New York Ninja, The Operation Doomsday of Martial Arts Films | Filmology With Spoken Nerd

A title like New York Ninja is not one to be taken lightly.  This concept inspires all kinds of feelings of nostalgia and curiosity.  Before 3 Ninjas, there were 4 Ninjas named after renaissance-era artists living in the sewers of New York (but that’s a story for another time.)  There’s a film restoration company that I follow called Vinegar Syndrome that creates blu rays of genre films with impressive art and packaging.  These films are chalked full of special features and sometimes include alternate edits of the films.  When they announced the release of New York Ninja, I was hooked.     

New York Ninja came to be when Kurtis Spieler, a filmmaker, and employee of Vinegar Syndrome, discovered a film reel with this title in the company’s archive.  Kurtis felt an overwhelming desire to see the movie come to fruition and took on the challenge to oversee a restoration and release of New York Ninja.  It turns out that the dialogue was missing and some scenes were finalized while others were not.  Kurtis wrote new dialogue for the movie, pieced together a story, and brought in the band, Voyag3r to provide a score that would glue together the picture with 80’s synth grooves for a perfect backdrop.  I can’t help but compare this approach of filmmaking to the process of making sample-based Hip-Hop music.  You listen to records, find the gems, recreate them, and add a rapper’s dialogue.  I know… Hip-Hop artists think it’s all about us.  We can’t help it.     

The film was originally directed by John Liu, a Taiwanese martial artist, actor, and filmmaker.  He was involved in a slew of martial arts films throughout the ’70s like Secret Rivals, Dragon Blood, and The Invincible Armour.  Liu is known as one of the greatest kickers of his day.  There is even a rumor that he challenged Chuck Norris to a sparring match and won.  Despite Liu’s filmography and reputation as a great martial artist, he is a very mysterious figure and little is known about his life after he left the film industry.  The folks at Vinegar Syndrome were unable to reach him regarding the release of New York Ninja.     

There’s a lot of intrigues packed into the story of how this film came to be and now you’re probably wondering about the experience of the film itself.  It is a pure over-the-top fun ninja movie experience that I would compare to the ranks of American Ninja and 9 Deaths of the Ninja.  In the spirit of Bob Ross, I would call this film one of God’s happy little accidents.  You’re in for a Ninja on rollerskates, countless ridiculous bad guys including one referred to as “The Plutonian Killer” (voiced by Michael Berryman from The Hills Have Eyes), and a film that truly feels like your favorite martial arts flick from the ’80s.  The costumes are hysterical and look as if they were pieced together right before shooting.  Even the white Ninja outfit is an unintentional off-white that looks as if it were made from dirty bedsheets.  All of these imperfections come together for a perfect viewing experience, after all, we are signing up for a low-budget Ninja film.

About Nathan Conrad:

He’s best known as the Nashville-based Hip Hop/Indie Pop emcee Spoken Nerd, but this isn’t your typical rap project. He rhymes playfully at times, singing and/or rapping, juxtaposing his style with real-life situations and subject matter. Occasionally Spoken Nerd will find inspiration in films and will put it into song. With eight full-length albums into his career, the rapper has built a healthy catalog of music, which doesn’t include the number of EPs and singles released.

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