American Ninja: The Ultimate Collection 1-4 review

Grab your balaclava and pyjamas and kick back with this legendary fight franchise

The quintessential Cannon Films action franchise, the American Ninja films continue to hold a special place in the hearts of those who grew up in the '80s.

The 1985 original finds a US Army base in the Philippines having trouble with ninjas who keep hijacking truckloads of weapons. Thankfully, a recent arrival at the base, Private Joe Armstrong (Michael Dudikoff), just happens to be… a ninja! And American!

1987's American Ninja 2: The Confrontation keeps the fun going as Joe and soldier/martial arts expert Curtis Jackson (Steve James) are sent to the Caribbean where kidnapped US Marines are being brainwashed into joining an army of super ninjas.

Sadly, things go right off the rails with 1989's American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt, a real low-budget affair that introduces a brand new title character played be David Bradley. Sadly, while Bradley may be a better martial artist than Michael Dudikoff, he has all the charisma of a lump of wood. Add to that the pedestrian direction and you can hardly blame returning co-star Curtis James for uttering 'Ninjas? Not again.' at one point.

While James is absent from 1990's American Ninja 4: The Annihilation, it does at least bring Dudikoff back into the fold alongside Bradley, giving fans two American Ninjas for the price of one. But that's about all this cheapo sequel has going for it.

Picture: This four-disc Blu-ray boxset's quartet of 1.85:1-framed AVC encodes should put a smile on the faces of American Ninja fans, even if they don't really wow from a technical perspective. Sourced from MGM, the four HD masters are in pretty good shape, with little in the way of dirt or damage. Colours look authentic, detailing is above average and native grain is present throughout (even if it lacks refinement and look rather clumpy).
Picture rating: 3.5/5

Audio: They may be chock-full of action, but these four films are very much products of their time where the audio mixes are concerned. The first film is content to offer up an LPCM presentation of the original mono soundtrack, while the three sequels do the same with their stereo mixes.
Audio rating: 3.5/5

Extras: The American Ninja Blu-ray platter comes out fighting with a commentary from director Sam Firstenberg and stunt coordinator Steve Lambert, an exclusive 84-minute documentary about the series and the original 'American Warrior' UK trailer. The sole extra accompanying the sequels is a chat-track for American Ninja 2… by Firstenberg and stunt honcho B.J. Davis.
Extras rating: 2.5/5

We say: More hi-def ninja action than you could hope for at a bargain price

American Ninja: The Ultimate Collection 1-4, 88 Films, Region A/B BD, £25 Approx