Home > Features > Retroactive: ‘The Ninja Mission’ Statement…

Retroactive: ‘The Ninja Mission’ Statement…

The 1980s were a hotbed for Ninja action. Mike Leeder starts a two-part look-back at some forgotten favourites with ‘The Ninja Mission’…

During the Ninja movie hey-day during the 1980s, one of the strangest ‘Ninja’ movies to ever find its way into my VHS player (but one that’s still entertaining  if sometimes for the wrong reasons…) was the ultra violent Swedish action movie from 1984, The Ninja Mission, directed by Mats Helge. The movie stars Polish actors Krzystof Kolberger and Hanna Bieniuszewicz, along with a cast of mainly Swedish supporting actors.

The plot tellNEWIMPACT-NINJAXs of a Swedish scientist named Markov who defected to the Soviet Union and has come up with an incredible formula… and plans to return to the West. The KGB of course want to keep him under wraps, and kidnap his daughter Nadia, to maintain leverage over him and hide them away in Russia. It’s up to a team of highly trained Ninja mercenaries to save the day….

The film was a huge success on video across Europe and around the world – being released in over 54 countries. In the UK it was heavily promoted by VTC Entertainment who also released many of the early Chuck Norris and Sonny Chiba movies on video. The one country it was probably least successful in was its native Sweden, where it and its Director and his subsequet movies have always been regarded as oddities.

The movie features a superb Tangerine Dream styled 80s synth heavy soundtrack by Dag Unenge as the background for all manner of bloodletting. There’s a lot of gunplay with even the Ninjas unleashing sub machine guns a la the same Ninja technique you’d see in You Only Live Twice. The Ninjas also use chemical weapons including poison dart guns that  cause their victims to explode violently in great gory fashion, as well as a variety of traditional Ninja weapons including katana, manriki-gusari, Hand Claws and Shurikens and the occasionewimpact-ninja5nal martial arts technique… all choreographed by co-star Bo.F Munthe from the European Ninja Institute.

It’s great low budget Euro-Ninja fun, feeling very much like a hybrid between a Euro-Crime thriller, a Macaronni Combat movie and an IFD Ninja fest, it barrels along at a good pace and is very entertaining. It’s shot in English with certain actors re-dubbed and some great ADR… including the most cockney MC you’ve ever ehard and who introduces Nadia at a singing engagement. he sounds like he might have just stepped out of Albert Square.

Produced by Charles Aperia, Mats Helge and Guy Collins (Fifty Dead Men Walking, Highlander 2 and the Highlander TV series), the movie is great low budget fun and is a cult favourite of many people – myself included. Some years later in Hong Kong, I was producing the documentary The Art of Action: Martial Arts in the Movies and  its director Keith Clarke let slip he worked on this movie and played a Russian soldier in it… much to his chagrin the following day I produced a VHS of it and had him point out his appearance and tell me of his experience on the movie!

You can see the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0x8C0Btm_o

There’s sadly no official DVD or Blu-ray release of the movie due to objections by Mats Helge, although there’s all manner of grey-area versions floating around including a release by Horsecreek Entertainment whose CEO happens to be Charles Aperia.

But what ever happened to director Mats Helge?

 – More Ninja-ness to follow tomorrow… –

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