Black Ninja; aka, The Black Mask of the Bat (Maboroshi Kuro-zukin: Yami ni toga kage, Toei, 1967) investigates the mystery of the little village of Hira, which holds a secret of hidden gold. Hiroki Matsukata plays the ninja called "Bat," or Da, because, as he explains it, "I only fly by night." He also has a halo around one pupil which apparently gives him preternatural night vision, as well as identifying him as an heir.
By day he poses as a young punk-around-town. He's more comic book hero than historically plausible ninja. He uses unrealistic weapons in spectacular rapid ninja battles.
Veteran actor Ryutaro Otoma plays Rigen Yagyu of the Owari clan. I find Otomo's acting style a bit too happy-go-lucky to completely buy him as the heartless villain, but he tries to be a suitable foil for the goody-two-shoes Bat.
Though largely a kiddy show there are some pretty thrilling moments, like Dai's harrowing escape from a hole flooded with oil-slicked water that is set afire. The fantasy element of the priest with scorpions that obey his hissing commands is not as suspenseful, but such moments are entertaining.
There's a marvelously hammy death scene for Yagyu who, with Dai's ninja-pins in his eyes, fights the final duel blind. We learn he's not such a bad guy because "I only do what this sword tells me." But that sword told him to do bad stuff so his life's kaput.
The "happy" ending is that Dai will continue to be a superhero destroying evil in Edo, rather than having to remain in a bumpkins' village marrying Nana (Mieko Aoyagi), as if that would've been a fate worse than death.
A note of warning to folks who buy dvds sight unseen on-line. Places like e-Bay & evem Amazon.com have pretty commonly confused this Japanese film for a really crummy American film with the same title.
The ads will sometimes cite the director as Junji Kurata & give the Japanese cast, apparently from repeatedly cutting & pasting each others' texts until the error is widely dispersed on the web. But the film they ship is not Japanese.
Since the Japanese film is not easy to locate on dvd or video tape, what you'll actually get in the mail is the sub-awful direct-to-video actioner The Black Ninja (2003) directed by & starring Clayton Prince as Maliq Ali the Black Ninja.
A black defense attorney who gets thugs out of jail by his good attorney work afterward hunts them down by night in his totally faggy super hero costume. Even with babalicious Yuki Matsuzaki dressed up like the Harlot of Babylon posturing as the Black Ninja's deadly nemesis, you're not going to find anything in this film to delight.
If it were still the 1970s blacksploitation era & you didn't have quality action actors like Wesley Snipes or Samuel Jackson in big action epics, Black Ninja still wouldn't get by. It makes Shaq as Kazaam (1996) seem like a great idea by comparison. Black Ninja comes off as the dream-movie of a thirteen year old comic book fan who borrowed some cameras from his daddy's how-to home repair videos company.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl