Cannon Films churned out a wide array of B movies in the late ‘70s through the ‘80s. These ran the gamut from Chuck Norris/Charles Bronson-helmed action vehicles to period dramas and outlandish science fiction musicals. In 1981, Cannon began work on Enter the Ninja, the first in an anthology about Japanese assassins from centuries past set in the present. Los Angeles-based karate instructor Sho Kosugi was brought in to replace the lead and quickly became America’s poster-boy for the on-screen ninja. Revenge of the Ninja (1983), the second film in the trilogy, finds ninja Cho Osaki (Kosugi) leaving his homeland for the States after assassins nearly kill him and his family. Searching for peace, he puts away his weapons, swears off martial arts and establishes an art gallery. He soon discovers that his business partner Braden (Arthur Roberts) is using the gallery as a front for drug smuggling and that he’s in deep with local mobsters. Cho’s family and new life are caught in the middle of a war that threatens to destroy everything in its path. In order to save what he loves most, Cho must don the uniform, dust off his throwing stars and battle his friend to the death. Due to the high cost of shooting in downtown Los Angeles, the climactic scene was shot atop a skyscraper in Salt Lake City, where Cannon wouldn’t have to pay for fees, permits or unions. Revenge of the Ninja brought Kosugi global recognition, but the actor grew dubious of the increasingly outlandish plots (1984’s Ninja III: The Domination hinged on a telephone repairwoman possessed by an evil ninja). Kosugi fell out with the producers at Cannon and set off to make his own films, his way.
by Thomas Davant