Enter the Ninja

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Enter the Ninja
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMenahem Golan
Produced by
Screenplay byDick Desmond[1]
Story byDick Desmond[1]
Based onA story
by Mike Stone[1]
Music by
  • W. Michael Lewis
  • Laurin Rinder[1]
CinematographyDavid Gurfinkel[1]
Edited by
Color processMetrocolor
Distributed byThe Cannon Group
Release date
  • 1981 (1981) (Arizona)
Running time
99 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States[1]

Enter the Ninja is a 1981 American martial arts film directed by Menahem Golan and starring Franco Nero, Susan George, Christopher George, and Sho Kosugi. The film is about a martial artist named Cole (Nero) who is visiting his friend Frank in the Philippines. On arrival, Cole learns that his friend is being harassed by the wealthy businessman Charles Venarius who wants Frank's land for the oil underneath. Frank and his wife are continuously thwarted by Cole who defends them with his martial arts skills. Learning of Cole's presence, Venarius hires his own ninja.

The film was originally intended to be directed by Emmett Alston and to star Mike Stone. Early in the production, Alston was replaced by Golan but stayed on as 2nd unit director, and Stone was replaced with Nero, but stayed on as fight double and fight/stunt coordinator. The film began a brief craze of ninja-themed films in the early 1980s and was the first film in "The Ninja Trilogy", an anthology series from The Cannon Group[relevant? ] which includes Revenge of the Ninja (1983) and Ninja III: The Domination (1984).


Cole, a veteran of the Angolan Bush War, completes his ninjutsu training in Japan. Cole goes to visit his war buddy Frank Landers and his newlywed wife Mary Ann Landers, who are the owners of a large piece of farming land in the Philippines. Cole soon finds that the Landers are being repeatedly harassed by Charles Venarius, the wealthy CEO of Venarius Industries, in order to get them to sell their property because, unbeknownst to them, a large oil deposit is located beneath their land. Cole thwarts the local henchmen Venarius has hired to bully and coerce the Landers.

Cole and Frank infiltrate Venarius' base, and defeat a number of his henchmen. In the aftermath, Frank gets drunk and confesses to Cole that he is impotent. Mary Ann comes to Cole that night and they have an affair. Venarius, learning that Cole is a ninja, hires a ninja of his own to eliminate Frank and Cole - Hasegawa, who is a rival of Cole from their old training days.

Hasegawa strikes the Landers' estate at night, killing Frank in front of Mary Anne, then abducting her to Venarius' martial arts arena. Cole enters, and picks off the henchmen one by one before ultimately killing Venarius. Hasegawa releases Mary Ann, and the two ninja engage in a final battle. Cole defeats Hasegawa, who begs to be allowed to die with honor, and Cole beheads him.



Enter the Ninja was based on an original story that Mike Stone presented to Menahem Golan of Cannon Films,[3] who became involved in the production in late fall 1980, with the intent of creating an American film about ninjutsu.[1] In the October 7, 1980 issue of Daily Variety, it was announced that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) would produce the film for $4 million, as part of a multi-project film and television deal with The Cannon Group.[1] The film was initially set to star Karate champion Mike Stone, while Variety announced later that Stone was writing the script.[1]

The Hollywood Reporter reported in January 1981 that confirmed that principal photography began one day earlier on January 12, 1981, in the Philippines and in Tokyo, Japan.,[Note 1][1][4] under the direction of Emmett Alston.[1] Variety later noted that on February 18, 1981 that shooting had begun Manila but with Golan as director and Franco Nero replacing Stone in the lead role.[1] Stone receives onscreen credit for the film's story, fight choreography, and stunt coordination.[1] Principal photography concluded in March 1981.[1]


Cannon planned to screen the film at the Cannes Film Festival, which was followed by promotional material stating the film would be released during the Easter season in 1982.[1] In the August 12, 1981 issue of Variety, Cannon Films took out a full page ad announcing that the film had opened in Germany and France and was a hit.[5] The film also played in Arizona in October 1981.[6] An issue of Variety from January 13, 1982 declared that the film was currently in release, but the film did not open in Los Angeles until April 30, 1982.[1]


