January 26, 2018

THIRD NINJA

Happy Friday, Spy Vibers! It's been one of those busy teaching weeks for me. My filmmakers and photographers are starting new projects, the drawing and design kids are looking at Pop Surrealism, and my Beatles class just passed the White Album and Let it Be and are rounding toward Abbey Road. This is to say, I haven't been able to update daily as I always hope to do, but hopefully it gave readers time to absorb our tribute to Peter Wyngarde (Jason King) and check out his amazing career. There have been a few items that crossed my radar lately that I hope to explore in depth soon. There is talk of a new show based on the original Avengers series. and Tom Cruise just announced his next Mission Impossible film will be called Mission Impossible: Fallout. So very few projects based on 1960s properties actually work, so I remain cautiously optimistic. More on these later. With very little time lately to explore and research, I have been looking at some very cool items from sixties Japan. Today I just want to spotlight The Third Ninja (Daisan no Ninja).  Ninja films in general are interesting because their action is rooted in intrigue, espionage, sabotage, and assassination- think James Bond in a black hood. Just as producers in the US were looking back into history as a stage for hero/adventure stories in the guise of Westerns during the early Cold War, so did Japanese creators find inspiration in tales of Samurai and, more to our focus, Ninja. As our own Westerns went back to the early days of serialized fiction, silent films, radio, and the Pulps, Ninja sagas had also been popular for decades. But a bonafide Ninja boom sparked in Japan with the launch of the Sinobi no Mono series. Fans have likened the rise in popularity to Dr. No, which launched the ever-growing Bond franchise and its many spinoffs. One of the great films riding the Ninja wave was The Third Ninja (Daisan no Ninja), which arrived on the big screen in March, 1964. The story revolved around a web of 16th Century Ninja caught in the middle of intrigue and conflict between Takeda Shingen and Oda Nobunaga. But simply put, the movie was a dynamic whirlwind of cinematic scenes portraying cool conventions like battles with gadgets, throwing stars, and swords, booby traps, daring escapes, and Ninja skills. Some of the wire-action was less effective, but fun nonetheless. And every time a character made a slo-mo leap through the air, I found myself listening for the Six-Million Dollar Man sound effect. In this scene below, we see a very cool (and tricky) infiltration over a nightingale floor, classic battles in tall grass, and super climax fight with throwing stars in a nighttime garden. The movie also has beautiful Noirish cinematography. Check it out. Enjoy!


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