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Clash Of The Ninjas (1988)

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Directed by: Wallace Chan
Producer: Tomas Tang
Written by: Kurt Spielberg
Starring: Paolo Tocha, Louis Roth, Eric Neff, Bernie Junker, Joe Redner, Klaus Mutter, Eddie Chan & Kwan Hoi-San

Plowing through the IFD and Filmark catalogue, you often know what to expect because these were calculated business practices with only occasional cinematic flair and effort. Those times it is not calculated and you don't know about it beforehand, an experience like Clash Of The Ninjas becomes even more interesting. And admirable.

A group of human guinea pigs (including Eddie Chan from the source movie) escapes a lab operating on them for for the international organ market. Head of the operation on site, Mr. Roy (Louis Roth) engages himself personally in the manhunt that leaves two prisoners still on the run weeks after the breakout. Interpol agents (led by Paulo Tocha's Tony) are investigating this organization in Hong Kong though and as it turns out, has a personal stake in it too as Roy (who's also a ninja) killed his master...

So a ninja action production using an older movie and shooting new action footage with Westerners to create a new one is admirable eh? Definitely... although understanding and liking the concept of what Filmark wanted with their product is a requisite. Initially Clash Of The Ninjas seems to be dealing in the usual ratio of mostly older movie (in this case possibly the 1982 Hong Kong production Ran For Life) and some inserted footage with Tocha and crew running alongside the other movie. It looks like it for a while but then when said Filmark lead appears with Chinese cast members we've seen acting on their own in prior scenes, that's the first indication that Tomas Tang is trying to make the two separate shoots more of a seamless whole.

Largely exceptionally well put together, thought is put into editing and the concept of organ trading is for Filmark new. Which leads to a rather gruesome opening operating-scene, a way too long chase for the prisoners and the introduction of the quite martial arts able lead Paulo Tocha. Essentially a dark thriller that does move at a snappy pace, has its share of delightful, goofy moments from Filmark (essentially when merging the gloom with gadget filled ninjitsu) but at one point there is the realization that Clash Of The Ninjas PROBABLY is a way bigger effort than expected from Filmark.

Because not only are their scenes quite well shot and on par with a gritty, low budget productions of the time, their own footage with a mixed Chinese and Western cast takes up the MAJORITY of the movie. Even seemingly going to the lengths of securing Kwan Hoi-San's services for their shoot as well as featuring some of his scenes from Ran For Life, for once there is both effort but also an uncertainty of what is what. That means Filmark created a new movie with quite an intact illusion that it's all ONE. Of course that ninjas has a place in this is preposterous but works in the movie's favour. The various clashes are high on creative gadgetry (on a budget) including sai's turning into flamethrowers, conjured up ninjas that bleed green and disappear once hacked to pieces, whips and fans are used in fights and we get decent acrobatics involving the Chinese stuntmen. Clash Of The Ninjas may have riffed on 'Cobra' for one of their posters but there's nothing shameful about the careful re-tooling of the old that had new inserted into it for a current market product. Especially not since for once, we fell for the tactic.

 

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson