GHOST WARRIOR is sort of a sci-fi action drama that was made in 1984, but shelved and thawed two years later. It’s about a samurai named Yoshimitsu (Hiroshi Fujioka, Kamen Rider, IN THE LINE OF DUTY III) who’s just minding his own business – okay, I guess he’s fighting some dudes and
forced to jump falls off a cliff – when suddenly he wakes up 400 years later in a lab. Somebody found him frozen in a cave and he ended up at the California Institute of Cryosurgical Research.
By the time the man in charge, Dr. Alan Richards (John Calvin, Tales of the Gold Monkey, CRITTERS 3), recruits “Oriental history” expert/narrator of the film Chris Welles (Janet Julian, HUMONGOUS, FEAR CITY, KING OF NEW YORK) to consult, she’s already read rumors about “The Frozen Shogun” in the newspaper, but just thinks it’s an archaeological discovery. It’s immediately clear that Dr. Richards is an asshole because when she walks into the lobby to report to the job he’s standing right next to her and doesn’t bother to welcome her, introduce himself or even look at her. Then he pulls a John Hammond and brings her for a tour without warning her there’s gonna be a live samurai involved.
Chris is a white lady, and she narrates that “my weak point was that I could speak little Japanese,” but she’s the most qualified person there to communicate with and try to understand this unfrozen warrior. In fact, she’s the only one who tries to! She has them bring him his clothes and his sword and tries to make sure he doesn’t feel threatened, but he’s like “fuck this” and busts out of the lab. As it says on the back of
Warner Archive’s MGM’s DVD box, “Unfortunately, he is then forced to battle for his freedom, dignity and life.”
These guys are total dipshits. Some lab guy tries to sneak in to steal his sword! You know what else could be valuable? Being alive and still working at the lab that unfroze a guy from 400 years ago and didn’t let him get loose and commit a massacre! You should’ve looked into that.
The fish-out-of-water adventures he gets into in the city are pretty standard, but fun. He sees one of those gangs of street toughs menacing an elderly war vet named Willie Walsh (Charles Lampkin, Roots: The Next Generation, COCOON), and intervenes to chop a few of them up.
Willie is impressed. I like this relationship, the nice old man covering for the weirdo who just killed some guys for him. He brings Yoshimitsu to a sushi restaurant, but his friend the chef can’t entirely translate his dialect.
Suddenly, the muggers who survived the slicing and dicing start throwing rocks through the windows of the restaurant. Yoshimitsu goes out and follows them into a parking garage, not caring that it’s an obvious trap.
There’s a cool part where he’s in the back of an ambulance and chops his way out. He ends up in a rural area and is able to steal someone’s horse. By nightfall things have escalated into a huge manhunt, cop cars everywhere, helicopters flying over with searchlights. I enjoyed this exchange between some cops:
“We think they went that way. You guys be careful, they’re armed.”
“They’re armed with what?”
I respect Chris for going along while the entire police force is after her samurai friend. Ballsy move, throwing in with the guy from another century. She’s gonna have a hard time explaining herself afterwards, but she’s doing the right thing. I found a newspaper review from when it came out saying that Julian’s acting was bad, but I liked her. She has a warm screen presence and convincing compassion in this far-fetched scenario. Overall, though, it has the feel of an old TV movie, with a similar level of entertainment value.
If this was a movie that came out now, the thin-skinned goofballs afraid of the political correctness boogeyman would say it was trying to push an agenda. The only good guys are an ancient samurai, a woman, a black WWII veteran, and their Japanese friends. The bad guys are a white male scientist and an all white gang, and sometimes the white police (though they don’t go beyond just doing their job and are unbelievably careful with him – I kept thinking of real cases in Seattle where police shot mentally ill guys with knives and said they had sword).
This was executive produced by Albert Band and produced by Charles Band in the same year as THE DUNGEONMASTER, TRANCERS and the first GHOULIES. In other words the year that Charles Band became Charles Band, the guy who makes the Charles Band movies.
Screenwriter Tim Curnen had done FORBIDDEN WORLD. But this is the only movie directed by J. Larry Carroll, who got his start in the business by – holy shit! – editing THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE! He also had some part in editing MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH, DRACULA’S DOG, THE HILLS HAVE EYES and ROAR, and he wrote and produced TOURIST TRAP! But believe it or not most of his work ended up being in producing the TV shows Diagnosis: Murder and Martial Law and writing for cartoons including He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Silverhawks, The Original Ghostbusters, Dennis the Menace, She-Ra: Princess of Power, BraveStarr, C.O.P.S., Thundercats, The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, G.I.Joe, Captain Planet and the Planeteers, and on and on. So there’s your direct connection between Leatherface and Orko.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.