Where Have All The Ninjas Gone?

In a very distant, fun, and glorious time, Ninjas were killing people in every movie

As a child I had two massive, ambitious future expectations: to become a Ninja assassin…or to play right-field for the Oakland Athletics; I know, I know, tough choices for a Venezuelan brat whose third option: being captain of a nuclear submarine, what totally out of the question. So, the idea of becoming a Ninja wasn’t as stupid as you may think. Mostly because at the time I was very advance at my future Ninja career: It wasn’t easy but I managed to watch every single Ninja movie (the bad ones and the even worst ones) that came out in the mid-late 80s. And trust me, there were a bunch of them. With like a zillion Ninjas jumping around in each one.

But before moving on, I want to make this as clear as possible: I mean, crystal clear: this article has NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING to do with some certain infamous pizza-eating turtles and/or–sorry children–those insulting-hideous to the sacred and deadly Ninja code, Lego-creations: Ninjago.

I’m going all the way. This is all about real, flesh and blood superhuman Ninjas, mostly played by actors whose grandmothers didn’t even know them and whose faces we never need to see except, of course, Chris Farley’s 1997 foray into the Ninjiutsu in his non-masterpiece Beverly Hills Ninja; even if he tried to hide his face with a mask, well…the rest was kind of difficult to conceal .

Dudikoff’s way

I do have to offer some recognition to one of the most important Ninjas movies franchises of all time: ‘American Ninja’. This was so solid, such a hardcore Ninja movie about Ninjas, that just one wasn’t enough. No, sir. Not even two. Three? pfft, what an insult… Four?  Nup. These people made… you guess it! Five epic ‘American Ninja’ movies with the most insane plots and out of mind combat scenes. And the hero was non-other than a guy named Michael Dudikoff, whose previous movie was the very educational Tom Hanks’s 1984 how-to-OD-a-Donkey flick, Bachelor Party. Now Dudikoff played the all-American soldier Joe Armstrong in his lethal confrontation against Ninjas. And what a trip!

Let’s recap: American Ninja 1 (1985) is a cool, action-packed movie. Joe Armstrong (Dudikoff) and his pumped friend, Curtis Jackson (played by late actor Stave James) are in the middle of nowhere dealing with a group of Ninjas who showed up for whatever reasons and THAT’S the magic behind every Ninja. You don’t need a particular reason. You just dress up, get in the character and start throwing shuriken (those are the sharp Ninja stars) all over the place. And that’s all about the ‘American Ninja’ plot. Ninjas here, there. First alive, then dead.

Then came a sequel, ‘American Ninja 2: The Confrontation’. This thing is wild! Now we are in the Caribbean and those poor Ninjas -then again, trying to kill our heroes for no particular reason- are al dressed up in black with masks… under the hottest sun of their life. Oh, boy. It was a bad move for those Ninjas; sweating their japanese butts as they tried to kill cool n’ fresh, pina colada drinking dudes, Joe and Curtis.

But the real drama came with ‘American Ninja 3 Blood Hunt’ (1989): That one was shot in South Africa during the apartheid movement and Michael Dudikoff said: “sorry, I won’t kill no Ninjas during apartheid”. So, Joe was gone and replaced by David Bradley as Sean Davidson, teaming up with Curtis Jackson. This plot deals with a virus, human experiments and as many Ninjas as the other two movies. Sadly, when Joe wasn’t around, killing Ninjas wasn’t as fun.

Dudikoff returned in ‘American Ninja 4: The Annihilation’ (1991), where Joe Armstrong fights hand to hand with Sean Davidson. Curtis was MIA. This movie had a complex plot that I didn’t understand at all but there were so many Ninjas that, Christ! It was a lot of fun, although it was Dudikoff’s last appearance as Joe and I was so sad for it.

So, if you think this whole ‘American Ninja’ tale is over, better think again. Get ready for the ultimate Ninja insanity: ‘American Ninja V’ (1993). Ok, I have to admit this movie makes no sense at all. But I couldn’t care a less… You know why? Trust me, this is juicy: the movie was shot in Los Angeles, Rome and…and freaking VE-NE-ZUE-LA! And do you know who is one of the stars? Ladies and gents…Mr. Miyagi himself, Pat Morita (as Master Tetsu)! It’s a weird plot but they filmed this thing in my country! How the hell am I not going to want to be a Ninja?

But now the Ninjas are almost gone. Tho I want to believe they are just waiting in the middle of the night, gearing up for the next unnecessary duel, sharpening their shuriken and grinding their swords, while preparing smoke bombs and pulling black outfits out of the drying machine.

Finally, I must apologize to that poor kid who almost went blind when one of my sharped shuriken got stuck into his right eye. Sorry, Pablo, I was only 23. My mistake.

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Dr. Carlos Flores

Dr. Carlos Flores is a Venezuelan reporter and author of cult classics La moda del suicidio, Temporada Caníbal and Unisex. He's been editor-in-chief of several Venezuelan newspapers and magazines, a former Newsweek En Espanol correspondent, and contributor writer for HuffPost's Voces. Now that he's sick of being a broke reporter hunted by the Chavista regime, he's turned into a screenwriter and is developing a couple of series that will make him rich and even more famous.

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