Friday, November 4, 2011

'Ninja Powerforce' is powerfully bad

Ninja Powerforce (1988)
Starring: Richard Harrison, Alan Cunningham, George Ajex, Shelia Lau, Nancy Yeh, and Barti Marcus
Directors: Joseph Lai and Godfrey Ho
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

When ninjas become embroiled in a fight between two criminal gangs, Interpol sends in Gordon, their go-to Ninja Master (Harrison). Will he stop the gang-on-gang bloodshed? More importantly, will he survive the deadly confrontation with the Evil Ninja possessing the most impressive mustache in all the Orient (Cunningham)?

Poor Richard Harrison. At one time, he perhaps had a chance to be a semi-respected B-movie actor along the lines of Gordon Mitchell, but instead he became closely associated with the countless patch-work pictures that Joseph Lai, Godfrey Ho, and their compatriots created during the 1980 by by shooting scenes with Harrison and other actors doing ninja-y stuff and inserting the scenes into partially finished or simply unreleased movies that they acquired cheaply from failed production efforts. Harrison was invariably dressed in garish, outlandish ninja outfits, and he often sported headbands like the one he wears in this movie... because ninjas always want to make sure they're not mistaken for simple cowl-wearing freaks in satin outfits.

As Lai/Ho patch-work pictures go, "Ninja Powerforce" is fairly decent. Both the original movie that was sacrificed to create it (a gangster melodrama about two friends and hitmen for enemy gangs who pay a dear price when they try to go straight) and the ninja segments (which inserts a bald-headed Big Gangster Boss and his mustachioed Ninja sidekick, as well as Harrison and his Interpol boss, and lets them have nonsense conversations with characters in the other movie in between ninja hi-jinx) move along so quickly that you might not even notice how crappy it all is. Instead, you will notice the ludicrous dialog, the illogical and disconnected actions of every character in the film, and the laughably cheap sets and props used on the office set for the gangsters and Interpol officials alike... and you will find yourself chuckling if not outright laughing. The Mustachioed Ninja really is a sight that must be seen. (He's not being pictured here, because I don't want to ruin the comedy.)

This film actually teeters on the brink between a Two and a Three rating, making it one of the best efforts to emerge from Joseph Lai's IFD production house. I ultimately went with the lower rating because of the dizzying disorientation created by the interaction of the characters in the inserted Harrison footage and the original film.

In the original film, the hero is sent to prison for months, or perhaps even years, for almost killing his best friend. In fact, at one point, we are led to believe that said friend is dead. But, because of comments made by the Big Gang Boss and the Interpol Boss, it feels like the hero spends little more than a couple of days in jail, if that. (And yet over in the other movie, everyone is still behaving as though he was locked away for a long time.)

Given that these films are partially re-written through dubbing when they are assembled, it would have been nice if some thought had been put into making the film's internal chronology flow between the original work and the inserted segments. It would have made it a lot easier to enjoy Harrison and the Mustachioed Ninja assassinating people for little or no reason and battling each other in their garish outfits.

If you're looking for a film to add to a Bad Movie Night, "Ninja Powerforce" might just do the trick. If you REALLY want pain, perhaps make it a double feature with "Ninja Death Squad", another Godfrey Ho Special, which Craig Edwards reviewed today as his contribution to the Nine Days of the Ninja Blogathon.

The deadliest of blogathons....


  1. Steve, if you ever do another book, you could devote an entire volume to the "films" of Lai and Ho. The Filmark "ninja" films from Tomas Tang are much "better" and even more cheapjack than these.

  2. Terrific review - awesome too that we both reviewed one of this gentleman's "classics" today - thanks for the shout out! - I will have to track down more Ho fo sho!