Archive for the Sho Kosugi Category

Kiai-Kick’s Holiday Gift Guide 2016: Arrow Video!

Posted in Sho Kosugi with tags , on December 15, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

arrow

Okay, so Arrow is a company with a LOT of old school films, some box sets and many more items of interest for B and C movie lovers of all kind, but there are two Blu Ray films I just gotta point out revolving around one person: Sho Kosugi.

Pray For Death

pray for death

Pray for Death is one of my favorite films of his, and when you add in a ninja bicycle, you’ve struck gold! You can read my review of the film here, but to see it in a pristine blu-ray format is an added bonus, with some pretty decent extras, and Arrow has it!

Bonus Materials

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation from a transfer of original elements by MGM
  • R-rated and Unrated Versions
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Brand new interview with star Sho Kosugi
  • Archive interview and Ninjutsu demonstration with Kosugi from the film’s New York premiere
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin

Rage Of Honor

rageofhonor4229

Yeah. More Sho Kosugi here, but not nearly as good as Enter the Ninja or Pray for Death. It has its moments, but it’s still a very, very silly movie. I’ll be reviewing it soon, but if you need that extra Sho Kosugi fix, or are just a completist, then I can recommend this blu ray, but as a movie? A double feature with Miami Connection along with Bourbon, Vodka and pizza will make one hell of a movie night!

Bonus Materials:
– High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation from a transfer of original elements by MGM
– Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
– Sho and Tell Part 2: The Domination – brand new interview with star Sho Kosugi on Rage of Honor and the later stages of his film career
– Sho Kosugi Trailer Gallery: Enter the Ninja (1981), Revenge of the Ninja (1983), Pray for Death (1985) and Rage of Honor (1987)
– Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin

 

Next up: Of course I’ve saved the Best for Last!

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Arrow Video has you covered! Pray For Death! Sho Kosugi! Blu-Ray!

Posted in Kane Kosugi, Sho Kosugi on June 6, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

PFD

It’s insane to think that there was any chance that Sho Kosugi’s Cannon films would come to Blu-Ray, but thanks to Arrow Video it’s a reality! The first film up is Pray for Death, and you can read my review of that film here. The Blu-Ray transfer is as good as you could hope, and there is both an R-rated and Unrated version. I won’t give much away about the unrated version, but I’ll say that the death of Saito’s wife is far more brutal here than in the original, and we get to see Kane making the Ninja Bicycle! If you haven’t seen this film, and don’t know what I’m talking about, get thee out and see it, preferably in this format! Sho has never looked so good on film, and the extras contain an interview with the man himself, and his stories about how he came to be with Cannon Films make this an instant get. Here are some of the other extras: (I wasn’t given a version with all of the extras at this time)

Bonus Materials

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation from a transfer of original elements by MGM
  • R-rated and Unrated Versions
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Brand new interview with star Sho Kosugi
  • Archive interview and Ninjutsu demonstration with Kosugi from the film’s New York premiere
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin

That reversible sleeve rocks! This is out now, so go get it, and see one of the gems of Cannon Films, and one of the films that started the ninja craze of the 80’s! Now we just need American Ninja in Blu…

PFD1

Review: Enter The Ninja (1981)

Posted in Mike Stone, Sho Kosugi on July 27, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

Enter-the-Ninja

Starring Franco Nero, Sho Kosugi, Susan George, Christopher George

Fight Choreography by Mike Stone

Directed By Menahem Golan

God Bless Cannon Films.

There, I said it with no embarrassment. I feel so sad for those who weren’t old enough to bask in the glory of Golan-Globus, for whom the Ninja films of the 80’s wouldn’t have been half as fun as they were, as well as other 80’s creations (like Chuck Norris films). Here we get a ninja film that dares to use the “Enter The…” in its title, which now somehow means it’s the best of its kind EVER. Now if the best of its kind means an Italian-actor-who-knows-no-martial-arts-pretends-to -be-a-ninja-master-for-two-hours-and-features-the-funniest-death-scene-of-a-villain-in-the- history-of-cinema then well, yeah, it is the best of the genre.

