You’ve seen it before — not!
Dude, I didn’t dig direct-to-video ’80s flicks back when it was the ’80s. I remember renting (yeah, we used to rent movies) a VHS of Fred Olen Ray’s action flick “Cyclone” (1987) for one reason: Huntz Hall was in it. (For about three minutes. But ol’ Huntz did his trademark cheek roll.) There was, however, a bonus: Heather Thomas running around the sleazy clubs and back alleys of L.A. in form-fitting jeans and heeled boots. (This was in the days when “peroxide” was a verb.) But the movie itself? Sheesh.
Well, I must be more nostalgic for ’80s fare than I thought. From actor Bill Timoney comes word of the pending release of something called “New York Ninja,” which was filmed in 1984 but never finished (cue turntable scratch) … until now.
Timoney notes that “New York Ninja” was filmed “in the pre-Giuliani Manhattan. The film’s producers ran out of money just as principle photography wrapped, and the footage sat in a bank vault for decades.”
According to Timoney, Connecticut-based Vinegar Syndrome “learned about the existence of the footage and paid off its debt. When they viewed the footage, they discovered that ‘New York Ninja’ was filmed (with no) dialogue track. The film’s screenplay could not be found. So VS hired lip-readers to reconstruct the script; a composer to construct a suitably ’80s low-budget-sounding action genre score; and voice actors to provide the vocal performances of the on-screen actors in the style of genre and the period.”
A roster of genre favorites have lent their tonsils to the cause, including Linnea Quigley (“Creepozoids”), Michael Berryman (“The Hills Have Eyes”), Cynthia Rothrock (“Angel of Fury”) and Ginger Lynn (“Vice Academy”). Sounds like a Chiller Theatre reunion. Kick-boxing champ-turned-movie star Don “The Dragon” Wilson (“Bloodfist”) voices the title avenger.
“My services were engaged to provide voice actors for the supporting and featured roles (‘Subway Mugger #4,’ etc.),” notes Timoney, who has also specialized in voiceover for animation as both talent and producer. He and his wife, actress Georgette Reilly Timoney, voiced several of the roles. “’Twas a most cool gig,” he added.
“New York Ninja” has an IMDb page listing the year of release as 2021. Taiwanese actor-director John Liu — who made a raft of martial arts movies through the 1970s and ’80s — stars as the ninja-star-flinging hero, and directed the original footage, working with New York-based producer Arthur Schweitzer (“Biohazard”).
The soundtrack music was supplied by Voyag3r, a Detroit-based trio. According to the group’s website, they were “inspired by the soundtracks to vintage horror, action and sci-fi films,” and they create “experimental rock that owes a debt to pioneers like John Carpenter and shares a kinship with bands such as Trans Am, Teeth of the Sea, and Zombi.” The music heard on the trailer makes it clear that Voyag3r is a perfect fit for the project.
Judging from the trailer, this unlikely reconstruction of a forgotten, never-completed film is a success. “New York Ninja” is something you’ve seen before … but it’s also something you’ve never seen before.
I guess that there’s what they call a warp in the time-space continuum.
‘NEW YORK NINJA’ TRAILER
Above is Heather Thomas and Huntz Hall in “Cyclone.” In 1987, I had to drive to a “video club” and fork over cash money to see the former Dead End Kid in the movie, but all you have to do is click below. The whole thing’s on YouTube! Robert Quarry (“Count Yorga Vampire”) and Martine Beswick (“Dr. Jeckyll and Sister Hyde”) play L.A. detectives! Martin Landau collects a quick paycheck! He must’ve needed money for a new roof!