The Master (TV Series 1984) Poster

(1984)

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For fans of Van Clief and indiscriminate fans of anything 'ninja-oriented'
lemon_magic2 January 2006
I thought that the first couple of episodes of "The Master" (later released as "Master Ninja I') had some nice moments. Lee Van Clief may have been far too old, flabby, and frail to physically convince the audience that he could be a ninja master (amazing how "he" lost his gut whenever the stunt double stood in for him in the black ninja costume) but he did project a certain old school machismo and he could always deliver a good line. Yes, Demi Moore stuck out like a sore thumb in episode 1, and the wheelchair chick and the dancer from episode two delivered some of the worst lines in the history of television, but still...There were some decent stunts (for a TV series) and some energetic sword fights and a few decent attempts at wry East-meets-West humor. It was never 'great' the way "The Fugitive" was great, but it didn't actively suck...at first. And episode 2 had one great line (even though Van Patten flubbed it): "I knew the Master would find a way to get me up on a tightrope sooner or later." Given the situation, it was pretty funny.

The problem lay in the fact that a) the producers rapidly ran out of ideas after the first few episodes, reducing the show to a buddy version of "Then Came Bronson", and b) Timothy Van Patten's mush-mouthed delivery and frozen faced acting got old quick and c) there was very little chemistry between the two lead actors. Anyone who wasn't a male adolescent with an obsession with martial arts would find very little to interest them, especially since the series producers watered down the 'ninja' content extensively - they seemed to be trying to increase the series' appeal to American audiences, but they only alienated that core element who was only watching the show for the ninja action in the first place.

Especially annoying was the fact that Van Patten was supposed to be some kind of "Tiger Beat" teen-idol and had a different love interest in every episode, but the lack of chemistry between him and his female of the week was apparent even to a blind man. To be fair to Van Patten, the writers put him in some incredibly contrived situations and gave him some very dopey dialog to convey his hipness...I'm not sure Cary Grant could have pulled off some of those scenes.

Although I spend a lot of time thinking about and practicing martial arts, I gave up on this series by episode 4, and every time I checked in on it for a minute or two (as the season wore on) I found even less to keep me going back. It looks like everyone else agreed, and the show sank without a trace. Too bad...but the series was a day late (to cash in on Bruce Lee) and a dollar short (wasn't willing to live up to the potential of its concept).
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6/10
Brings Back Good Memories
upirons7 August 2007
I remember my excitement, as an 11 year old at the time, when I learned that "The Master" TV series was going to come out on TV. At the time I was really into Bruce Lee movies and just about any Kung Fu/Ninja related movie or show I could find. Of course the same year saw the release of "The Karate Kid" so this was just a great year if you were a fan of martial arts.

Unfortunately this series didn't live up to the hype. But for me, it still holds a place in my heart because it happens to be the very first show that I ever taped with a VCR - a beta-max no less! I remember watching parts of that first episode over and over again as I marveled over my newfound ability to rewind and replay video.

All these years later I can see that the show has no real legacy and was cancelled after just 13 episodes. If you watch this movie, it is really just the first 2 episodes of the series.
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Lighten UP! unbelievable, ridiculous, inane but SO MUCH FUN!!!
jake-875 May 2003
I remember the series well... An, the memories.. only back then I

didn't realize how preposterous the whole thing was - Van Cleef looked more like a 90 pound weakling than a NINJA . He looked old and tired... But I LOVED him... VanPatten was the one miscast... NO Chemistry!! Be sure to see the last episode (If you can find any of them, I did on VHS)... The Master is back on an old West movie location, and feels right at home.. in fact he says so.. nice touch to end the series... Now that i'm old too, I wish I could move like the Master but then... that was a stunt double... Van Cleef you hombre.. rest in peace... you didn't seen at all out of place as a Ninja master but then... I never saw you as a old west Cowboy first! I loved this series!! Look

on VHS
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9/10
As a kid, I have to admit I like the series.
billy_w714 June 2006
I am groaning as I write this but during the early '80s with all the ninja craze as as a kid who practiced and loved karate, I loved this show. I never knew who Lee Van Cleef was prior to this TV show but my father did. He remember Lee in all the spaghetti westerns and would laugh that the villain of the cowboys was a good guy ninja now.

You have to wince at some of the shows you liked as a kid but, you know, thats what makes the memories of your childhood so amusing if your lucky.

Now, I am older and a father, and I appreciate actors like Lee more than the pinheads in Hollywood making $20 million + a picture. Actors like Lee kept us entertained and made guys like Clint Eastwood ("For a Few Dollars More") and Kurt Russell ("Escape From New York") look so good.