Enter-the-Ninja2

The film opens as we meet Cole, a Vietnam war vet (they all had to be in the 80’s) who has just finished his ninja Training in the Philippines, in the most ludicrous testing scene ever, where he runs through and it looks as if he’s killed like a dozen guys (even giving a dude a throwing star to the face! To the Face!) and then, after testing is done, those very same dudes walk back in like “it’s nothing. He never really hurt us. That blood? Nah, it was fake. Has anyone seen Yoshi?”. During his celebration dinner, Hasagawa (Kosugi) has to bitch out and point out that yes, somewhere in the film he’s going to be a BAD GUY. Cole leaves the dojo to visit his friend, Frank Landers, a fellow war veteran who is having problems with a local businessman named Venarius. who won’t take no for an answer, and a series of escalating attacks forces Cole to take up his ninja training in order to end once and for all, which brings him to a final confrontation with Hasagawa…

Enter-the-Ninja3

This…is a supremely stupid movie. Terrible acting, even worse martial arts. Having said that, it’s quite a lot of fun. Cole is at one point a hero and an asshole, as midway through the film he sleeps with his best friend’s wife with absolutely no remorse or regret whatsoever! Even funnier is, without a doubt, one of the funniest death scenes in the history of modern cinema, as Venarius dies by throwing star in one of the, well, you gotta watch this for yourself:

Venarius’ man servant is also one of my favorite characters. Respectful to the very end, he’s so respectful and British even the good guys can’t bring themselves to hurt him! Sho Kosugi is, well, Sho Kosugi, who does what he does best, and is the only person who doesn’t completely embarrass himself. The fight scenes are good, at least when the stuntman for Franco Nero kicks in and does his work. Everything else looks Adam West/William Shatner bad. But it’s really so bad it’s funny.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 4

Franco Nero headlines a film that encapsulates everything that Cannon Films represents: preposterous stories, ridiculous but fun action, and terrible acting. And Sho Kosugi being awesome.

Review: Blind Fury (1990)

Posted in Reviews, Sho Kosugi with tags , , , on February 3, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Rutger Hauer, Sho Kosugi, Meg Foster, Terry O’Quinn,

Noble Willingham, Randall (Tex) Cobb

Sword Fight Choreography by Stephen Lambert

Directed by Philip Noyce

Someone in Hollywood thought that the Japanese had a pretty good thing going with all of those Zatoichi films that have been a staple of Japanese cinema for years, and wondered how such a character would be received in the good old USA. Now for something like this to be successful would require an actor who can actually act blind and yet display a range of emotions and look badass dicing people up with a cane sword. And by people I’m referring to Texans. Luckily they found Roy Batty himself, the great Rutger Hauer (whose newest film, Hobo With A Shotgun, is currently making its way around the indie circuit.)

The film opens during the Vietnam War, the place from which all 80’s action heroes come from, and we meet Nick Parker, crawling through the mud, newly blind thanks to a Vietcong mortar shell. Nick is taken in by local villagers, and soon they decide the best way to help him deal with his blindness is to teach him kendo and turn him into a badass.

We fast forward 20 years, and we find Nick back in the states heading toward Miami, Florida to visit his good friend and fellow soldier (the one he was blinded trying to help) Frank Deveraeux (O’Quinn, yes, the dude from Lost) not knowing that Frank was not only divorced and moved from the address Nick has, but is in Vegas threatened with his life by a greedy casino mogul MacCready, who is so rich he doesn’t need a first name. Or maybe that was his first name? Either way he’ll need one soon since he’s run out of cash, and needs Frank, a chemist, to develop designer drugs for him. If MacCready actually knew his shit he could have just gone to the local college and hired some chemistry majors and paid them in pizzas and beer. No need to break the law that far. But of course in this film he’s a Texan, so breaking the law is a norm.

Anyway, Nick arrives at Frank’s old house and meets his ex-wife, Lynn, played by the always creepy Meg Foster (I’ll bet she’s a nice lady and all, and she is pretty, but the red hair along with the bright gray eyes…just gives me the hebbie -jebbies) and their 10 year old son Billy. Lynn informs Nick that Frank is gone, and soon the police show up, but they are actually MacCready’s men led by Slag (Cobb) a cigar-smoking douche who knocks out Billy and blows Lynn away with a shotgun. Nick takes action in a fast but fun scene where he introduces the fake cops to the exact opposite of life, but Slag gets away. Nick takes Billy away from there, and together they travel cross country to save Frank, but little does Nick know that there is a great challenger waiting for him at the finish line…

This a good, light-hearted action film despite the violence, which is mostly bloodless. Hauer plays Nick as a carefree dude. One of the worst things that could happen already has, so he doesn’t sweat too many things, and carries an air of confidence the entire film, even when he loses his cane sword. He’s a man who is humble and acquites himself as such, but dick around with him and you can meet his cane, or sword, or both. The rest of the acting is pretty shoddy although Noble Willingham makes a good Texas douchebag (he’ll reprise a similar role years later as the main baddie in The Last Boy Scout). Which, before I go any further, I have to take a bit of offense at the one thing I disliked about this film:

Texans are gun-totting inbred half-brained douchebags.

