Five Element Ninjas (1982)

Reviewed by Ken Hashibe
May 18, 2014


Ricky Cheng Tien-Chi • Lo Meng • Chen Pei-Hsi • Michael Chan Wai-Man • Lung Tien-Hsiang • Wong Lik • Kwan Fung • Chu Ko
Chinese Super Ninjas
Chang Cheh
Ricky Cheng Tien-Chi • Chu Ko
Version reviewed was in full screen format. English dubbed.
Purchase & Info
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After a Chinese clan is defeated in ten rounds of combat, a Japanese samurai, before killing himself, sends for the five element ninjas to take vengeance on the other clan. The clan goes out to fight them, but this results in most of their greatest fighters being killed. After the clan’s base is raided, the lone survivor, Tian Hao (Ricky Cheng Tien Chi), seeks help from a master of ninjutsu to take revenge and defeat the five element ninjas.
thoughts on the movie

The full screen format is quite distracting, but everything else is fantastic. The fight choreography is amazing and the story, though simple, is fast paced and exciting with a high level of intensity throughout. I can’t judge the writing because I saw the English version (unfortunately), but that makes for some campy and sometimes unintentionally funny dialogue. Though the English dub may take away some forms of sincerity, Five Element Ninjas is still dark, meaningful, and fun. I seldom use the word “awesome” to describe a movie, but, yes, this movie is awesome.

was it funny?
Not intentionally. Though Ricky Cheng’s character, Tian Hao is kind of funny, most laughs, if any, would come from the English dub. There is a fair amount of funny lines to be found, but this is one of my favorites:

“What a waste to pick the flowers. Poor flowers.”

How was the Action?

All of the fight scenes choreographed by Ricky Cheng are impressive, complex, and have a lot of smooth movements. This movie is also a very good weapons showcase, showing both Japanese and Chinese weapons. The training scenes are also very interesting and intricately choreographed, but the ten rounds of combat at the beginning are definitely highlights. Fair warning though, some of these scenes are really extreme. What I mean by extreme is tripping on one’s intestines and getting ripped in half. I’m going to go out on a limb and say this isn’t a kid’s movie.

Standout performance(s)

The dubbing practically ruins the dramatic performances in this movie. Either the voice actor is too enthusiastic or too awkward, which may be funny to some. One of the only performances that I feel isn’t destroyed is Ricky Cheng’s performance as the sarcastic Tian Hao (you may remember Ricky Cheng as the swordsman from Fearless Hyena). The voice fits his character well, but regardless, most actors in this movie get to show off their physical prowess in the action scenes, so the lack of sincere emotion almost doesn’t matter.

Watch or Pass
6 Reasons Why You Should WATCH or PASS On This Movie
1. WATCH if you like ninjas.
2. PASS if you don’t like ninjas.
3. WATCH for the impressive weaponry showcase.
4. WATCH if you like Shaw Brothers movies.
5. WATCH for an accurate depiction of ninjas.
6. WATCH for female ninjas wearing skimpy outfits.

The Celestial DVD of this movie is a huge step up from the version you may see on YouTube. It’s widescreen (2:35:1), remastered, uncut, and in its original language, so if you want to take this movie seriously, this DVD is recommended. And if you like the English dub and hate full screen, Tokyo Shock’s Region 1 DVD & Blu-ray has the English language on it along with the original Mandarin.