My exploration of B-movie 80s action movies continues with American Ninja. And what a surprise this one came from Canon and Golan and Globus as well. I think they must’ve made out alright in the 80s with all the goofy little low budget action movies they were making.
It may be hard to believe but this film had a budget of one million dollars, and made it all back and more in its first weekend, and garnered enough success that there were 4 sequels made.
In the 80s there was a blossoming fascination with Japanese culture, sepcifically the art of ninjitsu. I even remember an short-lived 80s Lee Van Cleef television show called The Master. They were everywhere!
So it was no surprise that they would begin to take over the big screen and our VCRs.
Whether or not they were the most popular or not, the American Ninja series came to life in the mid-80s and I remember it driving one of the little kids I babysat for absolutely batty!
In this film Michael Dudikoff (who knew no martial arts before filming began, and probably not much more when he was done with his efforts in the series) plays Private Joe Armstrong. He’s recently been posted to the American base in the Phillipines, and doesn’t play well with others.
However when he saves the life of the Colonel’s attractive daughhter, Patricia (Judie Aronson) from a slew off attackers including a band of ninjas(!) he pals up with Cpl. Curtis Jackson (Steve James), but things go bad, when Joe learns that there is a rogue group inside the army base selling weapons to a French arms dealer who has will use his army of ninjas to stop anyone who gets in his way… including Joe.
The dialogue is goofy, the martial arts are a little lackluster, it takes more than a set of black pajamas I’m sorry to say, but despite all that, it’s stupid fun, and so inherently 80s.
The film doesn’t have a lot of redeeming qualities (maybe Judie Aronson), but for the 90 minutes that it was on screen, I was, sad to admit, entertained. I laughed and rolled my eyes, and actually had a good time.
You know why?
Cause I set my expectations level to “Off.” It’s brainless, mindless entertainment, and watching it now, it was no wonder that it did as well as it did on the home video market when I was a teen. I would’ve eaten it up if that had’ve been my thing (I was more into the sci-fi genre, though I did like Indiana Jones and James Bond!)!
To add mystery to his character, Armstrong doesn’t remember any of his youth, he has amnesia of one form or another, and he tells Jackson that he just ‘knows’ how to fight.
He’s aided, on occasion, by an ancient trainer, Shinyuki (John Fujioka), who we learn raised Armstrong from a baby, and taught him the ways of ninjitsu. I guess it’s just lucky they were both in the Phillipines at the same time! He also prepares him for his final confrontation with the baddies, especially the Black Star Ninja (Tadashi Yamashita).
Silly mindless 80s entertainment…
Anybody got any recommendations for other goofy 80s action flicks?