Ah the early 1980's......how I miss them! The era embodied a sort of innocence which dissipated towards the end of the decade and has sadly yet to return. Who can forget the fads of the time; In music we 'bopped' along to the sounds of New Romantics, pioneering synth pop acts and additionally were blessed with a wonderful array of 'big hair' heavy metal bands. On TV we enjoyed such classics as Knight Rider, Airwolf and the incomparable, The A-Team and in cinemas we were treated to probably the best decade for horror and action movies......yes, the eighties....ah, they were the days.
There was actually another craze that swept the western world during the early part of the decade also; What was it you may ask? Why it was Ninja Mania! We just couldn't get enough of these enigmatic stealth assassins in fact. The public obsession first began proper when the Cannon Film Group released the Sho Kosugi outing, Enter the Ninja in 1984. Kosugi himself went on to a semblance of super stardom literally overnight - this despite the fact that he was actually playing the films main villain! Such was the mystique and allure that these historical figures exuded on screen. Needless to say, more ninja flicks were swiftly put into production by a plethora of film companies, each trying to out do the last and cash in on the publics apparent insatiable fixation on all things connected to the ninja. It was inevitable of course that these seemingly semi-mystical beings would break out into other entertainment mediums also. This they did in the form of numerous comic books, novels, toys, games and in the instance reviewed here, a television series starring veteran actor, Lee Van Cleef and as it happens, the by this time living legend, Sho Kosugi.
The plot concerned Cleef's character returning from Japan where he had spent years studying the ninja arts, in order to find his estranged daughter. Also along for the ride was the token wise cracking side kick (as was a somewhat unfortunate trend of the eighties....) who becomes Cleef's new student. Unfortunately, our veteran ninja is also being hotly pursued by a fellow ninja from his clan (Kosugi) who is incessantly intent on sending him to the great beyond.
Despite ninja mania in full swing at the time, the show curiously lasted for only one season before disappearing as quickly as......um.......well, a ninja in fact.
Whilst mildly enjoyable in its own right, it has to be said that the series was unfortunately hampered by its incredibly formulaic treatment. As with the vast majority of eighties TV shows, the plot was never more ambitious than to set our heroes (who just like in every other eighties show), travelling around from place to place helping out those in trouble (invariably a sexy, feisty female) from evil property developers and the like. Every now and then to spice things up, Kosugi puts in an appearance and it's no coincidence that these episodes are the best of the series which sans his presence is somewhat pedestrian at best.
For a bit of nostalgia or else those still desperate for a fix of anything ninja related the series is probably worth a look as long as you don't set your expectations too high.
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