When he died in '89 it gave me pause. He deserves to be remembered and I won't forget this weird funny show he did that kept me glued to the screen with all it's oddball fantasy.

The 13-year old boy in me gives this a 9 star rating and a 10 star rating for the beady-eyed, hawk-nosed actor who played the lead.

Rest-in-Peace, Lee, you are remembered.
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Worth a look at on a rainy day.
Rob_Taylor17 December 2002
This series will always live on in my memory despite my not having seen it for a number of years. Sho Kosugi was well cast as the ninja bad guy. It is such a shame that he never became a greater star, but such is life. However, the casting of Lee Van Cleef as the good ninja was just pitifully unrealistic. Whilst a fine actor, it required too much of a suspension of disbelief to believe he could do any of the martial arts maneauvers he was supposed to. He was just plain too old.

That said, I have many a fond memory of this series. No doubt, were I to watch them again now I would find many of the episodes cringe-inducing (just like some of the original Star Trek series). But still worth a look at on a rainy day.
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4/10
Formulaic but watchable
HaemovoreRex22 September 2009
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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7/10
memorable
parachute-411 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Top stuff. I've only ever seen episode 1 but I'm always on the lookout for the others. I loved the bit where Van Patten tried to use the approved "sleeper touch" technique to subdoo a baddie, and it didn't work !

Van Cleef's arrow-catching stunt was very impressive, and he handled that scene and a lot of other equally unlikely frames like the true pro that he was. Keeping a straight face through the takes must have been hard work at times for a guy who had worked with directors the caliber of Fred Zinnemann and Sergio Leone.

Demi Moore would likely prefer that her appearance in this B-grader remained largely forgotten, but we all have to start somewhere, and the show was probably a lot of fun to make.

R. B.
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7/10
Full of childhood memories
Kurohashi30 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I remembered that show from when I was a small kid. After each episodes, some friends and I played ninja outside in the woods near their house.

I remembered key scenes like when The Master plays dead on the hotel room floor and I remembered Max's van.

I recently got the series on DVD from Ebay. What a ride! It was as I remembered. A great show full of adventures. Typical of many shows from the 80's it involved the heroes dropping on some trouble or someone in danger in a random town...

If you have the 80's nostalgia or are a ninja movie fan, I recommend seeing this show.
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Decent ninja series from the 80's
raven11827 September 2001
This Master aired on NBC in 1984 during the ninja craze of the 80's. It only lasted thirteen episodes. It starred Lee Van Cleef and Timothy Van Patten. Van Cleef plays John Peter McAlister, a ninja who comes to America from Japan searching for his long-lost daughter. Once in America, he meets Max Keller, played by Timothy Van Patten, who teams up with McAlister to help find his daughter. Along the way, the duo travel in an A-Team-like van and engage in various adventures while helping those in need. McAlister also teaches Keller the finer points of ninjitsu in his spare time. The Master takes place in various cities across America, however, it was shot entirely in Los Angeles, CA. Sho Kosugi also appears in a handful of episodes as Okasa, an evil ninja hunting McAlister.

While I enjoyed this series, the casting was questionable. Lee Van Cleef was a fine actor, but he was totally miscast in this series. He was in no shape to do any of the fighting required for this series. He is quite obviously stunt doubled by Sho Kosugi(wearing a skull cap!) in almost all of the fight scenes. Van Patten is also stunt doubled in some of the fight scenes.

This series was released as a series of seven videos with the name Master Ninja.

If you enjoy ninja flicks or martial arts in general, give this a try.

