Despite their omnipresence on ‘80s-era cable t.v. and at VHS rental outlets, some of the classic Cannon Films productions never made it to DVD during that format’s heyday. One of the most noteworthy omissions in this area was Ninja III: The Domination, an unforgettable action/horror genre-blender that picked up a cult following in the early days of home video. The only disc release it got since that era was a German blu-ray that came from a dupey-looking master and was by all accounts a massive disappointment. Thankfully, this title has found an unexpected but welcome savior in Scream Factory — and they’ve surprised the film’s fans with a tidy little blu-ray/DVD combo set.
Both discs in the set showcase a new high-definition transfer that is gorgeous. Cannon’s in-house productions tended to be nicely shot and this transfer reflects that quality: the blu-ray is the best showcase for Hanania Baer’s slick and colorful photography, offering a real boost in detail and clarity. As for the audio, the disc offers a lossless presentation of the original stereo soundtrack and the results are impressive: dialogue and fighting foley effects come through nice and clear, plus the synth-heavy soundtrack has a real presence.
There are only two extras but both are worthwhile. The first is an extensive image gallery packed with stills and a variety of promotional art from different countries. However, the biggest and best of the extras is a commentary featuring director Sam Firstenberg and stunt coördinator Steve Lambert. Robert Galluzzo is on hand as moderator and acquits himself well but Firstenberg and Lambert need little help to keep the track filled with details.
Firstenberg talks about all phases of production, discussing the motivation behind his choices as well as detailed info about different scenes were shot (including one scene that used a rotating room set) and how one achieved “the Cannon style” as filmmaker. Lambert is no less impressive, offering rigorously detailed accounts of each stunt scene, including the many places he doubled within the scenes (you’ll be amazed how much time he spent on camera in all the different stunts). Both men are endearingly grateful about the film’s following and they discuss their adventures in a humble but enthusiastic way that makes for compelling listening.
In short, getting Ninja III: The Domination in a good-looking edition is treat enough… but getting it in a blu-ray/DVD combo with a commentary track really takes it to the next level. Snap it up as soon as you can — and maybe we’ll be lucky enough to get more rare Cannon gems from Shout! Factory in the future (Avenging Force would be Schlockmania’s pick, if anyone’s listening).