In 1987, an Ohio State University student made his own martial arts movie and after a brief period of self-distribution, the film finally gets a wide release.
Archaeologist Melissa Stewart has been given a chance to go on a major dig on the island of Ranga, where a secret treasure that belonged to a Ninja clan has been discovered. Steven Chase, a former colleague of Stewart who was expelled from the department due to his unscrupulous plan to selling his artifacts for personal gain, has heard about the treasure as well. He threatens Stewart and vows to get help from his number one henchman, El Kazi, to get his hands on the treasure.
The government, who has approved the project, are in fear that Chase will do what it takes, and they decide to do something about it. Enter Magneta Faze, a trained government agent who is skilled in martial arts. With his sidekick Monique by his side, Faze heads to Ranga with Stewart and his team. There, he comes across a few shocking discoveries. Aside from Chase and his team of Ninjas, the treasure itself is under the protection of the mystical Ikar and his zombie army. Will Faze be able to help Stewart get the treasure?
William Lee is quite a figure in the world of independent cinema. Making short films in the form of Super 8, he made his most ambitious project in 1987 with this very film. Inspired by Bruce Lee, Lee trained in martial arts and while studying at Ohio State University, he decided to make the film. While it by no means the film comes close compared to today’s martial arts films, the fact that this is a rarity could lead to a sense of nostalgia.
Lee gives himself a wonderful character name in “Magneta Faze”, a government agent who also serves as the narrator of the film. Lee also served as the film’s martial arts choreographer and in the vein of classic Bruce Lee films, gets to showcase his skills while yelping like Lee. Not only does Lee get to throw down, but he allows other certain co-stars to get in on some action as well. This is one of those movies where even certain supporting character show off martial arts moves. They include the two lead villains of the film, Karl Ogden’s Steven Chase and his henchmen.
Treasure of the Ninja shows the passion of William Lee despite the obvious quality and dubbed dialogue. However, it still is a fun film to enjoy for those looking for nostalgia.
WFG RATING: B-
AFGA and Bleeding Skull! Presents a Travelazz William Lee Productions film. Director: William Lee. Producer: William Lee. Writer: William Lee. Cinematography: William Lee. Editing: Bill Stratton.
Cast: William Lee, Kai Johnson, Constance Lester, Mark Ogden, Sue Davidson, Paris Combs, James Wiley, Gary Burton, Michelle Hazlett, Kim Sipe, Sharon Turner, David Brink, Fred Karimian.