P.S. Look for a pre-Striptease Demi Moore in the first episode.
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cheesy but not too bad (and it has Sho Kosugi!)
captrose21 February 2000
I remember this series quite well. Back in the 80s when the US underwent a "ninja" phase, this came out. Lee Van Cleef is an American trained as a ninja who decides to leave "the family". Sho Kosugi (a real life kick butt martial artist) goes after him. Cleef comes to America and meets up with Tim Van Patten who joins up as his apprentice, hence, the title. It's kind of cheesy, but not as bad as it could have been. A lot of the "wandering do-gooders" a la "The Incredible Hulk" and "Scooby Doo". I remember watching this on Friday nights and enjoying the heck out of it.
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The Master is a very good show!
Movie Nuttball25 February 2003
This was good. Lee Van Cleef was very and Van Patten was good.The one with a very young Demi Moore was exciting. This was an excellent ninja show!If you like ninjas and are able to watch it and haven't yet do so because its good!
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3/10
Lovably lame
servo-98 February 1999
Lee van Cleef and Timothy van Patten make lovably lame main characters in this silly "movie" spliced together from two episodes of a 1980's TV series. David MacCallum shows up as an extremely unthreatening international terrorist/kidnapper, and George Lazenby is a cut-price secret agent whose tuxedo seems to be surgically attached to his skin. We're expected to believe that elderly Lee is capable of executing acrobatic somersaults and climbing sheer walls. Tim registers mild annoyance when his mentor and best friend Lee appears to have been buried in a shallow grave.
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10/10
Highly underrated
Habakeebala4 August 2002
This entry into the series has to be the best out of 1-5. It is absolutely stunning and action-packed. In the first part of this "movie" comprised of episodes 9 and 10 from the 1980's action series, "The Master," that dynamic ninja duo of Max Keller (Timothy Van Patten) and John Peter McAllister (Lee Van Cleef), find themselves in a pickle as McAllister, aka The Master, is framed for attempted murder of an old war buddy of his, now an intelligence officer. In the second half, they must confront a dangerous man in search of the legendary Java Tiger, an artifact worth $8 million, which is said to be hidden in a cave on a remote Hawaiian island. All in all, this is a truly amazing installment into the already incredible Master Ninja series. But it is best to watch the other installments first, so you can appreciate the evolution the characters go through, especially Max Keller's as The Master's pupil. It's a shame the series didn't make it past one season, I guess it was just too good.
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1/10
Master Ninja II: The Next Day
zmaturin13 December 2002
Max Keller, the unintelligable, custom-van-drivin', gerbil-totin', dirt-bike-racin', light-aircraft-pilotin', young-gal-smoochin' hero of "Master Ninja I" is back, in another film that bares a striking simularity to the television show "The Master". "For a Few Dollars More" star Lee Van Cleef is back too as Max's Ninja instructor, who drops about thirty pounds everytime he dons his ninja robes. This time they battle corrupt fish canners who have killed several union organizers without reprisal, then lend a hand to some tense hostage negotiations.

This installment of the venerable series is star studded (compared with the last one, who's star power consisted of Clu Gulager and Claude Akin's butt). Joining Max and The Master are Crystal Bernhard (TV's "Wings"), George Lazenby ("Who Saw Her Die"), David McCallum (TV's "The Man From Uncle"), and Monte Markham (TV's "Campus Cops"). OOOO!

Timothy Van Patten applied his experience of starring in "The Master" to his later career, directing episodes of "Touched by an Angel" and "The Sopranos". Lee Van Cleef died.

If you enjoyed this, perhaps you'd like "Master Ninja III", "Master Ninja IV", "Master Ninja V", "Master Ninja VI", "Master Ninja VII", or "Three Ninjas Kick Back".
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5/10
Guilty Pleasure for Ninja lovers
AlanTES26 February 2001
This movie was simply a combination of the first 2 episodes of a short-lived TV series called "The Master".

I must admit my bias in this review because I vividly remember this TV show when it first aired in the mid-80's, and, like any other 11 year-old child, I LOVED it. (I think it even came on right after the A-Team, but I could be wrong). Anyway, when I was that age, I had a 6-month long fetish with Ninja movies, or any thing with Sho Kosugi or Michael Dudikoff. To this day, I still enjoy whenever I can catch one of the "Enter the Ninja" or "American Ninja" movies; just because I can look back at what influenced me as a child.

This movie / TV show was a pretty lame attempt at capitalizing on the relative success of those movies. Unless you really enjoy the "Ninja" type movies, you will not enjoy this flick, except to make fun of it. In fact, even Ninja enthusiasts will have to admit this is pretty lame.

However, as a guilty pleasure, this movie does its job. Trust me... you will feel very guilty after watching it.
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1/10
The best TV show repackaged into a film starring Timothy Van Patten AND Lee Van Cleef ever!
zmaturin27 February 1999
This "film" is a brilliant piece of art that has been over looked by film critics and historians for years. The directors ingeniously combined two episodes of a mid-80s action series ("The Master") to create a wonderful portrait of the rebellious "Max", a street-smart young rebel who teams up with pro-ninja Lee Van Cleef. In the film's first hour the team helps defend super-stars Demi Moore and Claude Akins' air field, and then in the second hour they help out some striking canners.