Which is entirely untrue as I’ve lived here for some twenty-plus years. That is not the way we are.

Texas are actually gun-totting, knifestabbing, sword-chopping, karate and kung-fu fighting smart-with-a-twang people who will greet anyone they see with a hello or howdy. Take our newest Texas Ranger and national mascot:

See? Decent fellow. Good guy. Invincible (Except when he meets Bruce Lee) Keep Slaughter in San Francisco in mind. If you ever come to Texas, particularly Austin, you’ll have a good time, and no one will try to shoot you and cackle like a pack of hyenas over your prone body. Unless you’re too close to the border to Mexico. Then you are on your own.

Anyway, the grand finale, involving dispatching dozens of Texans, we get the fight between Rutger Hauer and the greatness, Sho Kosugi. I wished this had been the quality of the fights the entire film, but for what it was was great. I don’t how much of the sword fight was Hauer and what was his stuntman, but a great job was done here. Sho brought a lot of menace to a short role, and their fight was a great swordfight, if shorter than I wanted it. Not Brett Ratner short, but still.

Blind Fury has a lot of fun moments courtesy of Rutger Hauer, and his showdown with Sho Kosugi is fast-paced and fun. The scene in the cornfield was quite a bit of fun as well. Too bad they never continued Nick’s story. It could have been our Zatoichi. Can we buy Rutger a sequel? C’mon Hollywood! If you can make a Yogi Bear movie…

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (7) There is actually a lot here, and it’s pretty fast paced, but a little too short, but then again, for sword fighting that’s appropriate. Lambert does a good job of staging the fights, and Noyce shoots it well.

STUNTWORK: (6) It looks like these guys did their homework, reacting just like you would see in a Japanese samurai film. The didn’t need to do too much in the sense of tossing themselves around, but did the job from an acting standpoint.

STAR POWER: (8) Rutger Hauer, Sho Kosugi and directed by Philip Noyce,who would go on to direct and produce many of the Jack Ryan films.

FINAL GRADE: (7) A fun and enjoyable B-movie ode to Zatoichi. Not a great fight film, but some decent Japanese swordplay for an American film.


Review: Pray For Death (1985)

Posted in Kane Kosugi, Reviews, Sho Kosugi with tags , , , on December 27, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Sho Kosugi, Kane Kosugi, Shane Kosugi

Fight Choreography by Sho Kosugi

Directed by Gordon Hessler

This film should serve as a public service announcement to mobsters everywhere. Should a badass ninja warrior board your boat, jack up twenty of your hired goons, and appear behind you with a knife and threatens to kill you in such a way that you’ll pray for death before it’s over if you don’t stop jacking with his family and then disappears without a trace, you should probably leave his family the hell alone. One such mobster named Limehouse decides not to listen to this, and a very brutal lesson is learned.

Sho Kosugi plays Akira Saito, a business man who hides from his children (it’s hinted that his wife knows) that he is in fact a badass retired ninja, and we find out the reason why he retired when we go into a flash back to find that his martial arts brother dressed as a ninja and tried to steal from the temple, and is stopped after a good fight not by Saito, but from clumsiness that comes straight from a Home Alone film as he slips on his scabbard and impales himself on his own sword he had stabbed into a pillar a moment earlier. Okay, so the impaling isn’t Home Alone, but I betcha that would’ve made that film a whole lot cooler. Anyway, as Saito’s wife Aiko is mixed race anglo-american and japanese, he decides to move his family to Houston, Texas so she can be closer to that side of her family over there. Unfortunately since you know this film’s called Pray for Death, you just know shit has to go wrong, and that will probably cost his wife Aiko her life. The kid’s will make it because they are a) Sho’s sons in real life, and b) they’re contractually obligated to live…and kick ass. Saito buys a restaurant from retiree, and changes it to a Japanese restaurant. Unknown to Saito, and even the previous owner, is that the local mob is using the back room of the restaurant to move stolen merchandise that a pair of corrupt cops leave for them. Two cops decide to keep an expensive necklace for themselves, and that sets off a tragic chain of events as Limehouse and his mob believe that Saito has the necklace.

They start by kidnapping Saito’s youngest son Tomoya while he oldest son Takeshi is beating up some local kids who try to steal Tomoya’s bicycle, and Kane is great in this scene, beating the crap out of these kids. Limehouse sees this when he takes Tomoya to his car, and instead of trying to fight Takeshi, he saves himself the embarrassment by punching Takeshi dead in the face as he runs up to the car, and then knocks the shit out of him with the car door. I’ll give it up for Limehouse here. Yeah, that’s a dick move, but he thought it better than being beaten up like a bitch by a eight-year-old.

