Movies & TV / Columns

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Ninja Warriors

January 8, 2020 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Ninja Warriors

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #538: Ninja Warriors

Ninja New Year!

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never wanted to throw a ninja star at anyone or anything but probably would throw one at a dart board if I got the chance to, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number five hundred and thirty-eight, I celebrate Ninja New Year 2020 with the low budget ninja flick Ninja Warriors, which was unleashed upon the world in early January 1986 (or maybe in 1985. There seems to be some internets confusion on that).

Ninja Warriors


Ninja Warriors, also known as Ninja Warrior, Ninja Commandos, and American Ninja and directed by Teddy Page under the name John Lloyd, is one of those low budget action flicks that’s both terrible and brilliant at the same time. It’s badly made, badly acted, and badly directed, yet somehow, in the end, it’s a true thing of cinematic beauty. It’s one of those movies that you couldn’t deliberately duplicate even if you wanted to because, well, you just couldn’t. You could try to mimic it, pay homage to it, but you could never really, truly make another one exactly like it. Ninja Warriors is in a class of its own, along with all of the other low budget action movies that are like it but are still unique in their own ways.

Ninja Warriors stars the great Ron Marchini as Steve, a mysterious martial artist brought in to help the police investigate an alleged ninja attack at a sensitive government building. At the very beginning of the movie, seven ninjas attack a government building in the dead of night, stealing classified documents and killing several security guards (some of the worst security guards in the history of the movies, I might add). The cop in charge of the investigation, Lt. Kevin Washington (Paul Vance), is the one who brings in Steve as Steve has been to Japan, he knows stuff about ninjas, and he’s a martial artist. Washington’s boss, Captain Marlowe (the immortal Mike Monty), isn’t sold on the whole ninja thing. To the captain, without direct, actual proof, the idea of ninjas is ludicrous, and since the only actual witness is a totally unreliable, raging drunk guy, there’s got to be something else going on here. Still, even with his misgivings, Captain Marlowe allows Washington to use Steve in his investigation. The Captain wants proof, though. The Captain wants to know what really happened.

Now, as Steve helps the police figure out what’s going on while dodging random ninja attacks in the woods (Steve goes jogging in the woods every day and, on occasion, has to evade various ninja booby-traps), the evil ninja leader Kurudo (Ken Watanabe, who also wrote the movie’s screenplay) tries to put his big plan to, I guess, take over the world, into motion. Along with the help of equally evil scientist Dr. Anderson (Mike Cohen), who has been looking to take over the world for some reason for decades, Kurudo hopes to finish a mind control formula that, when weaponized, will allow the big world take over scheme to happen. Or something like that. It isn’t really clear what’s happening here. At the same time, Kurudo is concerned by the presence of Steve. How could an American not in his direct employ know anything about being a ninja?

While all of that is going on, Kurudo and Dr. Anderson hope to kidnap Nancy, the daughter of an important good guy scientist that has access to information that Dr. Anderson needs to finish the mind control formula. Kurudo sends several ninjas to kidnap Nancy from a nearby tennis club (Nancy is a tennis pro or something) but they actually end up kidnaping a female police sergeant that the cops used as a decoy (the cops sort of knew what Kurudo was up to because Steve figured out what Kurudo might be up to). This scheme leads to Tom (Romano Kristoff), one of Kurudo’s best ninja henchmen, getting captured by the police. After interrogating Tom and getting jack shit from him, Washington sets up a sort of prisoner transfer, a situation that turns sour almost immediately when Kurudo’s ninjas kill the police woman with an arrow and Tom escapes. Steve kills a few ninjas in the ensuing chaos, but he can’t keep Tom from running away.

It’s at this point in the story that Steve and Washington decide to check out Kurudo’s compound and see what the hell is going on there. They actually get inside the compound easily and get a tour of the grounds by another Kurudo top henchman, Mike Johnson (Nick Nicholson), a guy with a beard who may or may not also be a ninja (we never see him in any ninja gear but he does like to hang out with Kurudo and the other ninjas). It’s a pleasant visit but Steve and Washington don’t really learn anything. They have their suspicions, though. Kurudo is working through his big plan at that compound, and if the authorities are going to stop him they’ll have to do something there.

Now, none of this information impresses Captain Marlowe. It all sounds like bullshit to him and, above all else, he doesn’t really trust Steve. So Captain Marlowe decides to do his own investigation. While driving on some back roads, the Captain is attacked by various ninjas, including Kurudo, who rams a sword through the back of the Captain’s head and out through his mouth (one of the movie’s best scenes). And while all of that is going on, Washington decides to infiltrate Kurudo’s compound and make some arrests or whatever. Washington as his men are immediately killed and captured, and when word gets to Steve about what happened, Steve breaks out his own ninja gear and heads to Kurudo’s compound to rescue his friend, destroy Kurudo and his scheme, and save the world.

