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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Sakura Killers

January 20, 2021 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Sakura Killers

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #583: Sakura Killers

Ninja New Year

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never tried to sneak up on Chuck Connors, mostly because Chuck Connors has been dead for almost thirty years, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number five hundred and eighty three, we celebrate Ninja New Year with the low budget ninja action flick Sakura Killers, which was released in early 1987.

Sakura Killers


Sakura Killers, also apparently known as Sakura Killer and directed by Richard Ward, which, according to this interview is an amalgamation of two different people, Yu Wang and Dusty Nelson, is a very cool and very weird low budget ninja flick. The movie’s story is bizarre and most of the acting is unintentionally hilarious, but the ninja action is superb and that’s what ninja movie fans are going to check it out for. The movie also has Chuck Connors in it, and that’s pretty cool, too. I mean, come on, it’s Chuck Connors.

Sakura Killers stars George Nichols and Mike Kelly as Dennis and Sonny, two American agents sent to Taiwan by the mysterious The Colonel (Chuck Connors) to find out who stole an important videotape from an American government facility. The Colonel and his helper Karen (Cara Casey) suspect that the thieves are ninjas that are part of the Sakura Organization, which is some sort of ninja themed organized crime outfit or something, but they can’t determine that for certain. So Dennis and Sonny head to Taiwan, and as soon as they show up and start poking around, they’re attacked by ninjas from the Sakura Organization. While Dennis and Sonny hold their own against their ninja attackers, they don’t have the same kind of killer martial arts skills as the ninjas. They’re going to need local help to complete their mission. But who are Dennis and Sonny going to get to help them? That’s when they contact Manji (Manji Otsuki), a woman who knows The Master (Jack Long), a badass ninja master who can show Dennis and Sonny how to be ninjas. So Dennis and Sonny learn how to be ninjas.

Now, while that’s going on (basically, Dennis and Sonny learn how to be ninjas through multiple training montage sequences. The big lesson they learn is that ninjas have to know how to run, run, run), the Sakura Organization looks to kill Dennis and Sonny, send ninjas to kill the Colonel (the Colonel is too fast for them, which is completely ridiculous and badass at the same time), and move the tape to the Russians, who the Sakura Organization seems to be working for. The defacto leader of the Sakura Organization is a guy named Otani (I have no idea who plays him. He has a mustache, though), and Otani seems to be led by a guy named Osah (I don’t know who plays him, either). So what’s on the tape? Some bullshit about secret formulas and techniques that will allow a country to expand its food supply or destroy it. Major stakes indeed.

We don’t find out about the whole Russian thing and what’s on the tape until the last quarter or so of the movie, so up until that point all we really know is that there’s a group of ninjas that have an important tape and the movie is all about Dennis and Sonny becoming ninjas. Their ascension to ninjahood is interesting because it goes against what tends to happen in ninja movies, or at least all of the ninja movies I’ve seen; mainly, the bad guy ninjas tend to wear weird beard masks. In Sakura Killers, Dennis and Sonny, the good guys, train to become ninjas and, as part of that process, they wear masks. Is that even allowed?

There’s an odd lack of urgency to the story for most of the movie’s running time. Dennis and Sonny are investigating the Sakura Organization in Taiwan, yes, but they rarely ever seem to be annoyed by their lack of progress. Even when they get attacked by ninjas at random times, instead of deciding that they’ve had enough and the Sakura scumbags are going down, Dennis and Sonny go back to their hotel to relax or take a shower or go to lunch. Why would they do that, especially if there are fucking ninjas after them? And why aren’t the local authorities involved in any way whatsoever? Do the cops in Taiwan just not deal with ninjas at all?

And then there’s the whole The Colonel aspect of the story. Who the hell is the Colonel? Why does he run American spy operations out of his farm out in the middle of nowhere? And how can a guy who looks like he’s seventy be faster/quicker than a ninja assassin?

The ninja action in the movie is fantastic. There’s a chop socky kung fu movie feel to most of it, at least with the sound of the fights, but the actual fighting is pretty decent looking. It doesn’t appear to be sped up anywhere and the various actors seem to be legit martial artists (that or they’re very good at making the various moves they do look deadly). The running training sequences, where the Master makes Dennis and Sonny run while holding a big hat against their bodies without using their hands is only the second most ridiculous action section in the movie. The most ridiculous is the “Dennis training on the beach at the beginning of the movie” sequence. I have no idea why it’s important to have in the movie. Is it a time killer thing? Was it in actor George Nichols’s contract for the movie?

Both Nichols and Mike Kelly, who plays Sonny, do a good job. They seem to be lost most of the movie, both in the sense that their characters don’t have a firm grasp of what’s going on and the actors themselves have no idea what they’re supposed to be doing when they’re not doing a fight sequence so they just make stuff up. Both appear to be credible martial artists, and that’s what really matters for this kind of movie. I would like to know why Nichols plays Dennis as a meathead and Kelly plays Sonny as a guy who wants to be cool but isn’t quite cool enough to actually be cool. How the hell did they become agents of the American government in the first place? And how does Dennis know about traditional Japanese tea but has never heard of ninjas?