Saito goes to get Tomoya back from Limehouse, and escapes with his son. Further pissed off Limehouse has some of his men hit Aiko and Tomoya with a car. I mean, shit. Limehouse doesn’t believe in doing any half-assed. Aiko and Tomoya are both still alive and taken to the hospital, and Saito pays a visit to Limehouse’s boat where he’s having a party. Saito decides that black leather clothing would suffice instead of a ninja costume, and sneaks his way onto the boat and delivers the public service announcement I had already mentioned.

Not really understanding the three strikes rule, Limehouse infiltrates the hospital and kills Aiko (told you) and gets away before he can do the same to Tomoya. Not really caring for the police, Saito takes his sons to a warehouse he owns and is so pissed off he forges his own sword in the warehouse. Do you realize how pissed off you have to be to do this? The work, the heat, the money spent, oh shit yeah, someone’s gonna die badly.

Not only that, but after he leaves for vengeance, Takeshi has to defend Tomoya from the mobsters who find out he’s there, and does so with the aid of a ninja bicycle. Damn right, this bike is a 4-speed and also has detachable nunchaku, pink gas that erupts from the back, a slingshot you can draw back and smack a guy right in the nuts should he grab the bike from the front, and side bars that can come out and trip up anyone he rides by. That is simply badass. You leave to kill people, but you also leave your little boy a ninja death bicycle. Once I have a kid he’s getting one of those. Damn straight.

The final fight isn’t great or well done as Limehouse is more of a challenge than he should be, but the moment he meets his end would make the Jigsaw killer in Saw really happy as Limehouse meets a bloody end that really does make him pray for death. Saito returns to his sons, and they decide to stay in the USA since there is so much more ass to kick here.

The film has really shoddy production values, and unfortunately most of Sho Kosugi’s American films do, but Sho and his sons elevate the film, even overcoming terrible cinematography that add nothing to the fight scenes. The acting is terrible, but Sho’s onscreen presence is undeniable. The fight scenes range from okay to decent, and features some good ninja stuff, but overall could have been much better. This is one film that really took itself way too seriously.

(Out of scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREGRAPHY: (6) Sho is capable of much better, but the fight scenes were not too exciting. This is largely due to the fact that he doesn’t fight anyone who knows anything.

STUNTS: (4) Not great. Bad reaction deaths from the mobsters, and it all looked really fake.

STAR POWER: (7) Sho and Kane. That’s it.

FINAL GRADE: (5) Sho has done much better than this, and while not terrible, doesn’t really do much to advance the genre nor is terribly enjoyable to watch more than once. It’s still great to watch Sho onscreen, however.

Review: Revenge of the Ninja (1983)

Posted in Kane Kosugi, Keith Vitali, Professor Toru Tanaka, Reviews, Sho Kosugi with tags , , on December 7, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Sho Kosugi, Kane Kosugi, and Keith Vitali

Fight Choreography by Sho Kosugi

Directed by Sam Firstenberg

Ah yes, another ninja movie from Cannon films. This time, however, they decided to go and get a real ninja to play one! Golan and Globus are getting smarter all the time! All kidding aside, why the hell does Sam Firstenberg get these films to direct? He’s not a martial artist in any way I’m aware of, but his filmography is full of martial arts flicks. Of course, they are all Cannon films, so perhaps he’s a friend to Golan or Globus (I love saying their names. They sound like James Bond villains!). I have to say I truly miss Cannon films. They cranked out martial arts and action flicks by the dozen, kinda like Saw movies.

They were low budget, not especially well acted most of the time, but always a hell of a lot of fun, not unlike a less crazier and larger budgeted Troma film, or a less expensive Luc Besson production. One thing about Cannon: you always knew what the hell you were in for, and this time Sho Kosugi jumps into action from the guys who would soon bring you American Ninja.

The film opens with a daytime ninja attack on the family of Cho Osaki, and the family is massacred Troma style except for Ninja Auntie and Cho’s baby son Kane. Holy shit, that’s a badass name. I now want to name my first son Kane. Who would jack with a kid named Kane? Doesn’t “Kane” sound like an Old Testament ass-whupping can be in your future if you mess with someone with that name? But I digress. Cho returns home with his American business partner Braden to see everyone dead except for Ninja Auntie and Kane. He barely has a chance to see the body of his dead wife when Ninjas come out by the dozen to kill Cho, and they needed every one of them as Cho turns on the ninja juice and starts slicing and dicing them in a good fight scene that is not particularly well shot, but does just enough to get the fight scene across. Note to all future ninjas: if three of you are going to launch arrows at a dude like Cho, it might be a good idea to fire your arrows AT THE SAME TIME. Three jackasses fire their arrows one at a time, allowing a badass like Cho to catch two in the hand and one with his teeth, and use two of them to skewer their ninja buddy trying to kill Cho from just under the bridge Cho’s standing on. After the ninja population is severely depleted, Cho, Ninja Auntie, and Kane go to the USA on the advice of Braden, but of course Ninja Auntie has to bring the whole party down by mentioning that the ninjas would follow them to the USA and find them eventually.