Ninja Warriorsis oddly paced. Some sections of the movie move along quickly while others just drag, but even when it does drag the movie is never boring. I think this is due to the total commitment of the cast. Everyone takes everything seriously, and that seriousness helps you, the audience, buy into what’s going on. Even if you know what you’re watching is ridiculous you get caught up in what’s happening anyway. The movie also brings the ninja goods in terms of action. Ninjas jump and kick and punch and use swords and throwing stars and everything else you expect to see in a ninja movie and it’s all amped up just a bit. It’s exciting.

The movie is also oddly dubbed. The various voices seem to come from the “low budget kung fu movie school of dubbing” and the “low budget Italian movie made in the Philippines” world. The Italian connection comes from the presence of Mike Monty, who appeared in this very column in 2019 in both Zombie 3 and Strike Commando. The volume of the dubbed voices also helps make the movie entertaining. Some of the voices are louder than others and it makes no sense for it to be that way but it somehow works. And when you realize that everyone is taking this nonsense deadly seriously, it becomes obvious that Ninja Warriors is a work of genius.

As I said, the ninja action is excellent. The fight choreography is consistently exciting throughout the movie’s 84 minute running time, and even when a fight sequence is kind of lacking (the final fight doesn’t last very long, which is a shame because I was hoping for like a five minute sword fight) it’s still entertaining. The presence of read deal martial artist Marchini also helps make Ninja Warriors better than it has any right to be. I mean, if the producers had hired a lesser martial artist the Steve part probably wouldn’t have worked and, therefore, the movie as a whole would have been lacking something important.

Now, why doesn’t Steve have a last name? We never find out. We also never find out what Steve does for a job. Does he run a martial arts school? Is he a mercenary for hire (you know, a good guy mercenary for hire?)? We never find out. The only information we get on Steve is that he’s a martial artist, he spent time in Japan studying ninjas and shit, he likes to wear sweatpants and sweat shirts, he has a ninja star belt buckle, and he has a pair of sais above his bed for some reason. He also has a special case filled with all of his ninja gear, which is a fairly standard ninja practice. Ninjas don’t hang their ninja outfits in a closet next to their regular, every day clothes. All ninjas keep their ninja shit in a box (or in a rock, like in Ninja III: The Domination). I’d like to know more about Steve. It’s too bad Marchini and company never did a Ninja Warriors sequel/prequel to they could explore those questions.

Marchini is awesome as Steve. It’s hard to tell if Steve believes he’s above it all and is meant to be an arrogant prick (in a good way) or if Marchini knows that the movie is ridiculous and is just going to do whatever he wants and he never told anyone else about what he was doing. It’s hilarious when you start to think about it. Marchini looks good in all of the action scenes he’s involved in and, in many ways, he’s the best thing about the movie. I also love how he refuses to shake anyone’s hand or say hello to anyone.

Ken Watanabe is also awesome as Kurudo, the evil ninja master. He always seems to be in control of what’s going on around him, and he instills great fear in his henchmen (one of them cuts his own guts out because of a mistake that cost Kurudo’s ninja gang valuable time and, probably, money). Watanabe also gives off that seriousness vibe more than anyone else in the movie. He doesn’t care if the movie is ridiculous. He’s going to make you believe that what he’s doing is important and evil and needs to be stopped. Watanabe also wears a devil mask towards the end of the movie for no discernible reason beyond it looks cool. You always have to respect that kind of thing.

Paul Vance is fucking annoying as Lt. Washington. His voice is annoying, his mannerisms are annoying, and the fact that he’s a cop in this world is annoying. I mean, how did he even survive being a uniform cop, walking a beat and shit? Was he less annoying in his early years and he became annoying the older he got? And what’s the deal with his “dress shirt open at the top” style? Isn’t that a violation of the plainclothes cop cinematic dress code? It’s a shame that his ninja crucifixion over an open fire didn’t happen earlier in the movie than it does.

Mike Cohen is hilarious as Dr. Anderson. Just like Ken Watanabe, he’s so deadly serious as the evil doctor that it doesn’t really matter that the movie he’s in is ridiculous. He’s going to get what he wants and that’s it. Watch his mannerisms in the scene where he checks on the progress of his two scientist henchmen. It’s a fine example of an actor likely getting no direction from the director and having to make it all up on the spot. It’s amazing.

