Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Gweilo Dojo: SAKURA KILLERS (1987)

One of the great things about being a two-man operation here at Video Junkie is that we can cover twice as much ground in the seemingly endless cinematic wasteland. And, since we are mere mortals, we both always end up surprising each other with our discoveries.  For example, Tom sends me SAKURA KILLERS, a 1980s ninja movie starring Chuck Conners.  Let me repeat that – starts Garret Morris screaming – a 1980s ninja movie starring Chuck Conners!  How could I have never seen it?  And how much is this going to rule?

The film opens with a group of ninjas assaulting a corporate building.  Showing off all their tricks, they make it to the main guy’s office to steal a video.  Cut to an isolated ranch where The Colonel (Conners) is practicing his golf game while his assistant Karen (Cara Casey) gets her aerobics freak on.  For some odd reason, ninjas show up and the Colonel – he is never given a name – blasts them with a shotgun he keeps in his golf bag.  Back inside, Karen talks about her super duper computer system which prompts the Colonel to bemoan technology.  This dude is old school.  But the system appears to be working as it tells them about the videotape being stolen.  What was on the tape?  Some kind of stuff scientists were doing, which causes the Colonel to exclaim that “maybe they shouldn’t ask so many questions!” Damn, this guy is really old school!  And let's not forget this isn’t just any videotape…it is a Beta tape!  Are we sure these are ninjas and not VJ friend and Beta fiend Jon Stone?


Anyway, our duo decides the recovery of this videotape is a job for top men and they first recruit Dennis (George Nicholas).  This is done by having Karen run next to him on the beach.  Dennis is sent to the hotbed of ninja activity. Japan? No, Taiwan! The plan is for him to start a boxing club (?) and eventually team up with old friend Sonny (Mike Kelly). I know all this because a clumsily inserted voiceover by Conners explains it all. Sonny tells Dennis (and the audience, finally!) that the videotape contains some information about genetic splicing.  They figure the best way to break the case wide open is to hit a Japanese restaurant and start asking questions.  Dumbasses!  Afterward, they are promptly attacked by ninjas.  Damn, never mind, these guys know their shit when it comes to flushing out ninjas.  Note to self – don’t eat at Japanese restaurants or at least ask ninja-related questions there.

Dennis figures they might need some help and they visit his old friend Manji (Manji Otsuki) at a Japanese teahouse. She introduces the guys to her uncle, who promptly begins training them in the art of ninjutsu.  The biggest challenge is being able to run fast enough that a straw hat will stick to your chest without you holding onto it. Apparently they master all of the ninja techniques in one quick training montage and even get garish ninja outfits.  All of this training prepares them for action and Dennis comes up with an amazing plan – let’s go back to the same restaurant we got attacked at and harass the hostess Yukiko!  Brilliant! But, unfortunately, she isn’t there but Manji is sharp enough to get her home address. Damn, these guys are good. Sonny goes to talk to her, but gets bonked on the head.  Damn, these guys suck.  We then hilariously cut back to the Colonel (riding on a tractor!), who gets updated on the events by Karen.  She says they found the girl and the Colonel says, “What girl?” He then says, “Is she the same girl who works at that restaurant by the water?”  Wow.  Godfrey Ho shakes his head at this lousy exposition.  Anyway, they locate Yukiko (at the restaurant by the water, duh!) and get her to reveal location of the ninja headquarters (by Dennis yelling at Yukiko).  Our heroes arrive just in the nick of time as the evil Russians are copying the formula.  And I literally mean copying the formula as they are only allowed to view the video and not copy it.

Damn, this movie is a riot from start to finish.  Any film that opens with Chuck Conners in a Brooklyn Dodgers jacket blowing away ninjas with a shotgun at a ranch during daylight is awesome in my book.  Conners might be top billed but he probably only did a day or so of work on this picture.  The filmmakers make sure to insert a scene with him every 15 minutes or so.  It is also hilarious how he looks exactly like a Sleestak from the LAND OF THE LOST TV series with his glasses on:



The Taiwan stuff takes up a majority of the footage and it is a blast.  Nicholas and Kelly might be the most mismatched couple of heroes (the back story is Dennis was a cop who arrested and befriended Sonny) to try and locate the tape held by ninjas.  Yeah, a white muscle head and skinny black guy. They surely will blend right in.  Not that I mind such plot machinations as these kinds of flicks are all about the great bizarre bits and fights.  I cracked up when a ninja spy is sitting in the lobby of a hotel reading Omni or the ninja boss being shown getting his hair done.  Films like this and NINJA TURF (1985) are the reason I love continuing to search for new flicks to view.  They may not be good, but they are a blast.

Moments of Clarity:

1 Reactions:

  1. Terrific review, WSW.

    Why document your highly complex chemical compound formula in an encrypted file when you can just put it on Betamax and utilize features like digital freeze frame and hi-fi sound? Err, anyways. This had some quality fights and the climactic blowoff is the stuff of YouTube legend.

    I always thought Connors looked a little odd (drunk?) in that Dodgers jacket w/ aviators get-up, but I never would have had the powers of perception to make the Sleestak comparison. Good on you, brother.

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