Do you walk the streets of New York past coffee bars, vegan bakeries and craft beer pubs while thinking to yourself, “This city needs more ninjas”? You’re in luck. Subway Cinema, the nation’s leading nonprofit dedicated to the celebration and exhibition of Asian pop cinema, has just announced the full program of this year’s Old School Kung-Fu Fest with a deadly theme: NINJAS.
From April 16 to April 19 at the Anthology Film Archives in New York City, you can check out a slew of old school ninja movies from the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s! Best of all, most of the films will be screened in beautiful 35mm prints!
New York, NY, March 24, 2015 – The Old School Kung Fu Fest, a four-day celebration of the rarest, wildest, and most incredible martial arts and action cinema from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s is back at the Anthology Film Archives for its 5th edition, which is dedicated to the deadliest fighter of them all…the ninja!
Since the dawn of time, man’s natural predator has been the ninja. Hiding in your shower, crouching behind your laptop, clinging to your back — the ninja is everywhere. What killed the dinosaurs? Ninja. What battles great white shark? Ninja. Who is buying flowers for your mom? Probably ninja. But ninja is not vampire! Ninja can be filmed! This year’s Old School Kung Fu Fest examines this crazy natural phenomena of ninja with 14 movies that show you this sneaky fighter in the only place where he cannot shoot throwing stars into your eyes: on the movie screen!
There are serious black-and-white ninjas in the original ninja films Shinobi No MonoParts 1 & 2 (1962 and 1963), super-noir ninjas in 1965’s Samurai Spy, party-colored crazy ninjas from the go-go 80s likeAmerican Ninja 1 & 2 and then be entered, revenged, and dominated by Cannon’s essential ninja trilogy: Enter the Ninja,Revenge of the Ninja, and Ninja III: The Domination. Watch brave Chinese people fight ninjas with their guts in Shaw Brothers movies like Five Element Ninjas! See ninjas fly on kites in Duel to the Death! You must see all the ninjas! Because to fight ninja, first you must understand ninja.
Forgive my French, but this is so fucking awesome. I am so there, so if any New York Geekscapists want to check this out with me, reach out to me on Twitter or on our Facebook.
You can check out the entire program here, but I’ve highlighted a few select choices below.
ENTER THE NINJA (1981, USA, 100min, 35mm) Directed by Menahem Golan
Starring: Franco Nero, Susan George, Sho Kosugi, Christopher George.
This landmark Cannon Films production launched the ninja craze of the ‘80s and revitalized the martial arts film in America after it died in 1973 with Bruce Lee. When 20th Century Fox announced they were shooting a $20 million adaptation of best-selling novel, The Ninja, Cannon flipped out and bought their very own ninja script from martial artist Mike Stone and rushed this movie into production. Starring Frano Nero (the original Django) as a white ninja with a thick Maurizio Merli mustache, it’s shot in the Philippines where Nero helps an old buddy (and his old buddy’s hot girlfriend, Susan “Straw Dogs” George) take on evil real estate developer, Mr. Venarius (Christopher George). Only a ninja can defeat a ninja, so the bad guys hire Sho Kosugi, who got his start as an extra on this film before his martial arts abilities earned him the role of the evil ninja. Showtimes: Thu, April 16 at 6:15pm.
REVENGE OF THE NINJA (1983, USA, 90min, Digital projection) Directed by Sam Firstenberg
Starring: Sho Kosugi, Keith Vitali, Virgil Frye.
Cannon followed the box office success of Enter the Ninja with Revenge of the Ninja, the first American movie to give an Asian actor sole star billing (even Bruce Lee had to share billing with his co-stars in Enter the Dragon). Sho Kosugi (a ninja!) returns home from an afternoon stroll to find his family massacred by evil ninjas. With his mother and infant son in tow he flees Japan for Los Angeles, vowing to forsake the ninja life forever. With the help of his friend and business partner, Keith Vitali (a karate legend who fought onscreen in several 80s Hong Kong movies), he opens an art gallery, specializing in fancy Japanese dolls. What Sho doesn’t know is that his friend is actually an evil ninja who wears a silver demon mask and is smuggling heroin into the country inside the dolls! Sho is just trying to raise his ninja son (played by his real-life son, Kane Kosugi), but now he has to deal with a grindhouse full of dead bodies, fountains of blood, cheap 80s sex scenes, mafia stereotypes, and dueling ninjas!
