Films from the Void: Mafia vs. Ninja

FILMS FROM THE VOID is a journey through junk bins, late night revivals, under seen recesses and reject piles as we try to find forgotten gems and lesser known classics. Join us as we lose our minds sorting through the strange, the sleazy, the sincere and the slop from the past and try to make sense of it all.

vhs - mafia v ninja

Mafia vs. Ninja

In my movie collection, there are over 20 multi-DVD, multi-movie collections of underrated and terrible films. They all sport titles such as “American Horror Stories,” “ Devil Worship Collection,” “Gorehouse Greats,” and the like. My local video store recently divested itself of some DVDs at $4 a pop, and I acquired my first compilation of blaxploitation movies: “Thug City Chronicles presents Black Soul Dynamite.”

The collection is of the usual quality, with grainy transfers, blown-out audio, and editing that may or may not have been intended by the original creators of these titles. They’re almost universally bad — Black Cobra IV: Detective Malone, for instance, is not only compiled from clips of the original three movies in the series, but also sports the original Japanese subtitles. The most tangentially-related film in the collection, Mafia vs. Ninja, is almost 100% a Hong Kong production, and the only way that it could possibly be considered “blaxploitation” is because Eugene Thomas appears as a fighter known as Mr. Jones.

poster - mafia v ninja

All other things considered, Mafia vs. Ninja is a fucking delight. My past experiences with late ‘70s and early ‘80s martial arts films have left me a little less than enthused, because most of the flicks have been boring, frankly. It’s hard to imagine gentlemen in black pajamas attacking one another with rice flails being anything other than exciting, but somehow, most kung fu flicks manage to take themselves far too seriously.

Mafia vs. Ninja does not take itself seriously. It knows that everything about it — the genre tropes, the plot, the acting — is absolutely ridiculous. The film’s an absolute joy to watch, and one wonders as to why it’s not received any sort of actual release. Given the love and honor granted the likes of Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, or Manos: The Hands of Fate, you’d think someone would’ve taken up the cause of this bit of hilarity.

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For real, though: this is of the same lineage which produced the likes of recent rediscoveries such as Miami Connection or Dangerous Men. Synthy score, goofy dialogue, and a slew of fights which delight in spite of poor choreography, punches which never connect, and visible wires.

Jack Doe is our optimistic protagonist, working as a night soil collector with his comedic sidekick, Charlie Wu, with whom he has discussions with such witty bon mots as, “You can’t collect shit during a party.”

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The movie follows the pair as they get involved in a turf war between the mafia and ninjas in Shanghai. The plot wavers between wanting to portray Godfather-esque machinations and stylized kung fu battles. It’s essentially there as a way to string together a series of ever-increasingly ridiculous fight scenarios, and frankly, that’s dandy. You can argue that a quality martial arts film requires a good plot on which to seat itself, but frankly, I couldn’t tell you one iota of the plot of something like Once Upon a Time in China, but I’ll rave about the ladder fight for five minutes straight if you let me (honestly, you don’t really have a choice in the matter).

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From lady ninja to fighters disguised as bushes to everything but the kitchen sink, this is a movie that I was expecting to get a solid 40 cents’ worth of enjoyment from, and am now trying to track down a poster reprint to hang up somewhere in my ever-increasingly covered office walls. Given that there’s no decent version available anywhere, you might as well watch it on YouTube. I recommend junk food and some form of cheap drink as accompaniment.

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek writes about films scores in his monthly OST column for Starburst Magazine (http://www.starburstmagazine.com), and can be found talking about movie soundtracks via the From & Inspired By podcast (http:///www.fromandinspiredby.com). He was once a punk, but realized you can't be hardcore and use the word "adorable" as often as he does.
Nick Spacek
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