25 years ago this weekend, Tim March, my brother Seth and I were dropped off at a theater in Worcester, Massachusetts for an afternoon matinee of American Ninja. During the initial fight (and the fact that black suits and swords were on screen in the first five minutes is a testament to the smarts of Sam Firstenberg), there was a bit where two ninja tie-up a GI with chain in a niftily executed piece of what the Japanese call Hojojutsu. 90 minutes of multi-colored ninja on monkey bars and wrist-mounted laser guns later… not so much. A little red-in-the-face over the seemingly inevitable goofiness the American genre clung to, we exited the theater kinda knowing it just wasn’t going to get any better from then on.
The unsung hero of the American craze, Stone actually left the ninja business behind after his pioneering work on Enter the Ninja. Never mind all the fights, Black Star’s wacking of a padlock with twin swinging kamas is one of the coolest ninja scenes ever! The selective memory FAILS and you remember the fucking machine guns and lasers he resorts to using. AN's climax is a genuine BATTLE with better choreography and editing than any other point in the film. But then again… Dudikoff breaks a bow and arrow over his knee for no reason and they blow up a cheap model helicopter and Judie Aronson never gets topless. DAMN YOU AMERICAN NINJA!

I fell in love with Judie Aronson in WEIRD SCIENCE and then again in FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER. The star is unproven though, so you cheapen the production to risk less money, and to cast a net over a wider audience you take out the gore and boobs and silly it up a bit to make things kid-friendly and foreign market compatible.
We’ll continue this celebration in the following days with a quick look at some pre-production strangeness and Matt Wallace returns to talk sequels.
In the meantime, you can pick up all the glorious Dudikoffness on DVD right in our Amazon store here. Welcome to VINTAGE NINJA -- dedicated to old ninja movies from Japan's 60's boom to the 80s American exploitation craze and beyond, with a ton of vintage toys, comics, and sharp pointy stuff thrown in for good measure. MICHAEL DUDIKOFF was a bit too Timothy Van Patten-y for our tastes, but with this flick and AVENGING FORCE following shortly after, he proved himself an 80's B-icon. This is real!!!” and for a minute we thought a more realistic and credible ninja flick was upon us. So, like proper blindly loyal geeks unwilling to blaspheme the cause, we panned for gold and found a lot to love in American Ninja.
And Steve James goes all Ram-Bro with an M-60 machine gun then punches a big Bolo-looking dude in the junk, and its all awesome again.

It really touched my heart and brought back those childhood memories I had of the ninja craze and especially Ameican Ninja. It was starting to get kind of embarrassing to be caught running around the woods with homemade nunchucks. God, if one single moment, one brief second of celluloid, was the moment the ninja craze was injected with a smelly, cheesy poison that slowly killed it for the next five years, the laser shot was IT. A year later, when the colored ninja gymnastics show started here, there was Patty’s voice in my damned head chanting “Caca-Ninja! A modest hit and a four-sequel franchise that lasts into the early 90’s on home video. You’re Cannon and you have a great thing going with Kosugi, but he wants more control and bolts. You’ve got more projects lined up, you know anything ninja is BANK right now, so what do you do?

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