RoosterVision: NEW YORK NINJA (2021, Vinegar Syndrome)

An ongoing series of articles spotlighting movies, music, art, comics, and other assorted media.

…an ongoing series of articles spotlighting movies, music, art, comics, and other assorted media that we at Rooster Republic Press find ourselves enjoying. Once a week, on Thursdays, we will showcase new and old works and, hopefully, help spread the word on great stuff you might otherwise miss out on.

RoosterVision was previously the name of our non-fiction imprint, and since those titles and that line of books are no longer, we have decided to resurrect RoosterVision for the purpose of this showcase. Enjoy!

It’s our first “RoosterVision” article of 2022, and we want to bring Vinegar Syndrome’s NEW YORK NINJA to your immediate attention.

First, if names like SAMURAI COP or MIAMI CONNECTION mean anything to you, then do yourself a favor and pick up this release. NEW YORK NINJA would double-feature nicely with either of those films. Hell, get nuts, commit to a triple-feature marathon.

Second, even if you aren’t familiar with those other movies, you need to know that NEW YORK NINJA is nothing short of a small, cinematic miracle. By all accounts, this movie shouldn’t even exist. But, Vinegar Syndrome did what it does best, and wrenched this obscure film from the distribution dustbin and gave it new life.

Production on NEW YORK NINJA finished nearly 40 years ago. After shooting, the film lost its funding, so it was never finished, and then all of the footage was canned and shelved, forgotten for decades by all except those who worked on the production (and probably by some of those folks, too). However, the footage that existed was saved, and once viewed, it was obvious to the folks at Vinegar Syndrome that they had something special on their hands.

The film was restored from the original 35mm and the existing footage was edited down (without benefit of a screenplay) to a feature-length film… nearly 40 years after it was shot (without permits) in the streets, alleys, and warehouses of early-1980s New York City. And, to top it all off, all of the sound had to be created from scratch, as no sound recording from the original shoot existed! All the dialogue, every passing car, every ninja star slammed into flesh, the clang of swords… all of it created just for this release. And every bit of it treated as serious as a heart attack, right down the era-appropriate synth score (courtesy of the band Voyag3r).

Nothing here is played for laughs. The film was treated with respect to the original cast and crew. In fact, if you didn’t know the history of NEW YORK NINJA, you’d probably think you stumbled upon some lost gem of 1980s martial-arts mayhem. And, really, you absolutely have. It just took a long time to get here.

As usual, Vinegar Syndrome delivers a spectacular home video release. Loads of gorgeous art (by Tom Hodge of The Dude Designs and R.P. “Kung Fu Bob” O’Brien) adorn the deluxe case, as well as the slip cover (by Richard Hilliard). There is a 40-page booklet included, containing an essay by Kurtis Spieler, who was responsible for saving NEW YORK NINJA from its fate.

An impressive feat of production skill, and an incredibly entertaining film, Rooster Republic gives NEW YORK NINJA our highest recommendation.

You can get NEW YORK NINJA direct from Vinegar Syndrome HERE.

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