Fast forward six years later and Ninja Auntie walks seven-year old Kane home from school, and he gets ambushed by a group of bullies who decide to kick his ass for some unknown reason, but his name is Kane, and they should have known better. Hell, even Ninja Auntie sat back to watch the epic asskicking these kids were about to receive, and did they ever! He beats the crap out of these kids, all of whom regret having things like testicles that can get punched or kicked in, and Cho shows up just in time to a) stop Kane from showing him up. After all, this is his flick, and b) he was proud of the beatdown his son gave, but doesn’t want his son to be arrested by the police, ‘cause he’d probably kick their asses too.

Once again Ninja Auntie takes all the fun out of it by reminding them that the ninjas are out there, and he needs to teach Kane how to be one. We next meet Braden’s lady, Cathy, who is learning from Cho, and even trying to turn him on by fighting wearing only a small top, and flesh-colored hose to cover up everything else. Their sparring beats just about every fight in American Ninja.

We come to find out that the Japanese art exhibit is a front to smuggle heroin into the United States and wherever, and Braden is the lead dog on it, having a deal fall through with the local mafia. So Braden goes screw it, and becomes Ninja Braden, and starts wasting mafioso’s like a slasher flick. This brings the police into it, and one of Cho’s friends, Dave Hatcher (Vitali). Cho and Dave have a pretty good sparring fight as well. They team up to defeat Ninja Braden, who kidnaps Kane and Cathy in order to draw Cho out for a final fight.

The film is full of good, solid ninja moments. The fight scenes are well done, but I’m not so sure about the shoddy camera work. They chose some funky angles to show the action from. Sho brings the fight and the pain, and anytime he or Kane are in the film it get exciting. There’s even one scene where he’s engaged by remnants of the Village People and after a bit remembers that he’s a freakin’ ninja! He then dispatches the shit out them really fast. One baddie got away, because he hit Sho with a van. Keith Vitali has too few scenes, and his final fight with Ninja Braden really sucks. Speaking of which, Braden has a chef played by Professor Toru Tanaka, who has like two scenes before he gets killed for inexplicable trying to rape Cathy and is killed by Braden.

Favorite Ninja moment: Ninja Braden arrives at the mafia’s headquarters and starts to pick a lock. One of the guards sees him from down the hall, and starts making his way to Braden, who tosses some ninja caltrops behind him, and without looking then tosses some metal balls. Guard slips on metal balls and falls face first on the caltrops and dies painfully. Very, very cool scene.

2nd Favorite Ninja moment: Cho infiltrates mafia headquarters to find Ninja Braden, and has a guard remove his mask, and he blows steel spikes into the dude’s face! Never take a ninja’s mask off!

I have to say a word about Kane. At the time he had to be the best martial arts kid in film, and I’ll say even better than Ernie Reyes Jr. was at the time. He has convincing fights versus adults and kids alike, and his sword kata scene is awesome.

This was Sho’s second film and first starring role under the house of Cannon Films, which he would never really leave, and was able to turn out a pretty good starring role for himself. The productions values weren’t much better than American Ninja, but Sho elevated the material with his excellent fight choreography.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) Sho showed up and brought excellent ninja fight choreography with him. The fights were fast but well done, and was able to show off quite a few ninjitsu moves. The final fight did leave a bit to be desired, however.

STUNTS: (7) The stuntmen did a good job, and even the stunt kids and Kane did a good job holding their own with the adults.

STAR POWER: (8) Sho Kosugi is synonymous with the word ninja, and his son Kane has starred in few films of his own, but he’s still looking for a star vehicle worthy of his skills. Keith Vitali would be one of the baddies in Wheels on Meals and kick the crap out of Sammo Hung. Professor Toru Tanaka didn’t have much to do, but it’s always good to see him.

FINAL GRADE: (8) A fun first starring film for Sho Kosugi, who wouldn’t star in too many more films, but made his presence felt in the martial arts film world. Not even the shoddy directing could mask his greatness.