This method of combining almost two different stories into one was obviously the inspiration for Roberto Begnini's brilliant "Life is Beautiful". Watch these two works back to back and you'll see what I mean: Their stories are structured the same way, and the lead characters (crafty, dashing heroes who bend the rules to what's right) are strikingly similar.

Of course, I could be talking crap. I don't know.
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Looking for "the Master"
lgehlsen8 December 2006
Hey Everybody, I'm desperately searching for the series "The Master" aka "Master Ninja" I bought the DVD of the first 2 episodes from a guy, by mistake - thinking it was the whole series of 13 episodes. It is definitely the worst good TV memory I have over 20 years later, but I just gotta have the little Asian ninja kid episodes - he really looked cool kicking all those adult butts. I've heard rumors that some lame production company put out the series on a 2 DVD set, and even though it was apparently a horrible transfer/dubbing, it was still worth it, but I can't find it, and trying to find 1 person willing to part with the entire VHS set of 2 episodes per tape is not going to happen.

Anyone out there with any info, or who would be willing to dub me some copies of there old VHS recordings would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks
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Ninja by Way of '80s Vigilante Cop Shows.
Nick Zbu23 July 2000
Not a bad little series, but held back by the fact that while America was going through it's Ninja Craze, it was also knee-deep in the Reagan attitude of "USA A-OK" which involved any protogonists using any methods to get 'the bad guys.' A bit narrow-sighted (and hypocritical), but this show is often more fun than most of it's brethern of this time period.

The only fault I can find is the all-too-obvious stunt double for the then-aged Lee Van Cleef. I think some padding on the double's part could have made it a bit less obvious, along with some more creative editing.

But anyway, it's a way to waste an hour and it's not shoving Ramboque messages down your throat. Check it out and give it a try.

Ebay always have some of the Trans-World Entertainment releases on tap. Just enter "Master Ninja" into your search and you should come across all seven volumes within a month.

Enjoy.
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mind boggling
Gideon4031 August 2002
Warning: Spoilers
I've recently picked up the habit of downloading MST3K episodes, (since they never showed them here) and I have to say Master Ninja is the worst of the 6 mst3k episodes I have. Not that the commentary was bad, but the movie itself. The acting was just atrocious, even deathstalker 3 had better acting than this! The music, was simply painful to hear. Watching two ninjas fight while cheesy 80s synthsizer tunes played in the BG was unbearable. There was this one scene (SPOILER) where 3 ninjas try to kill the master. Instead of prowling on his roof or doing anything remotely stealthy, the ninjas got into these stupid poses and walked right into the master's front door where he was just standing there looking. To give you an idea, imagine 3 ninjas walking behind a paper wall so you can only see their shadows. Then imagine while they're walking, they're in these crane stances like the one in karate kid. It is dumb I know. Thankfully Joel and the Bots made this movie very funny to watch, they always do a good job of that.
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God, I'm Horrified
Oosterhartbabe1 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I liked this show when I was about twelve, it was a pleasant memory. Then I re-watched it as the MST3K episode Master Ninja 1, in which they slammed together three or four of the episodes to make a horrible movie. I admit, I was tearing up more than laughing watching it, because i really did like this goofy show when i was a kid.

Lee Van Cleef as a ninja was just sad. They had better stunt doubles in Power Rangers, when the girls were clearly played by much shorter men. I mean, you could clearly see that Lee hadn't studied any kind of martial arts, which is kind of like those 70's sword swinger b-movies where the actor would just randomly swing his or her sword and 'kill' people. The fight choreography was obviously done by Stevie Wonder while he was heavily medicated.

The Master's 'student', played by the gratingly annoying Timothy Van Patten, is a total idiot who drives around in a van randomly. No real ninja would take this guy on as a student. He'd just slit his throat and be done with it, a few moments after meeting this twerp. He certainly wouldn't enlist his 'help' in finding his daughter or anything else, for that matter.

