Death Code Ninja (1987)

Directed by: Tommy Cheng
Written by: Frank Lewis
Producer: Tomas Tang
Starring: John Wilford, Mike Abbott, Judy Barnes, Edgar Fox, Lu I Chan & Heung Wan-Pang


On loan from IFD or free to pursue work elsewhere, Mike Abbott jumped over to Filmark for a familiar gig of the cut and paste ninja action kind. Merged with the Taiwanese revenge movie The Imprisoned (Chester Wong, 1982), star Lu I-Chan gets plenty of chance to showcase her intensity within the frame work of some very inept fun by the Filmark crew.

Tang and company tends to complicate matters when using threads from the source movie for their own stock plot concoction but essentially Mike Abbott is doing a deal involving a strategy map, rivalry ensues, a presumed dead ninja trains for end reel revenge and helping Abbott accomplish his plans is The Killer Couple (Lu I-Chan and Heung Wan-Pang from the original). Named Joan and Richard, they want out of the killer for hire game, he's put into prison but bliss awaits once he gets out. But not for long as the family is targeted and left standing is a pissed off Joan...

Obviously two levels of production quality are merged here, with Tommy Cheng's sparse footage being basic and stiff as directed (and as expected from Filmark). At its best it functions and gives the thread bare illusion of being part of the same film as the source (Mike Abbott has several scenes with the Taiwanese cast, sometimes against pitch black background to make it as neutral as possible). At worst it still trickles into fun territory as there's so little conviction these various story strands logically can and should contain ninja revenge as well.

But sporadically it does and sporadically means a large portion of the running time is devoted to Chester Wong's 1982 movie. Also the director of the IFD acquired Training Camp (aka Commando Fury), Wong is clearly devoted to lead Lu I-Chan and himself, just like Filmark's Cheng, stages basic cinema at best in between. The Imprisoned wants to slot itself into a marketable revenge genre and with a marketable star (that Wong directed in Queen Bee and Queen Bee's Revenge). Therefore the punches and impression it can make is reserved for when Lu I-Chan straps herself into leather and goes onto sword and knife revenge. With some gritty action scenes and violence to compliment that, she is dependable as she brings the presence and mood required. Plus she's iconic by default and one such scene involving gambling and self stabbing makes for memorable celluloid and demo reel material involving her.

Death Code Ninja does remind us of its goofy merging of personal and ninja revenge with a rather lengthy action finale (IFD almost always kept these scenarios short but Filmark aimed for fuller content here). The Western actor portraying the white ninja out for revenge is clearly exchanged for Stuart Smith (and of course the Chinese stunt double) for the finale in a Plan 9 From Outer Space kind of move but the content is epic with arrows, explosives and hand to hand combat. All running a good 10 minutes. All being quite limp and coming off as some fairly passionate men trying to make an action movie. Well they did and could and there was a company knowing this inept passion had a place in the global marketplace.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson