NINJA IN THE DRAGON'S DEN
Directed by Corey Yuen-kwai
Screenplay by NG See Yue & Corey Yuen
Produced by Ng See Yuen
Music by Lu Chi-fung
Cast: Hiroyuki Sanada, Conan Lee & Hwang Jang Lee
1982/96 mins/Color/Dolby Digital Stereo
2.35:1 anamorphic/Cantonese/Hong Kong/PAL Region 2/4
Review of the Hong Kong Legends UK DVD
I'm a sucker for a good old ninja movie! Even the ultra-cheesy AMERICAN NINJA flicks from the 1980's (starring Michael Dudikoff) hold a quaint fascination. But if you want a real ninja film you have to look east, to the films of Japan and Hong Kong and NINJA IN THE DRAGON'S DEN is one of the best. Producer Ng See Yuen had box-office success with Jackie Chan's DRUNKEN MASTER and SNAKE IN THE EAGLE'S SHADOW and here hoped to recreate the same chemistry with new star, Conan Lee. This is Corey Yuen's first film as director. He is now best known in the West for his action direction and choreography, which he also provides here. Japanese star, Hiroyuki Sanada, also stars alongside Lee to give the movie a crossover appeal to the Japanese market, where it was highly successful.
NINJA IN THE DRAGON'S DEN combines kung fu acrobatics with Japanese ninjitsu and swordplay and contains lots of entertaining action scenes. It opens with an extremely funky theme tune as we watch a group of ninjas in training. Then the story unfolds; Hiroyuki Sanada stars as Jen Moo, a young ninja out for revenge hunting down the man he believes responsible for his father's death. The man is a retired ninja, Uncle Foo, who now lives with his young nephew, Chen (Conan Lee) and Chen's servant, Ah Chee. The first third of the film is high on comedy and slapstick humour as Chen and Chee fool around causing trouble in the local town. But then the film really kicks in when Jen Moo appears, out for blood. His attempts on Uncle Foo's life are foiled time and again by Chen who displays incredible adeptness in Chinese kung fu. All the action scenes are incredibly choreographed with an amazing display of acrobatics and very little wirework.
Both stars prove themselves to be versatile fighters (all the more remarkable when you realise Conan Lee had no background in martial arts and only trained in the run up to this film). One scene which stands out has the actors fighting on stilts, still managing to maintain their balance whilst carrying out back-flips and roundhouse kicks! The highlight for me however has to be the scenes incorporating the ninja with their swords and shuriken stars. The contrast between the Japanese and Chinese fighting styles works well and all the fights are outstanding. In the finale the two characters come together to fight the father of a phoney magician whom Chen disgraced (played by Korean Tae Kwon-Do super-kicker Hwang Jang Lee). Hwang almost steals the show with his super-fast kicking display but not quite, the real stars are Conan and Sanada.
For a film which languished in obscurity for many years, only to appear on poor quality bootleg tapes, NINJA IN THE DRAGON'S DEN looks truly astonishing. The 2.35:1 anamorphic PAL image is first-rate, although there seems to be a slight flickering in the brightness in certain scenes. It has a sharp detailed picture and little in the way of artefacting or grain. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Cantonese audio track is clear with no hiss or distortion and as ever Hong Kong Legends have included a stack of extras which include biographies for Hwang Jang Lee and producer Ng See Yuen, three deleted scenes (which are VHS quality and panned and scanned), three trailers for the film itself, 30 chapter stops, a 24 minute interview with Ng see Yuen and Roy Horan. Plus there are trailers for 10 other Hong Kong Legends titles and another highly entertaining and informative commentary track from Bey Logan.
NINJA IN THE DRAGON'S DEN should have a broad appeal to all action fans, not just those interested in old-style kung fu films. This is another exemplary transfer from Hong Kong Legends and an essential purchase for anyone with an interest in Hong Kong cinema.
This Film Features:
Review by Brendan Maltman. All Right Reserved. 2003. ©