A Shaw Brothers film. Quality Kung Fu, and Ninjas, too! Half the names I got I can’t find in cast lists, so we’ll just have to wing it for some of them.
After an announcement about the authenticity of the Japanese weapons used in this film, the story begins. Two groups are vying for control of the Kung Fu world. Mr. Kang controls the group that is challenging for the position, they are dressed in darker colors and are the bad guys. The group in charge is led by Yen Chang, and the group is all dressed in white outfits. Shao Tien-hao is a young member of the white team, he will be important later so we mention him here. There is a whole slew of names given for the tournament fighters on both sides, most of which I didn’t catch. There are ten rounds to be fought, one at a time. White team guy with a bo staff beats a Dark Team guy with two sawblade looking weapons for round one. Round two is won by a White team member named Mu Fin (Muffin?) who has daggers. More and more rounds are fought, with the White team winning each time. The final round is ready to be fought, and Mr. Kang has a surprise: a Japanese Samurai is brought out to represent his side. Yen Chang sends one of his men to fight him, a guy wielding an axe, and also wielding a noodly dubbed voice. Axe Guy loses, and is taunted by the Samurai “Lose of a fight equals loss of one’s life for a samurai!” Axe Guy kill himself. Now a new challenger for the Samurai, a guy named Ji Shang. Ji Shang will fight against the Katana wielding samurai with just his bare hands. Ji Shang is a much better fighter than Axe Guy, and even eventually takes Samurai’s sword. They pause, as Ji Shang has won. Samurai gets a different sword, which he will use for seppuku. Samurai gives Mr. Kang a letter with the name of a ninja on it, and throws a ring at Yen Chang that will be used to identify the ninja when he arrives. Then Samurai dies.
Later, the White team is back at their temple when they receive a note from the ninja, with challenges at five locations for warriors to meet. These are the 5 elements – gold, water, wood, fire, and earth. Yen Chang was poisoned by the ring the samurai threw and cannot use Kung Fu for three months, so he must send his assistants against the ninjas. Yen Chang and the rest of the team know nothing about ninja skills, so they must arrive unprepared. Ji Shang and Shao Tien-hao remain at the temple to guard it and Yen Chang, and the rest of the team goes out to the five different locations.
- Gold — Four gold clad ninjas use golden umbrellas to blind the two White team fighters, and then kills them with blades shot from the umbrellas.
- Wood — Ninjas disguised as trees make short work of the two White team members sent to fight them.
- Water — Water Ninjas take out two White team brothers on a bridge from the safety of the river.
- Fire — One member of the White team named Lee fights four red ninjas who use smoke guns. Lee actually kills one of the red ninjas, but the Lead Ninja appears and kills Lee.
- Earth — Underground Ninjas attack the lone White team guy, erupt from the ground with swords flailing, and vanish from their clothes when he gets near to killing them. Eventually the Lead Ninja arrives and the White Team guy trips over his own robe and is killed
They are all dead, all the bodies are sent back to the temple, making Tien-hao upset. Mr. Kang is delighted. He wants the ninjas to help him wipe out the Temple. Lead Ninja agrees “Not even the best defense can stop the ninjas!” Ninjas burst into the meeting hall in complete silence, and a female ninja named Sanji arrives as well, she is sent in first to the White team’s temple as a spy. Outside said temple, she is posed as a girl getting beaten up by her father, and is rescued by Ji Shang. Tien-hao is suspicious, and calls Sanji “Nuisance” and gives her a hard time. She is secretly sketching the insides of the temple and tries to poison Yen Chang. Later she successfully sends the plans of the temple to the ninjas. She then offers herself to Ji Shang, who will not take advantage of her or have her in secret, and tells her that when the fighting is over, if she still wants him they can be married. She plays the flute for him, and the ninjas attack!
Ninjas swarm into the compound, slaying guards all along the way. Ji Shang hears the alarm after it is too late, but Sanji shoots him with a dart, then stabs him with a knife hidden in a bunch of flowers, laughing all the while. Ji Shang manages to not be dead, and warns Yen Chang, and heads off to fight the ninjas. Tien-hao is also fighting, he is grabbed by hooks and tied up. Sanji tells the ninjas to leave him alive so she can kill him. Master Yen Chang is trapped in his room by hooks pressed into the door and flaming arrows are fired inside, setting the room ablaze. Ji Shang must fight his way to the door and clear it of all the obstructions, but he fails and Master Yen Chang is killed. It’s a happy ending for all!
Oops, the movie is only halfway over! Tien-hao is tied up, and flashes back to when he was a student and a guy taught him some ninja rope untying moves when he was sent there by Yen Chang. Tien-hao frees himself and fake ties himself up to trick Sanji when she comes in to seduce him. First, if Yen Chang knew a guy that he had a good enough relationship with to send students to learn from who knew ninja arts, why did he send his men out blindly to get killed? Master Yen Chang is the worst templemaster ever. Sanji’s seduction fails, and Tien-hao uses her as a hostage to make his escape, leaving her behind. Lead Ninja sentences her to six months hard labor.
Mr. Kang is pleased, but Lead Ninja tells Kang that he is taking over, and Mr. Kang and all his men are slaughtered. Tien-hao goes to see the man who taught him the ninja untying moves and wants him to teach him to be a ninja. The new sensei has three students already, which is good as all the other heroes are already dead, we were due being introduced to others. Training sequences follow, interspersed with a ninja history lesson where we are told that Ninja started in China before moving to Japan. Tien-hao is given a key by new sensei to use, but the new sensei doesn’t know what it is for. It was given to him by a Ninja Master long ago. Tien-hao is ready for his revenge now.
Tien-hao issues a challenge to the ninjas for the 5 elementals again. Lead Ninja sends Sanji out to spy again, and sends four other ninjas to follow her. Tien-hao kills her, and the four ninjas following her, thinking she led them on purpose. And now the challenges rematch with Tien-hao and his three new brothers!
- Gold — the four fight with their eyes shut to counter the blinding, and use an array defense against the knives, following by axing the Gold Ninjas
- Wood — they use boomerang shaped blades and chains to beat the Tree Ninjas
- Water — Poles with knives in them and net-vests are used to dispatch the Water Ninjas
- Fire — Black flags are used, helps clear the Red Ninja smoke, and the Red Ninjas are killed
- Earth — Lead Ninja is there, along with the underground ninjas, who are all killed via stilts.
FINAL BATTLE TIME! Lead Ninja versus Tien-hao and his brothers, they fight him tag-team style for a while, until Lead Ninja goes underground. Lead Ninja reappears and leg cuffs Tien-hao to his stilts, and starts beating the other good guys. The key the new sensei gave Tien-hao works to unlock the leg cuffs. Lead Ninja now had claws on his feet which is giving him an edge. Tien-hao manages to get Lead Ninja’s feet cuffed, and Lead Ninja is defeated and killed, but it costs Tien-hao his life. Revenge is had, Ninjas are dead, credits role, the end.
Rated 5/10 (Gold, Wood, Water, Fire, Earth!)
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