Mike Monty does a great job as Captain Marlowe. You get the sense early on that Monty knows that the movie he’s in is terrible but he’s going to act like it isn’t, and the result is a performance for the ages. Monty also amps up the asshole you expect to see in a police captain in an action movie, which is a wonder to see. And check out the framed picture of President Ronald Reagan he has on his desk. It’s common to see pictures of the president in police offices in movies, but the picture is usually on the wall. Marlowe’s picture of Reagan is on his desk, like the President is a member of his family. It’s bizarre.

And speaking of President Reagan, his picture also shows up in various random rooms, presumably because the director or producers wanted the audience to know that the movie takes place in America. None of the locations in the movie look like America at all (the movie was made in the Philippines) but, hey, there’s a picture of President Reagan in every room and that’s proof the movie takes place in America. In America everyone has a picture of the President. Ha.

Nick Nicholson’s presence in the movie is weird because, as I said earlier, he isn’t a ninja yet he hangs out with the ninjas all of the time. He always wears a shirt and tie. Is he like a badass accountant for Kurudo’s ninja gang? And Romano Kristoff does a good job as Tom the ninja henchman. The movie definitely could have used more of him, fighting Steve or just engaging in random ninja violence. That would have been cool.

The music by Pat Wales is so damn epic. From the opening theme all the way through, it’s the kind of badass 1980’s synth rock sound that makes you smile. Does the music really fit with the movie? Not really, but, at the same time, it fits perfectly. My God, someone needs to find a way to release this soundtrack on CD. It’s been almost thirty five years since the movie was released. I think it’s time we got a soundtrack release.

Ninja Warriors is awesome. It’s badly made on practically every level, yes, but at the same time it’s entertaining as hell. It’s cinematic brilliance. It’s a movie that you must track down and check out if you’re a ninja movie fan, an action movie fan, a bad movie fan, or you’re just looking for something different. Ninja Warriors is that movie.

See Ninja Warriors. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: At least 20.

Explosions: Several, including one big one.

Nudity?: Almost. Check out the color of the woman’s bra. I bet that color was a compromise. It looks like she’s topless but she isn’t.

Doobage: A man playing a flute while sitting on a mountain, ninjas travelling underground somehow, ninjas wearing gas masks, ninjas climbing up the side of a building, yawning, ninjas overcoming surveillance, a big blue rope, ninjas infiltrating a building in excruciating detail, lax security, classified files stealing, a ninja whistle, a ninja killing a security guard in shadow, a ninja setting a security guard on fire for absolutely no reason, a drunk guy in the woods, a sweet fucking opening titles song, hole digging, an impromptu interrogation about racial characteristics, ninja training, another blue rope, ninja training/exercise while blindfolded, some really bad voice dubbing, ninja booby-traps in the woods, more ninja training, multiple high end jumps out of a tree, ninja sit ups, four people complaining about stuff, a morning jog, more ninja booby-traps in the woods, multiple smoke bombs, flaming arrows, a plane lands, talk of mind control and tennis practice, even more ninja training, slicing arrows in half with a sword, multiple pictures of President Reagan, a yellow jeep, a ninja devotion ceremony, seriously lax security, chloroform rag to the face, kidnapping, using a defibrillator to wake up a woman that’s been chloroformed, a tan bra that must have been a nudity compromise, people making fires in the woods, a ninja booby-trap that actually works, metal ball on a chain weapon, a hilariously illegal police interrogation, a female ninja that we never see again, attempted prisoner exchange, arrow to the back, ninja powder to the face, running, a very rickety bridge, bridge jumping, deliberate bloody gut removal, a tennis racket with a knife in the handle, a giant key, a tour of the grounds, attempted ninja carjacking, sword through the back of the head and out the mouth, candle slicing, experiment hooey, ninja sword practice, a ninja nightmare, cops setting fire in the woods, wood cutting, a special ninja box, ninja star to the head, rock throwing, ninja crucifixion over a fire, crossbow hooey, spike spitting, another ninja star to the head, ninja choke with a bloody mouth. a clock that has a bomb in it, a massive explosion in the background, a ninja with a devil’s mask, axe on a chain, a big metal circle thing that looks like a hubcap with spikes on it, a final fight, sword to the chest, more flute playing, and no end credits.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: Opening titles that you can’t really see, super quiet ninjas, ball bearings and little spiky things, Ron Marchini, ninjas doing cartwheels, ninja shovels, a picture of President Ronald Reagan that keeps popping up, surgery, a sort of ninja training montage, “pages missing,” a ninja star belt buckle, tennis practice, Ron Marchini hiding behind a tree, Utah Bank, Rom Marchini becoming a ninja, and no end credits.