Manji Otsuki is great as Manji. She’s just as lost as Nichols and Kelly but she handles it slightly better than they do. Otsuki is also a badass martial artist as she joins in on the final good guy ninja assault on the Sakura Organization. And the guy who plays Otani is one bad motherfucker. Jack Long is awesome, too, as The Master.

And then there’s Chuck Connors as the Colonel. Why is his character in the movie? Who the hell is he? And why is a mega old man who can kill a ninja? I’d also like to know how Connors got involved in this movie in the first place. I know that Connors did a bunch of low budget stuff towards the end of his career and his name still had some star power in the late 1980’s but, still, this movie? And why didn’t he appear in the sequel White Phantom?

As far as I can tell, Sakura Killers isn’t available on DVD or Blu-ray in Region 1. There’s a French language DVD on Amazon and you can probably still find it on VHS somewhere, but why isn’t this on some sort of DVD right now? And why isn’t this movie a bigger deal in the ninja movie fan world? Perhaps Vinegar Syndrome or a company like that can release this in the future. At the moment, you can watch it on Tubi TV, which is where I watched it.

See Sakura Killers. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: At least 30.

Explosions: A few, if you want to count the ninja smoke bombs.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: No opening theme, ninja assault, choking, poison dart shooting, a scene where a ninja crawls up the corner of a building backwards, a portable personal ninja trampoline, strangulation, the mountains, a woman ties her shoes, more ninjas, an old man hits golf balls, an aerobics/exercise montage, double barrel shotgun attack, an emergency call, computers, videotape stealing, a sweet red corvette, potential unexpected/unplanned homoeroticism, a running montage, guys playing pool, going to Taiwan, more exercising, talk of “genetic splicing,” a bad guy ninja training montage, ninja practice, ninja star practice, armor hooey, henchman killing, some really bad dubbing, lunch, talk of the Sakura symbol, talk of tai-chi, acid attack, more ninja attacks, arm slicing, off screen sex, talk of ninjas, Japanese tea hooey, lots of meeting people to discuss meeting other people in different places later on, a hilarious weaponized silver boomerang thing, a good guy ninja training montage, chair arm breaking, a weird tea pouring scene, secret weapons training, smoke bomb training, a seriously bald henchman, room service hooey, a ninja hiding under a room service cart, hotel room brawl, some really bad knife fighting, a big hooha public ninja fight, serious testicle destruction, more lunch, suspect interrogation, a ninja fight in a garden, some serious ninja gymnastics, a big Russian bad guy meeting or something, note taking, multiple ninja leaps, ninjas that explode out of the ground, serious weird ninja weaponry, ninja dummies, a mega sword fight, gut stabbing, , seppuku, and an ending that really isn’t clear.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: Lack of opening theme, ninjas, guy using a typewriter, a ninja blue rug, Chuck Connors, Chuck Connors hitting golf balls, Chuck Connors wearing Brooklyn Dodgers gear, Chuck Connors killing ninjas with a double barrel shotgun, Chuck Connors explaining what ninjas are, beach exercise, Chuck Connors massaging a putter, Chuck Connors talking about how much he loves golf, “secure freedom for all,” a Chuck Connors voiceover, sexual harassment, guys doing tai-chi in public, a telegram, a Japanese tea house, “Sakura is Japanese for cherry blossom,” guys learning to run with a straw hat that you have to hold up while running but you can’t use your hands to do it, hay destruction, hair drying, a guy reading Omni Magazine, a guy listening to a Walkman, drinking a soda, and reading a magazine while lying on the bed in his hotel room, Chuck Connors cleaning his gun, impatience, Chuck Connors riding a tractor, a full on ninja brawl, and an ending that isn’t really clear.

Best lines: “How is it going, Stan? Okay,” “Computers. I thought they were supposed to make life simpler,” “Dammit! I knew they shouldn’t have done those experiments!,” “What are ninjas?,” “Nice jeans,” “Where I grew up we used those things as weapons,” “You are a disgrace,” “I’ve been sent to check on your progress,” “Sorry, we don’t speak no Japanese,” “This food is pretty good. How come you’re not eating?,” “We underestimated those two Americans,” “You know what ninjas do? They specialize in killing people,” “It’s berry! Please!,” “There is no fail for ninja,” “Well, you guys are dead,” “What? The last time we were there we were attacked!,” “Outside? You mean she got away?,” “Be reasonable. There’s nothing you can do,” “We are not getting anywhere!,” “Sonny! Get that cockroach!,” “What? Go over the wall. Open the gate,” “I want that tape,” and “Ninja… does not accept failure!”

Rating: 10.0/10.0




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B-movies rule. Always remember that.

Sakura Killers

Chuck Connors– The Colonel
George Nichols– Dennis
Mike Kelly– Sonny
Manji Otsuki– Manji
Cara Casey– Karen
Jack Long– The Master

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by Yu Wang and Dusty Nelson (as Richard Ward)
Screenplay by David Marks, Dusty Nelson, and George Tan

Distributed by Key Video and Overseas FilmGroup

Rated R for violence
Runtime– 87 minutes

Watch it here