Yet again I’ve been seduced by a title, I’m my own worst enemy.
This is all Quentin Tarantinos fault really. You can argue that the turn of the millennium resurgence of 70s style Blaxploitation cinema is all down to Quentin, his love of the genre oozes through his screenplays for Reservoir Dogs, True Romance and Jackie Brown. So while we can applaud him for bringing Pam Grier back to our screens it is tempered somewhat by Undercover Brother (2002), Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002) and the truly awful remake of Shaft (2000).
For all the millions pumped into these Hollywood Blaxploitation reboots/spoofs they struggle to please for exactly the same reason as Black Ninja, after the first five minutes the novelty has worn thin and none have come with a plan b. Black Ninja has a single achievement, a theme song that revives the funk and soul soundtracks of the era it is emulating perfectly while highlighting the absurdity of the on screen action, but this is used periodically through the film for ever decreasing returns.
So after the opening fight scene where we are introduced to The Black Ninja, his theme song and a few members of the criminal underworld (who seemingly have the ability to scream with their mouths closed) what comes next?
Infamous defence lawyer Malik Ali’s haunted past causes him to double as a vigilante ninja. He defends the city’s worst thugs by day and battles them by night. While protecting a beautiful witness in a case against a ruthless mobster, Malik is led closer to the evil ninja who killed his wife and kids.
That just about covers it, you get a simple martial arts movie made very cheaply by people who at least had good intentions but little competence. It must have sounded so good on paper but martial arts films need experts not amateurs, while most of the actors have limited martial arts skill the fight choreographer (if there was one, one does not appear on the credits) has little to none. The difference between professionals and guys who can throw a half decent roundhouse looks absolutely massive on screen and while you could argue that it’s all part of the desired aesthetic it doesn’t make it any easier to watch.
So despite its awful fight scenes, wooden acting and sub amateur YouTube music video visuals why did I find myself having a fun with Black Ninja? Maybe I’m just a sucker for a theme song and a ninja that dresses like Zorro.
If you want to watch a properly good Blaxploitation spoof then try Black Dynamite, it has more than one joke and a magnificent SOUNDTRACK by recent Ghostface Killah collaborator Adrian Younge. As for Black Ninja this TRAILER has everything you need to see and hear condensed into 90 seconds.
The movies on display in the bowels of Lovefilms comedy section hardly raise a smile but at only 40 minutes long the title here was enough for me to give it a shot.
Sins of the Fleshapoids is a camp sci-fi comedy(ish) straight from the 1960s New York underground movement courtesy of Mike Kuchar. The synopsis on Lovefilm is slightly inaccurate, missing out on a key theme of the movie.
The survivors of a nuclear war are taken care of by robots called fleshapoids. One day one of them runs wild, kills its ‘mistress’ and hides in the home of a human female for whom it develops feelings.
The film deals with the romantic relationship not between human and machine but machine and machine. The evolution of the two separate species after the near extinction of the human race is the key driving force of the film. Where humanity has embraced Roman style hedonism, using their android servants to fulfil their every desire, the servants themselves are evolving beyond their initial purpose, becoming more human in the process. While there are no explicit robot/human relationships in the film the machines are sexualised in particular in a scene where they help to bathe their master. The awkward questions raised by the mixing of technology and sex is well trodden in science fiction, 8 years later Michael Crichton will treat it as a throwaway inevitability of advancing technology in his script for Westworld. The synthetic evolution here has more in common with Blade Runner, machines evolving beyond their programming to become more like their creators.
This march towards the technological singularity that will be the end of mankind (LINK) is as low budget as can be but is far from ugly. A mash of colours and styles hit the screen from all angles creating a striking visual style that softens some of the rougher edges. Shot on 16mm film with no dialogue the story is told in the manner of a silent film with a voiceover and the occasional on screen speech bubble in the place of intertitles. The film is a clear influence on the early films of John Waters, both directors sharing a skill for working on micro budgets without sacrificing style.
A camp curiosity that is certainly not for everyone but the final scene/visual gag was enough to convince me.