The movie dragged off, since it was made from t.v. episodes so they couldn't have any kind of real denouement. I am not looking forward to Master Ninja II, and in fact may avoid it altogether. Another pleasurable childhood memory down the drain.
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2/10
Master Disaster II
icehole423 January 2002
Lee Van Cleef and George Lazenby try their best at saving this turkey, but fail. This is more episodes from the short-lived series "The Master" which aired on NBC. Here Crystal Bernard plays a motorcycle racing woman who organizes a union at a place where they want to keep unions out. (After Happy Days and before striking gold with Wings, Crystal appeared in several stinkers, most notably this and It's a Living.) The whole thing is very contrived and pretty bad. Avoid this one if possible.
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Master Ninja Theme Song
the_knightly_one8 April 2002
This movie is ungodly unbearible. Between lame dialog and bad story continuity, it has other amazingly impossible things (Including 'The Master' cutting off a steering wheel with a length or rope....) In 1991, The Mystery Science Theatre 3000 people tried to do an episode on it, and even they failed miseribly at making it funny. The only good thing about the MST3K episode is the Master Ninja Theme Song at the end, pure genious. I would highly discourage anyone from watching this stinker.
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2/10
Clarence Thomas, Annie Lennox and a lousy attempt at martial arts
lee_eisenberg17 February 2017
I understand that "The Master" was a short-lived TV show in 1984, featuring Lee Van Cleef as a martial arts master. Well, everything about it is corny. In fact, the only reason why people nowadays would know about it is because Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank subjected Joel, Servo and Crow to it on "Mystery Science Theater 3000". The trio commented on the scenes where a stunt double got used for Lee Van Cleef, and Timothy Van Patten's muffled speech. Among the referenced people were Martha Graham, Anwar Sadat, Bil Keane and Gloria Vanderbilt. They even referenced "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

So, the series is too weird to enjoy, but you're sure to enjoy MST3K's riff.

PS: Robert Clouse is best known as the director of "Enter the Dragon", while Timothy Van Patten went on to direct episodes of notable serials in the 21st century (among them "Sex and the City", "Boardwalk Empire" and "Game of Thrones").
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3/10
A show made during the ninja craze!
Aaron137511 January 2012
This show was made during the mid 1980s, a time when there was a bit of a ninja craze in the country. Granted, not all that super big as there were a few movies here and there and nothing that would really be considered a blockbuster by today's or even back then standards. This was also a time when a plethora of action shows came on the airwaves too. You had shows that were fairly successful like A-team, Knight Rider and Greatest American Hero and then you had a lot of action shows that kind of had like one season like Automan, Manimal and Tales of the Golden Monkey. This show falls in the latter category featuring an old actor in Lee Van Cleef portraying a ninja master and his sidekick pal played by Timothy Van Patton who had a van and a pet gerbil. Not exactly a great formula as Van Cleef had a bit of a gut and was moving around poorly trying to make us think that he was a ninja. They basically had Sho Kosugi in a ninja costume with a Van Cleef voice over whenever a difficult stunt had to be done. The show would feature quite a few older stars in it playing bit parts. They had Dave McCallum, Clu Gulager and even one time James Bond George Lazenby to name a few. Then they had a young Crystal Benard of the show Wings fame and a young Demi Moore as well. So the show had a lot of decent actors, it was just a rather poor concept.

I saw this show as two repackaged movies that were lampooned on the show Mystery Science Theater 3000. They were done by that video company that did this often with television shows and older movies where they basically have a completely unrelated opening title sequence before the show, uh, movie begins. The first film titled Master Ninja I, featured I am guessing the first episode of the show for sure. We get introduced to Max (Van Patton) and the master ninja (Van Cleef) as they try and help out a daughter and her father's airport from a corrupt businessman and the local sheriff. Sounds a bit like A-team especially when you factor in the next portion of the show features them trying to help out a man and his two daughters that own a club that is being harassed by a gang. Neither show is really related and the reason the main characters go around from town to town is to search for the master's daughter that he did not know he had.

The second movie, Master Ninja II, features about the same premise as Master Ninja I, only without all the introductions. The first portion of the film sees them get involved with a union labor dispute in a cannery and is rather stupid as a union dispute does not really scream ninja in any way, shape or form. Yet, Max and the master probably had more trouble with these standard goons than they did with the ninjas that terrorized the club or the businessman who had local law enforcement under his command! The second portion of this film, was comprised of a terrorist type organization kidnapping some people at a party and the master must go in to rescue them! He had less trouble with these gun wielding assassins than he did just some guys who worked at a cannery also, go figure.

So both of these 'movies' made for funny episodes of MST3K, but then I always enjoy the television movies that they did during their run. The first one sort of blended together okay, though it was obvious it was two unrelated plots, but the second 'film' just did not go together in any shape or form. You go from helping a girl set up a union to terrorist raiding a party and taking hostages. You can tell they tried with the show, but the ninja craze was not really big enough to warrant a whole show, just a spot movie here or there would have sufficed. It basically uses the same formula as the A-team, with the main characters going from town to town and doing good deeds, but did not quite have the scale of the more known and popular show. Though I wonder if the master ever found his daughter or if it was another case of a show being cancelled with the central premise never being resolved?
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