Day 14 American Ninja from 1985
Tagline – “The Orient created the world’s deadliest art. Now there’s an American master!”
Who’s our hero today?
The “James Dean” of action! Michael Dudikoff plays Pvt. Joe T. Armstrong
Had I seen this one on VHS back in the day?
Yeah this fun fighting turkey was all the rave when it came out. Probably rented with a bunch of other b-movie martial arts action flicks. Why did everyone like this one? It was pretty bad but it had NINJA’s and loads of them.
Quick plot run down.
Joe Armstrong gets ordered to join the US Army in the Philippines instead of doing prison time. On patrol their unit is attacked by mercenaries and ninjas. Jumping into action he saves the Colonels daughter but is blamed for the death of many of the army unit. Joe is distant and unfriendly to his squad. Only his Corporal has faith in him. With trucks of weapons being stolen and constant raids against the camp by crime lord and his army of Black Star Ninja’s. It’s time to stand firm.
Does the hero have a day job?
Not sure if it’s mentioned. Joe can’t remember much due to amnesia after being hit by a bomb blast. Thing is because of that he stands around in silence with a weird vacant look on his face whilst flicking a butterfly knife. He just looks so creepy. Stranger danger!
What’s our heroes special skills?
Joe has been trained in Ninjutsu. A discipline utilising interchangeable skills in strategy, stealth tactics mixed with espionage and martial arts. In other words he’s trained in total badassery.
Heroes weapon of choice?
Anything he can get his hands on. Screwdriver, tire iron, lug wrench, hose pipe, even a bucket on his head!
Heroes drink of choice?
Too busy fighting ninja’s to be drinking.
Does hero have a sidekick?
Oh yes he does and one of the biggest, baddest mother truckers. He so cool, he has a mean mustache to go with his kick-ass muscles. Steve James plays Cpl. Curtis Jackson. It’s always a pleasure to see Steve James turn up in films. He always ended up being the side kick. However with the power on IMDB I’ve just learnt after all these years that Steve had a few leading man roles. Street Hunter (1990) and Riverbend (1989). I’m gonna hunt these down for a watch very soon this year and hopefully will report back my findings. I’m super psyched. If he hadn’t of sadly died so young I reckon he would of made it on The Expendables cast. And if not, he would certainly make my fantasy all-star fighting squad, if I had to make one. Yeah every badass gang needs a Steve James standing tough. BUT can Steve take on 57 punk ass cops?…………..
Hot girl? Damsel in distress or ass kicker?
The Colonels daughter Patricia (Judie Aronson) fills the damsel and the hot girl. She’s also a little away with the fairies and real cute. Now I couldn’t recall her being in this which is very strange because I was obsessed with a film she was in that very year of 1985. How many times did I watch Weird Science (1985)? Ok, for sure that was mostly for Lisa (Kelly Lebrock) but even Judie’s character Hilly knew Lisa was hot. And hey I was a realist, Lisa for the golden mind reel and Hilly for the sweet loving girlfriend. Maybe we could all have showers together! Yep I’d be happy with that.
Who’s the main baddie?
The main bad guy is Victor Ortega (Don Stewart) a black market arms dealer. But we not here for him. It’s the Black Star Ninja (Tadashi Yamashita) and his mercenary band of back flipping and slightly rubbish ninja’s that we want to see. Flying through the air with blow darts, bows and arrows, smoke bombs and super rope climbing skills. When the ninja’s are on screen there’s no stop to the action.
Baddies special skills?
All round master in all things ninjitsu
Psycho baddies rating out of ten? 7/10
Even with his Black Star Ninja tattoo on his face he’s still a little bit wack.
Heroes balls of steel and anger ratings out of ten? 7/10
Joe’s vacant look does make you think he might have special needs to go with his ninja moves.
Surely it features a training montage scene?
YEEESS at last! And to make me really happy we get two. One of Joe’s origin story of how he somehow happened to be trained in ninjitsu by master Shinyuki (John Fujioka) an old Japanese solider who found Joe at birth and taught him all he knows. Strangely he happens to work as a gardener at Victor Ortega headquarters and evil lair. Then for our second montage we get ninja’s learning stuff at training school with Black Star Ninja watching on.
Does it feature an impossible mission?
When you got a mean mustachioed muscle machine like Steve James going all black Rambo as your side kick, hey! no mission is impossible.
Does the hero get a chance to show off their muscles?
A really awkward moment he stands in his underpants in the jungle wringing out his shirt and trousers that got wet.
Will I be needing to pause the video player? AKA are there any boobies?
Not even any stealth ones popping out to surprise you!
No one felt comfortable having a bit of slap and tickle. You just knew they’d be three or four ninja peeping tom’s hiding in the roof rafters spying on your action.
Any good totally random surprise scenes?
Two words – Ninja Lasers!
Films body count? Low/Medium/High?
Insanely high. I think it might top Commando (1985) in the same year. Though lets get real here, John Matrix does it all on his own.
Innocent baddie death rate?
Actually a few really. I’m sure there wasn’t much work around those parts. In comes crime lord flashing some cash about and before you know it, you’re part of a naughty gang. You gotta put food on the table. Then some unheard of American ninja guy turns up and kicks your head off. Where’s the justice in that I ask you?
Explosion ratio? Low/Medium/High?
Massive. Cars just kept blowing up.
How many stuntmen probably really died making this film?
Nothing looked totally outrageous. For sure a broken arm here and there but fingers crossed the stuntman death rate was zero here.
Any cool car chases?
Joe rides a motorbike and sidecar before chasing down a truck. The both of them think it be funny to hit every purposely placed obstacle on the side walk, one after another, even though the whole road is clear on the other side. Hey you gotta jazz up a car chase.
Jackson – “Watchu gonna do with that hose, huh? You gonna play with yourself?”
Any other familiar faces and actors pop up?
Apart from the above mentioned Steve James and Judie Aronson I don’t believe I recognise anyone. However the Black Star Ninja played by Tadashi Yamashita was in The Octagon (1980) with Chuck Norris.
American Ninja is directed by Sam Firstenberg who would go on to make American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987). Sam Firstenberg was no stranger to ninja films having made Revenge Of The Ninja (1983) (coming soon to a friendly film blog near you soon) and Ninja III: The Domination (1984). He’s also made some super cheesy B-movies like Delta Force 3: The Killing Game (1991), Cyborg Cop (1993) and American Samurai (1992).
My cheese radar detector nearly blew a fuse!
IMDB score rating – 5.5/10
Wolfman ACTION & FUN rating – 7.5/10
Wolfman over all film rating – 5.5/10
I hadn’t seen this since the rental days and yeah it was fun to revisit. Yeah man it’s pretty bad but in a good way. I’m sure I remember the ninja’s being better, rather than just bouncing off trampolines all the time. However I always get more out of these films than I probably should and really enjoyed myself surrounded by the nonsense. Besides Steve James is always a big bonus to a film. He’ll be back before the month is out.
Feel free to let me know your thoughts on the films if you want but please don’t feel you need to as I know it’s pretty relentless this month. However, most important, have fun with the movies.
Keep it filmy…. Mikey Wolf.
Here’s a special treat courtesy of the director himself Sam Firstenberg on his own YouTube channel. American Ninja Reunion and the making off. And Judie Aronson still looks beautiful.