The classic Bond film You Only Live Twice, may be the first example of ninjas being featured in mainstream Western cinema, but it was the Sho Kosugi vehicle Enter the Ninja that captured the imagination of a generation. I can still remember sitting in my 7th grade Drama class, having just finished performing a monologue from The Glass Menagerie, as a group of my classmates enacted a sequence from Enter the Dragon.
The instructor wasn't very impressed, but I was and I immediately hunted down the Sho Kosugi film and experienced pure viewing pleasure.
Enter the Dragon follows one of the standard Golan and Globus action storylines. In this case it is the "old army buddy comes to visit an old friend who he served with during some military exchange or another, only to find out that the friend is in trouble with the local (criminal underworld, greedy land grabbing corporation, or both)." It's up to our protagonist to kick ass, take names, kick the asses of the people whose names he took, and save the day. Enter the Ninja adds ninja techniques to our protagonists usual repertoire of skills, which naturally makes him invincible as only a ninja can kill a ninja.
Franco Nero (Django and Camelot), our protagonist, has less than stellar martial arts skills, most of the acting is horrible, and the film suffers from Samurite syndrome. The film often borders on the ridiculous. For example, there is a point when Christopher George is calling out stating, "I want my ninja now!" in a manner that can only be described as extremely homoerotic -- an extremely incongruous moment in the film. Any one of these flaws could have ruined the film for all time, yet none do.
Sho Kosugi. The moment Sho Kosugi hits the screen, the viewer is in for a treat. Even while covered head to toe in his ninja costume, Sho Kosugi brings charisma and power to the screen. Yes, ninja costumes are inherently cool, but Sho is cool beyond the outfit. He is a joy to watch, which is likely one of the reasons Revenge of the Ninja drops the Samurite aspects of narrative and let's Sho carry the film. Sho Kosugi was the quintessential ninja throughout the 80s, and I cannot wait to see him in the forthcoming Ninja Assassin -- even in a small role.