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The Man Movie Encyclopedia: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

December 27, 2018 | Posted by Caliber Winfield
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Greetings, all.

The other day I got to thinking about another branch to add to the Hall of Burly, and I call this section “With Kid Gloves”. In the With Kid Gloves wing, I’m going to review movies from my childhood that back then, I thought were burly as hell. Will they hold up? Or will they be more Masters of the Universe?

First up, what better than the movie EVERY kid was waiting for with baited breath. Back when you had to go to a theater to see a debut trailer, not youtube. Back when you didn’t get daily updates on IG, but only in magazines. Back then, you had no idea what was coming until you hit the theater. And during this time, in the late 80s, nothing was bigger than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a concept created by two guys who were drunk and making fun of Frank Miller’s Daredevil run. Every kid loved them, with the brilliant action figures, and a cartoon with arguably the greatest cartoon theme of all time. Well, in 1990 we finally saw them lean, mean, green, and on the big screen, baby….


We open up learning about the crime that’s plaguing New York City, and we learn it from none other than April O’Neil herself.

Her jacket is a rape prevention device

As she leaves, she experiences her reporting first hand, as she walks up on some cats stealing shit. Before things can get too bad for her, the lights go out and everyone is taken care of. Naturally, it’s the turtles, however, Ralph left a sai behind and April grabs it, because, fuck evidence and protocol.


Back at the sewer, Ralph is pissed off because he lost his sai, so he goes to see Critters. He wears a trench-coat to disguise himself…and NO ONE bats an eye. Whatsoever.


As he’s leaving, and no one notices a giant turtle in a trenchcoat, some punks try to steal a purse. Ralph stops them, and they run into the park. It’s here we meet Casey Jones, who I thought was the biggest bad-ass ever as a kid. They have themselves a pretty solid fight, although why Ralph just took the cricket mallet I’ll never know. The turtles order pizza, and it annoys the fuck out of me, because they only order one. Seriously? One freaking pizza? For 4 people? On top of that, it costs $13! That’s one thing that’s actually deflated in price.
The next day we meet April’s boss, and his punk son, a ginger who steals everything and likes shitty bands like The Sex Pistols. Well, the Foot Clan doesn’t dig April being such a loud mouth, so they send some ninjas after her. Ralph saves her, and they take her back to the sewer. She handles the news pretty well about the turtles and the such, and even invites them to her house. When they return to the sewer, they find Splinter is gone. Although the more important thing here is that April has the same Elvis statue as Screech’s mom. We head on over to the Foot Clan’s head quarters, a busted out warehouse where kids smoke cigars, shoot pool, play roulette, play NARC, and train in martial arts. It’s here we meet Shredder, and he speaks to the children gathered around as if they were a family, and that this family needs to help destroying their newest adversaries, the turtles. Danny, the punk ginger, he pipes up and lets them know where they’re at.


They get the jump on Ralph and beat the shit out of him while he’s being Ralph on the roof top. They then get into April’s apartment and a big brew-ha-ha breaks out. At one point, Mike has a nunchuck-off.with another member of the Foot, and people are watching, and NO ONE speaks up. How is it no one just blurted out “Is anyone else taking in this reality? We’re dressed up as ninjas, watching a ninja, have a nunchuck competition with a full grown, anthropomorphic turtle who is ALSO trained in Ninjitsu. I mean…what are the chances of this?! Someone go by a lotto ticket”. Well, after a big fight, April’s house ends up catching fire, just as Casey Jones shows up to help out. They escape through a trap-door, and head to some country house. While Donatello works on a car with Casey, Leo watches over Ralph, who they stuffed in a child’s bath tub. Seriously. No wonder he’s so fucking pissed off all the time, then a few scenes later he’s just standing on top of the house, in the middle of the night, screaming Splinter’s name. You know they had to have an issue with him doing that, and if I’m Ralph…

Leo: Boy, I sure enjoyed all 3 hours of sleep last night. I kept dreaming someone was STANDING ON THE ROOF SCREAMING.
Ralph: Oh, I’m SORRY. I had to find a way to stretch my legs, because as I was DYING, and In a COMA, you assholes stuffed me in a tub the size of a LAUNDRY BASKET! Was the trash-compactor not working? Couldn’t find a diving board 50 feet off the ground to throw me off of in order to get me to squeeze into a glass? No, I get to yell at whomever I want, whenever I want, because you assholes had me convalescing in one of those buckets you get from Home Depot.

They get back to their hide-out, and find Danny sleeping there. In ANOTHER Sex Pistols shirt. No one questions how he got there, he never mentions that he’s the reason Splinter is gone, or that he knows where he is. He heads back to the Foot headquarters, here we learn about Splinter’s past, as he was a pet rat that was capable of learning Ninjitsu by watching his master. Well, his master was banging some chick that Shredder wanted. They bailed to America, but Shredder still showed up and killed them both.
Well, Casey and Danny, that punk bitch, Danny, rescue Splinter, while the Turtles pummel the hell out of the Foot. Shredder learns where they’re at, and shows up to fuck their shit up. They all try to take on the Shredder, and be it one on one, or 4 on 1, they aren’t even able to touch him, with exceptions to Leo getting a cut on Shredder.


He makes them all surrender their weapons, and is about to kill Leo when Splinter appears. Shredder learns that this is the very rat who scared his face, which is such an INSANE scenario when you think about it, and attempts to charge, only to get flipped off a roof and into a garbage truck, with Casey activates and crushes the Shredder, as we all live happily ever after.

1-Liners: 0
Guys Beat Up: 40
Guys Killed: 0
Swear Words: 0
Boobies: 0
Explosions: 0
Chase: 1
Broken Bones: 0
Fight/Shoot-Out At Motel?: No
Guy Get Girl? Yes
Guy Smoke?: No

At the time, this was the highest grossing independent movie of all time.

The guys who played the turtles all had cameos in the film. The cat who plays Ralph was the passenger in the cab when Ralph rolls over it, the guy who plays Mikey is the pizza delivery guy, the guy who plays Donnie also played the Foot soldier who delivered a message to April in the subway, and the guy who plays Leo is one of the gang members watching Casey fight Tatsu.

Judith Hoag wasn’t brought back because she complained about the schedule and the violence in the movies.

Most of this movie was shot in North Carolina, with only a few things shot in NY, in order to catch famous landmarks.

In the comics, the turtles are around 3-4 feet tall.

Josh Pals who plays Ralph, also voices him, and he’s the only cat to do both jobs.

Richard Norton [Gymkata, and some other martial arts films from the 80s] as well as Bennie “The Jet” Urquidez were considered for the role of Casey Jones. Bennie would have been damn interesting.

Budget was a cool $13.5 mill, and they brought in a world wide total of around $201 million.

This was such a huge deal when I was 7 years old, people today just don’t know. However, just about everything you loved as a kid doesn’t hold up, which is why I was so surprised when I found that this film still held up. The reason for this, I believe, is that they made the film with a darker, more adult tone. Beyond that you’ve got some solid writing, and they didn’t put all the focus and all the work with the turtles, they allowed characters like April and Casey to breathe and get their work in too. You’ve also got a great heel group, as there’s tons of disposable guys to get their asses kicked, while Shredder remains the ultra-bad ass, looking pretty damn cool. All in all, it’s a solid film that holds up, as they did a damn fine job of bringing the world to life that just about every kid under the sun loved to death.
***1/2 Head-Butts out of 5

Any questions, comments, drunk-ramblings, feel free to send them my way, I always dig hearing from you, the beautiful people.
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