Best lines: “Jesus Christ! They were black and white?,” “I am not a sergeant! I am the captain here!,” “Anything to do with ninja is serious,” “Steve! You’ve been in Japan! I need your help!,” “No good. He is dead. Let’s prepare another one for tomorrow,” “If we do it, it will be suicide!,” “No one can stop ninja!,” “They gotta be somewhere!,” “Forget it. They are ninja. Masters of deception,” “Dr. Anderson, for every defeat, there will be victory. For every failure there will be success. We have taken one step backward, but I can assure you the next move will be two steps forward. This is the way of the ninja,” “Don’t forget, Kevin, he’s a ninja,” “This damn department. I have to do everything myself to get any results,” “He’s a ninja. He must die,” “You won’t be so lucky next time,” and “Do you know anything about ants?”

Rating: 10.0/10.0


The Gratuitous B-Movie Column The Facebook Page!

Please check out and “like” The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Facebook page, which is here.


The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Facebook page! Yeah!


Things to Watch Out For


The Mercenary: This low budget action flick comes to us from director Jesse V. Johnson, the man behind such modern action classics as Accident Man, Avengement, The Debt Collector, Savage Dog, and Triple Threat. The movie was originally known as Legion Maxx and I saw a trailer for it about a year ago and was wondering when the heck it would get a release. Directed by Johnson and starring the badass Dominique Vandenberg and Louis Mandylor, why wasn’t this an upcoming major release? Well, the movie is here now and, holy shit, does it look awesome. This will be getting a full review in this very column very, very soon. The first true blue must see of 2020.


The Shed: This new low budget horror flick has received some decent reviews so far, and I’m fairly certain that everyone in the world is freaked out by sheds, even if you have one in your backyard and you know what’s in it. I mean, do you really know what’s in it, right this second? When was the last time you were in it? Exactly. There could be anything in that damn thing right this second, any kind of monster. This is the next movie I plan on reviewing for the column, so be here next time to see if it’s worth checking out. I’ve got my fingers crossed that it’s awesome, or at least really, really watchable.


Depraved: I actually got to see this on the big screen, in an actual movie, theatre, during the 2019 edition of the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival, where it won the Best in the Fest award. Written and directed by the great Larry Fessenden, it’s a sort of modern riff on the Frankenstein story, where a battle surgeon builds his own man out of various body parts. Yes, we’ve all seen this story before, but how many times have we seen it take place in Brooklyn? Amazing performances, excellent direction, this movie is the total package and is something that you must make an effort to see. It is very, very worth your time. And it’s being released via Shout! Factory’s Scream Factory label, so you know you’ll be getting a badass awesome movie in a terrific home video presentation. See this goddamn movie.


Trespassers: This is another low budget horror flick that’s been getting good reviews as of late, and it has one of the gnarliest posters/DVD covers I’ve seen in a good long time. Basically, this is some sort of home invasion/slasher thriller deal where a bunch of people go out to a house in the woods to have sex and do drugs and whatnot and end up having to fight for their lives when a killer pops up and starts, well, killing people. I’m sure we’ve all seen that story before, so there’s nothing new going on here, but if it’s well made, that’s what’s important, right? Definitely want to check this out, too.


Next Issue: It’s the horror flick The Shed!


Check out my Widow’s Point set visit!

Read it here!



Most Recent Interviews

Steve Latshaw
Rick Hurst
Douglas Burke
Jeff Farley
Fred “The Hammer” Williamson
Nico Sentner
Everett Ray Aponte
Max Martini
Tom Huckabee
Jason Kellerman
David Tarleton
Roxy Shih
Jesse V. Johnson
Tamas Nadas (2)
Jesse Thomas Cook
Adam Seybold
Liv Collins
Bryan C. Winn
Jeffrey Combs
Ezra Tsegaye
Alexander Nevsky(4)
Sebastian Wolf
Dana Gould
Janet Varney
Richard Brake
Steven Lambert
Rolfe Kanefsky
Robert Donavan
Lukas Hassel
Jessica Morris
Daniel Roebuck (2)
Clint Carney


Follow me on Twitter!


Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

Ninja Warriors

Ron Marchini– Steve
Paul Vance– Lt. Kevin Washington
Ken Watanabe– Kurudo
Mike Monty– Captain Henry Marlowe
Mike Cohen– Dr. Anderson
Nick Nicholson– Mike Johnson
Romano Kristoff– Tom

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by Teddy Page (as John Lloyd)
Screenplay by Ken Watanabe

Distributed by USA Home Video and Avid Video

Not Rated
Runtime– 84 minutes

Buy it here