Best Horror Movie You Never Saw: Ninja III: The Domination (1984)

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

Welcome to Arrow in the Head's The Best Horror Movie You Never Saw, which will be dedicated to highlighting horror films that, for one reason or another, don't get as much love as we think they should. We know plenty of you horror hounds out there will have seen many of the movies we pick, but there will be plenty of you who have not. This column is for all of you!

This week we take a look at Sam Firstenberg's absolutely nutso masterpiece NINJA III: THE DOMINATION (OWN IT HERE) starring Lucinda Dickey, Jordan Bennett, James Hong and Sho Kosugi!

THE STORY: Telephone linewoman and part-time aerobics instructor Christie is possessed by the spirit of a villainous ninja after attempting to save his life. The ninja is intent of getting revenge on the cops who shot him down, making life for Christie and her new policeman boyfriend somewhat complicated.

THE HISTORY: Produced by the legendary team of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus (The Cannon Group, baby!) NINJA III: THE DOMINATION was made in response to the success of Revenge of the Ninja (itself a sequel to Enter the Ninja). A decision was made to have the protagonist be a woman in order to change things up, but the producers didn't think a woman could simply be a ninja, so a gimmick was decided upon:  she's possessed by the spirit of a dead ninja! Also, because Flashdance had just been a gigantic hit in the U.S., the film needed to have an ample amount of spastic dancing. Director Sam Firstenberg (Revenge of the Ninja) was hired to helm the film, while Lucinda Dickey was given her very first starring role as dance-crazy, ninja-possessed Christie. She would later go on to star in Cannon's legendary Breakin' films, and guess what? Ninja III, Breakin', and Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo were all released in the same year! How's that for productivity?!

WHY IT'S GREAT: Do I really have to spell it out for you? The movie is about an aerobics instructor who goes on a killing spree after being possessed by a ninja! If that isn't enough, I don't know what will be. In all honesty, NINJA III isn't great the same way, say, The Dark Half is great. This is a six-pack and a pizza kind of ride, a movie that clearly knows how ridiculous it is and revels in it. The 80s were crazy-time, I don't think anyone clearly remembers them, and all the drugs and excess of the time produced plenty of cinematic marvels like this… but none quite like this. Ever wanted to see a woman get possessed via arcade game? Need to see an absurdly violent and prolonged golf course massacre, ninja-style? What about taking a gander at the hairiest damn leading man ever put on film? (Okay, maybe not that one.) To say NINJA III has something for everyone is to understate matters.

Golan and Globus were shameless in their quest to chase all the latest trends, and NINJA III plays like a hyperactive amalgam of Flashdance, Poltergeist and one of the company's ninja movies. (Sho Kosugi, who was in both Enter and Revenge, turns up here as a ninja-hunting badass.) What's admirable is everyone's commitment to this ludicrous story: yes, there is no doubt that tongue is firmly planted in cheek throughout, but the script makes sure we get our money's worth, and the actors do their best to keep a straight face. I can't claim that it's immaculately directed, but it's a competently-filmed production; it's not a mess, technically. That may be a backhanded compliment, but what matters is, the movie makes a promise early on: If you want to watch an aerobics instructor, holding the soul of a maniacal ninja inside her, go to war with the L.A.P.D., you're not going to get short-changed. Hand it to Golan-Globus: when everyone was turning everything up to 11 during that wacky decade, they said "f*ck that" and went to 12.

And like all the best movies, this one gives you plenty to think about. For example, when Christie slinks into a jacuzzi in order to murder a sleazy cop but first she makes out with him? Is that the spirit of the ninja doing that? Similarly, when Christie gets it on with her hairy-backed boyfriend Billy, does the ninja spirit have to sit back and watch while he bides his time? Why does the ninja continually possess her via her closet and her arcade game if he's already possessed her?  How does he make that sword float around her room, slicing stereos? These are the burning questions, and they're just the tip of the iceberg. I won't promise you'll get all the answers (and if you have all the answers, I don't want them), but damn it if you won't be in a constant state of wonder at what NINJA III is presenting.

BEST SCENE: The opening golf course massacre really is something to behold. The villainous black ninja kills a few golfers, a handful of bodyguards, a couple security guards, and then about a dozen police officers. The sequence keeps seeming like it's coming to an end, but no, it keeps going and going, for over ten minutes. Not complaining: I can watch this dude chuck ninja stars, knives and blow darts all day long. (Everyone is William goddamn Shatner when they die too, so every death is gloriously over-the-top.) Runner up prize goes to the scene involving the immortal James Hong as an exorcist who really does a number on Christie/Black Ninja. 

WHERE TO WATCH: As can be counted upon, Scream Factory has released a beautifully restored version of NINJA III: THE DOMINATION on Blu-ray. Actually, they were so committed to this movie that they released two versions of it, the latest with a 4K transfer and insightful new interviews.

PARTING SHOT: I think I've made myself pretty clear. If you haven't seen NINJA III: THE DOMINATION, you must change that. If you haven't seen it in a really long time, you must change that. If you haven't seen it in a day or so, you must change that. I'm watching it again right now as I type this.


Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Eric Walkuski is a longtime writer, critic, and reporter for He's been a contributor for over 15 years, having written dozens of reviews and hundreds of news articles for the site. In addition, he's conducted almost 100 interviews as JoBlo's New York correspondent.