I love a schlocky exploitation film, and though the intrepid standalone Ninja III: The Domination is only just fine, it certainly delivers on the schlock and the exploitation of then-current trends in film: dance, horror, and… ninjas? Yep, the same decade that gave us Dirty Dancing, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Flashdance, and Friday the 13th, also gave us a slew of ninja movies, including this gem from the defunct Cannon Films, the third in a series of completely unrelated movies (preceded by Revenge of the Ninja and Enter the Ninja). Crazily enough, Ninja III’s star, Lucinda Dickey, also starred in Breakin’ and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, all three movies coming out in the same year, 1984.
The movie starts with a man descending into a secret lair to retrieve a ninja suit and several weapons. He then heads to the country club to play a few holes… just kidding, he’s there to murder people. The reason for this massacre is never explained. We learn later that one of the victims was “a very important scientist,” but that’s all we get. Even so, this is the most compelling part of the movie: a thrilling action sequence with comically bad editing. The ninja slashes, throws shurikens, punches holes through the roof of a moving police car, scales a giant palm tree, jumps onto a helicopter, and gets shot about 487 times by the entire California police force. You think he’s dead after that, but nah, he gets up again and takes a couple hundred more bullets until he uses a smoke bomb to conceal himself burrowing into the ground. He escapes after the dumbfounded police spread out.
Cut to our leading lady, Christie, a lineswoman, as she climbs a telephone pole to some poppy dance tune. (She works hard for the money…that’s not the song, I’m just saying: she does!). Looking down, she spots the ninja rolling around in the dirt. She goes down to check on him, they have an intense stare-down, and just before he dies, he gives her his sword, thereby possessing her body with his spirit. When Christie reports her story to the police station and is hit on by the leechy and insanely hairy Officer Billy, she denies his advances. He later shows up at an aerobics class that she’s teaching, after which, she performs unexpected ninjutsu on some unsavory fellows who are harassing her. Officer Billy pretends to arrest her for assault, but reveals that ~surprise!~ he is only still begging for a date. What a creep. It’s your typical problematic movie relationship: boy meets girl, girl says no, boy stalks girl, girl says yes.
Once Christie and Billy are an item, they discover that the vengeful spirit of the ninja has been using Christie’s body to off all of the cops who shot him. It’s alright though, Billy has a friend in the “Asiatic department” who knows an exorcist, because of course. Unfortunately the exorcism fails, and after a lot of Christie spinning wildly and laughing demonically, the exorcist informs the couple that perhaps only a ninja can defeat a ninja. Enter: Sho Kosugi, the martial artist who was featured as different characters in both prequels. We get to see him in some impressive hand-to-hand combat, but we also get to see him bonk two heads together, Three Stooges style.
I won’t spoil the ending, but I’ll say I found it disappointing. The golf course massacre and ninja exorcism are B movie-grade gold, but that is about it. The acting is good, but the characters are uninteresting, despite the wild premise of this movie. I must mention, however, the steamy scene in which Lucinda Dickey pours V8 down her neck and Jordan Bennet licks it off. Now, I don’t want to kink-shame anyone…but V8 is possibly the least sexy beverage you can pour on someone. It is a viscous, tomato-based vegetable drink! It’s red-brown and pulpy! Who thought this was a good idea!? “Should have had a V8?” Should NOT have had a V8, I say! At least not like that.
But in all seriousness, it was that scene and all the other ridiculous moments that made Ninja III: The Domination worth watching. I am thankful to the director, Sam Firstenberg, for attempting to combine the dance, horror, and ninja genres for something altogether unrepeatable.
Here’s what you’ll miss if you cover your eyes:
At least 10 continuity errors
Helicopter-hanging foot shuriken
Say “NO” to soft drinks
Convenient eyepatch poison dart
A ninja drilling into the ground like Taz from Looney Toons
And so much more…