“A decent slice of 1980s ninja action”
After starring in Cannon’s Ninja Trilogy, Sho Kosugi went on to topline a number of mid-1980s martial arts exploitation pictures. First up were Emmett Alstom’s NINE DEATHS OF THE NINJA for Crown International, and PRAY FOR DEATH for Transworld, now released on UK DVD & Blu-ray by 101 Films.
Akira Saito (Kosugi) is unsatisfied with life in Japan. His wife Aiko (Donna K Benz) wants to move to the US with their two little boys (played by Kosugi’s real life sons). They purchase a grubby restaurant in a rundown part of Los Angeles, which turns out to double as a drop where bent policemen leave stolen goods for Michael Constantine’s gang to pick up.
Unfortunately one of the policemen is even more crooked than usual and keeps a valuable necklace for himself. When chief goon Limehouse Willie (screenwriter James Booth) fails to find the stolen merchandise, he suspects Akira and kidnaps his son. What he doesn’t know is that back in Japan Akira was a ninja. Still plagued by guilt over killing his evil brother in front of their adopted father (Robert QUINCY Ito in lots of old age makeup) Akira believe he has set aside his ninja ways. But sooner than you can say NINJA DEATH WISH Akira becomes a killing machine and the stage is set for his revenge on Constantine and his gang.
Not as good as either ENTER THE NINJA or REVENGE OF THE NINJA, PRAY FOR DEATH is still lots of 1980s ninja fun for the undiscriminating fan. Tighter editing in the middle and a stronger music score to keep everything moving would have been an immense help, but there’s still plenty of action, including an opening scene that’s plays delightfully with audience expectations.
Gordon Hessler (SCREAM & SCREAM AGAIN, THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD) doesn’t handle things quite as well as Sam Firstenberg, but he does manage one memorable scene in a mannikin factory that manage to be both eerie and suspenseful at the same time.
101 Films’ Blu-ray transfer looks great. If you’re a fan of PRAY FOR DEATH from the days of VHS you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised to discover just how good it looks in 2.35:1 widescreen. There are no extras at all which is a shame but understandable, especially as Gordon Hessler is no longer with us.
101 Films are releasing Gordon Hessler's PRAY FOR DEATH on UK DVD and Blu-ray on 29 February 2016