After the release of Enter the Ninja there was brief boom of ninja-related films in the early 1980s.[7][8] On April 28, 1981, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Golan was going to direct a sequel titled Revenge of the Ninja.[9] Golan was later replaced by Sam Firstenberg as director.[9] The film was released in 1983.[9] The final film in the series was Ninja III: The Domination, which was released in 1984.[10]

Home media[edit]

The film has been released on VHS and Beta during the 1980s, but an official US DVD release had long eluded the masses until MGM issued it as part of its Limited Edition Collection (a series of manufactured-on-demand DVD-Rs) in October 2011.[11] The film was released on blu-ray by Kino Lorber on May 26, 2015,[12] and in a box set from Eureka Video as The Ninja Trilogy with Revenge of the Ninja and Ninja III: The Domination on January 18, 2016.[13]


In a contemporary review, Robert Brown of the Monthly Film Bulletin gave the film a negative review, stating that it "seems singularly lacking in even the commercial ingredients that made Enter the Dragon such a successful showcase for the Kung Fu genre."[2] Brown commented that Golan "never seems to have decided which genre he was exploiting, and ended up mistakenly crossing romantic drama with martial arts."[2] A review by Hubert Niogret in the French film magazine Positif found the film's only purpose was to create a commercial project that was only popular for less demanding audiences and was only popular in the summer in France where there was little competition for quality cinema.[4] Richard Harrington of The Washington Post stated that the "plot limps along looking for convenient excuses for Ninjas to enter into brawls", noting that "none of the reasoning, acting or dialogue is particularly bright much less believable" while "the best directing in the film comes from fight choreographer and ex-karate champion Mike Stone, who obviously gets his kicks in"[14]

From a retrospective review, Donald Guarisco of AllMovie stated that film was a "pretty lackluster affair."[8] Guarisco also commented on Franco Nero that it "looks uncomfortable as the ninja expert and fails to perform convincingly during the fight scenes" and that Susan George was wasted as the damsel in distress "Even though a large amount of Enter the Ninja's running time is devoted to fight scenes, they lack the skillful choreography and sharp editing that would give them the visceral punch they truly need."[8]

On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 35 out of 100, based on 5 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Although planned, no filming was done in Japan. As indicated in the film's closing credits, the entire film was "Filmed on location in Manila, The Philippines"


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s "Enter the Ninja". American Film Institute. Retrieved August 5, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Brown, Robert (October 1981). "Enter the Ninja". Monthly Film Bulletin. Vol. 48 no. 573. British Film Institute. pp. 197–198.
  3. ^ "Enter the Ninja Press Kit" (PDF). 1981. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  4. ^ a b Niogret, Hubert (October 1981). "L'Implacable Ninja (Enter the Ninja)". Positif. No. 247. pp. 73–74.
  5. ^ "Cannon print ad in Variety". August 12, 1981. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  6. ^ "In Theaters". Arizona Republic. Newspapers.com. October 28, 1981. p. 31. Retrieved August 5, 2019.
  7. ^ Donovan, Barna William (2008). The Asian Influence on Hollywood Action Films. McFarland. p. 133. ISBN 978-1476607702. Retrieved August 5, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c Guarisco, Donald. "Enter the Ninja". AllMovie. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  9. ^ a b c "Revenge of the Ninja". American Film Institute. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
  10. ^ "Ninja III: The Domination". American Film Institute. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
  11. ^ "Enter the Ninja FINALLY coming to DVD via MGM's Limited Edition Collection". InsomniacEntertainment.com. October 5, 2011. Archived from the original on October 7, 2011. Retrieved October 5, 2011.
  12. ^ "Enter The Ninja Blu-ray from Kino Lorber". Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  13. ^ "The Ninja Trilogy Blu-ray from Eureka Video". Retrieved August 5, 2019.
  14. ^ Harrington, Richard (26 December 1981). "'Enter the Ninja'; Exit the Wise". The Washington Post. p. D5.
  15. ^ "Enter the Ninja (1981) reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved April 4, 2020.

External links[edit]