howenstine
Release Date – 1987
Rating – 1.5/5
Blu Release – 4/5
By now most of you may have noticed that I have a love for blaxploitation cinema. I stumbled across blaxploitation when I was a kid and my dad bought some VHS tapes from a random guy at a gas station. He needed gas money and sold my dad a box of tapes dirt cheap. In the box was Truck Turner stashed away with other films that you would expect to find in a dusty VHS bin. Soon I was renting what few the video store had and snagging them up when I would find them in the wild.
A few days ago it was announced that legendary blaxploitation filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles had passed away. I wanted to watch one of his films but decided to pay tribute to him in another fashion so I decided to check out Treasure of the Ninja. This 1987 martial arts action flick was directed by and starred William Lee who owed a lot the late Peebles for paving the way for him. Treasure of the Ninja was recently released on Blu by AGFA and Bleeding Skull. I had never seen it before but I fucking love what AGFA has been doing so I couldn’t wait to check it out.
**Spoiler Alert** The film follows secret agent and martial arts master Faze (Lee) who is tasked with protecting a scientist as she searches for the lost treasure of the ninja. However, an evil businessman and his henchmen are searching for the treasure as well forcing Faze to kick, karate chop, and punch his way through a ninja horde and an ancient ninja cursed with protecting the treasure. **Spoiler Alert**
I absolutely adore no budget backyard DIY movies. A good portion of my time is spent reviewing horror movies made on spare change in someone’s basement. I can appreciate the hard work that goes into finishing a film even though you lacked experience and a budget. They are fun for the most part and even though I don’t like them all I still respect the hard work that everyone put into it. I was not a fan of Treasure of the Ninja. The flow and pacing was off and from scene to scene was so choppy that I found myself getting lost. There is no consistency at all but knowing that Lee was doing everything behind the scenes, as well as, acting made me greatly admire this man and dedication.
The acting in this one leaves a lot to be desired. As I stated earlier, I’ve seen movies made by teenagers in their backyard using only ketchup and and their smartphone so I’ve seen amateur and understand it. The cast really does go all in on their roles but their inexperience shines here. Their dialogue is very heavy with no emotion behind it with most of the scenes being extremely awkward to watch.
The story for this one isn’t blaxploitation in a traditional sense. It does had blaxploitation elements tossed in but the film itself is mostly a martial arts action flick with cliched characters and a lot of action. The fight scenes are surprisingly well done and a few had me actually rewinding to see if he really knocked some poor mother fucker out. With that being said, the awkward scenes with heavy dialogue and no action made this film feel like it was a lot longer that it actually was. Hell, I was barely 30 minutes in and thought, or hoped, it was almost over.
Finally, don’t expect a bloodfest with this one. We get some smooth choreographed fight scenes and thats about it. Overall, Treasure of the Ninja has a lot of heart and knowing how much time and effort went into this I feel like shit for not liking it. It was extremely dull for the most part. The action scenes were fun but the overall film was difficult for me to finish. The blu release from AGFA and Bleeding Skull looks absolutely fantastic and the special features with it makes it a must own for fans of weird and amateur films.
Region Free Blu-ray
TREASURE OF THE NINJA: New transfer from the original 3/4” master tape
TREASURE OF THE NINJA: Commentary track with William Lee and Bleeding Skull’s Annie Choi and Joseph A. Ziemba
Bonus movie: DRAGON VS. NINJA (1984), previously unreleased and transferred in 2K from the original Super 8 elements
Short: THE NEW CHINESE CONNECTION (1980), previously unreleased and transferred in 2K from the original Super 8 elements
Shorts: the WILLIE JACK series, all previously unreleased and transferred in 2K from the original Super 8 elements
Reversible cover artwork
English SDH subtitles