The Forgotten ’80s Superhero Action Movie That Was Saved From A Dumpster

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

What if the best superhero movie ever made was one that you’ve never even heard of? New York Ninja was an ambitious movie that was shot in (you guessed it) New York and never finished way back in 1984, and it might have remained almost entirely unknown if it hadn’t been meticulously reconstructed and released by the legendary film preservation company Vinegar Syndrome.

If you’d like a taste of just how deliciously bonkers this film is, we recommend you watch this review and discussion by RedLetterMedia, a group rightfully known as the best film YouTubers in the business.

John Liu Is NYC’s Ninja Vigilante

What is New York Ninja about, exactly? While the story behind restoring this film is arguably more interesting than the story onscreen, the film follows the story of John Liu, a sound technician who becomes a ninja vigilante hellbent on revenge when his wife is murdered by thugs. In the finest tradition of cheesy movies, New York Ninja is written by, directed by, and stars John Liu (yes, his character is named after himself).

To appreciate what Vinegar Syndrome did for New York Ninja, you need to first understand how incomplete the movie really was. The vast majority of vintage film releases involve simply cleaning up and remastering a finished film, but that wasn’t the case here. When Vinegar Syndrome acquired New York Ninja, they ended up with over six hours of footage and no real scripts, storyboards, or even acting credits for the film.

New York Ninja Saved In 2021

The man responsible for bringing New York Ninja back to life is Kurtis M. Spieler, a veteran director and editor who had the task of editing all the raw footage into something watchable. This was especially difficult because the closest thing to a story was found in a very basic shooting script that once belonged to Carl Morano, the movie’s special effects editor.

AThe lack of information about the intended story meant that Spieler had to make plenty of educated guesses, and he had to resist the urge to film new scenes that might give the movie a bit more closure (he believes New York Ninja never properly finished filming).

Actors Voiced New Dub Overs

Spieler is one of the best talents in the business, but how does one go about creating a compelling story out of a bunch of decades-old raw footage? The primary secret ingredient was hiring actors to record new lines that he could then dub over the original footage. Those lines come from some very recognizable names in genre film, including Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Michael Berryman, and Linnea Quigley. 

A Surprise Hit

On top of that, Spieler went the extra mile and hired Detroit-based band Voyag3r to create a brand-new score for the film. Between clever editing, killer casting, and great music, the film proved to be an unexpected hit. New York Ninja currently has a 96 percent critical score on Rotten Tomatoes, and that proves this abandoned ‘80s gem is much better than many modern superhero blockbusters (including The Marvels, which currently has a 62 percent critical score).

Where To Watch New York Ninja

If all of this already has you so hyped that you’re singing the classic Vanilla Ice jam “Ninja Rap,” then we recommend you use your ninja-like reflexes to order the Blu-Ray today from Vinegar Syndrome. As of this writing, the movie is on sale, meaning that it’s easy to add it to your own growing collection of cheesy B movies or even give out copies to your friends and family as holiday gifts. Once you see this movie, we’re confident you’ll be impressed by the over-the-top tale of John Liu getting back into the New York Groove.