Showtimes: Fri, April 17 at 6:00pm.
FIVE ELEMENT NINJAS, aka CHINESE SUPER NINJAS五遁忍術 (1982, Hong Kong, 103 minutes, 35mm, in Mandarin with English subtitles) Directed by Chang Cheh
Starring: Ricky Cheng Tien Chi, Lo Meng, Lung Tien-chiang
In the 80s, Shaw Brothers was losing audiences to TV, so it unleashed Chang Cheh (The One-Armed Swordsman, Five Deadly Venoms) to direct his most insane movie ever. A Chinese martial arts clan is fighting everyone and winning but then they fight ninjas. Ninjas who know Five Element Formation! So secret! So deadly! The only survivor learns that in order to beat ninja…he must become ninja! Ninja fights using Gold Powers, Wood Powers, Water Powers, Earth Powers, Fire Powers! Chinese martial artist fights using Hitting Ninjas in Face Power! Trees bleed. Crotches are stabbed. Guts are extracted. Every second of this movie is high-octane man-against-ninja action and it does not end until every inch of the screen is covered in dead ninja. Screening will be introduced by Dan Halsted, who will tell the story of how he unearthed a massive collection of extremely rare 35mm kung fu films in 2009, which included the print of Five Element Ninjas. Showtimes: Sat, April 18 at 5:00pm.
Presented with the Hong Kong the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office New York.
SEVENTEEN NINJA (1963, Japan, 98min, 35mm, in Japanese with live English subtitles) Directed by Yasuto Hasegawa
Cast: Kotaro Satomi, Jushiro Konoe, Yuriko Mishima, Ryutaro Otomo.
Toei’s star-studded response to Daiei’s hugely successful 1960s franchise, Shinobi No Mono, this nocturnal, cynical game of chess between two master manipulators is an amazing and underseen ninja movie that we’re presenting with live subtitles since no English-subtitled version exists. As the ruling Shogun lies on his death futon, seventeen Iga clan ninja are trusted by theirmaster with an impossible mission: to infiltrate the impregnable fortress where his youngest son plans to take both Edo Castle and the supreme power by force. They have two options: to steal the scroll that will grant legitimacy to the usurper’s claim, or to assassinate him. Before they can even reach the stronghold, a vicious ninja hunter thwarts their every move. As the Iga ninja fall, the success of the mission falls in the hands of one young and inexperienced ninja. Showtimes: Sun, April 19 at 1:00pm.
Note: Seventeen Ninja is a super hardcore rarity that very, very few human beings have watched!
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (1990, USA/Hong Kong, 93min, 35mm) Directed by Steve Barron
Starring: Judith Hoag, Corey Feldman, Elias Koteas, Sam Rockwell
For years Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello and Raphael have lived deep in the sewers of New York, learning the art of ninjitsu from their mentor, Splinter… ok, we all know the story by now about our favorite pizza-eating humanoid turtles, but the best way to forget about Michael Bay’s lazy and tedious franchise reboot is to come appreciate the first, and still the best, version. Produced by Hong Kong’s Golden Harvest studios (home of Jackie Chan), with the Turtles lovingly brought to life by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, edited by Sally Menke (the editor of every single Quentin Tarantino movie before her untimely death in 2010), and with a theme song by MC Hammer, it’s lean, green, and on the big screen – a CGI-free dose of ninja turtle power! Showtimes: Sun, April 19 at 3:15pm.
There are loads of history to be experienced in the full program, but I highlighted some that I’ll fight tooth and nail to attend. Yes, even Ninja Turtles, which has more merit than one would assume.
I’m so excited, and I am all about Subway Cinema. To celebrate bizarre cinema is my Kool-Aid, and I jumped for joy when this came in my email. From Sho Kosugi to Five Element Ninjas, a staple amongst my cousins and I growing up, I can’t wait for the festival to start. I’ll see you there. Ninja wanisu! [vanishes in thin air, reappears right in front of a moving truck]