11 November 2009

Fists of Dragons/Ninja Terminator via Ninja Theater & Sho Kosugi

There is only one thing worse than a mutilated box. No box at all, but still.

Fists of Dragons (Hao xiao zi)
a.k.a. Little Rascals of Kung Fu
China - 1980
Director - Yeh Yung Chu
Trans World Entertainment, 1986, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 32 minutes

The uncut box claims that the film was directed by Yeh Yung Chu, and the opening credits on the tape confirm this. The actors listed at IMDB are exactly the same, but the director is listed as Wing-Cho Yip. Furthermore IMDB gives one of the alternate titles as Cunning Kids, which was confirmed by an image search that turned up the artwork below at Rare Kung Fu Movies under bothFists of Dragons and Cunning Kids. And in fact, after re watching the film, I can confirm that they are the same, except for the dubbing of course.

I picked up this film not because of Sho Kosugi, but because it was recomended at some point as a potential film for Kung Fu Grindhouse. As I recall it was not worthy, though it's been years since I watched it. The interesting thing to me now is of course the presence of Kosugi who merely presents the film. Really it's more of an introduction, and let me tell you, at bit of a sad one at that. The series name should give you some clue to the depths to which the video marketing industry had already sunk by 1986. Last time I checked, Ninja's didn't really have much to do with China, so why is this wu-shu movie under the title "Ninja Theater?" Because the American public were slaves to the very word ninja.
Kosugi himself offers only a brief demonstration of the use of the ninjitsu katana, noting that it is straight and shorter than the typical Japanese sword. Then he fights some guys for a minute or two before introducing the film as a "demonstration of some excellent Chinese Boxing."
There's something more than a little disheartening about lumping all of these distinct elements under the concept of martial arts.
Ninja, kung-fu, ehhhhhhhh, it's all oriental, right?

The Chinese VHS box art for Cunning Kids from Rare Kung Fu Movies

But there is more...
Over at The Scandy Factory, the Scandy Man has posted this nice image of the Ninja Theater version of Ninja Terminator. (right) His awesome post includes the intro sequence with Sho Kosugi's demo, a must watch to be sure, and some ephemera from the Sho Kosugi ninja fan club. This is one of my all time favorite movies of all fucking ever, comparable perhaps only to Challenge of the Tiger. Both of these are highly contingent on the fact that they star Richard "God Among Men" Harrison. Ninja Terminator was given a fantastic DVD release from Video Asia as part of the Silver Fox collection, and Challenge of the Tiger was double-featured by Mondo Macabro b-sided with For Your Height Only.

A Swedish VHS box insert courtesy Rolfens DVD.

German insert box courtesy Critical Condition.

From my own meager shelves.

Not to be confused with this Ninja Terminator, part of an Anchor Bay double VHS box from 1995. I haven't watched this specific film, but Ninja Wars, the A-film is a chopped version of "Black Magic Wars" (?) or Iga Ninpocho, a graphicaly violent but ultimately slooooow Japanese samurai gorror film. Aren't they all?

This started as a post about one movie and evolved into a morass of ninja insanity. Thanks for your dedication.


Shelby Cobras said...

I was trying to remember the name of that feature where Sho Kosugi teaches you how to use ninja weapons and stuff, it's either at the beginning or the end of several of his 1980's films. Ninja Theater... Yep.


Seth J G Goodkind said...

Yer welcome.
Sadly there is really no teaching at all, he pretty much just shows you the weapon for a minute, and then kicks ass for a minute.

Scandy Tangerine Man said...

Thanks, Seth! I can not believe how those fan club forms have made it this far. Next time I make it back home in TN, I'll search my parents' house for the Ghostbusters fan club flyers I got via a 1-800 number a year or two after the film came out. I wanted a jumpsuit with my name on it so fucking bad.