• Robot Ninja: Ultimate Edition (Tempe Digital) Blu-ray Review + Screenshots



    Studio: Tempe Digital

    Release Date: December 4th, 1989 (video premiere) / April 2nd, 2019 (blu-ray)

    Run Time: 79 mins (blu-ray) / 80 mins (dvd)

    Region Code: FREE

    Picture: 1080p (1.33:1 aspect ratio) (blu-ray) / 480i (1.33:1 aspect ratio) (dvd)

    Sound: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, German Dolby Digital 5.1, Italian Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (blu-ray) / English Dolby Digital 2.0 (dvd)

    Subtitles: English and Spanish (blu-ray and dvd)

    Slipcover: Yes

    Digital Copy: No

    Starring: Michael Todd, Bogdan Pecic, Maria Markovic, Floyd Ewing Jr., Bill Morrison, and James L. Edwards

    Written by J.R. Bookwalter

    Directed by J.R. Bookwalter

    Rating: Not Rated (graphic, bloody violence, and language)


    THE FILM

    Leonard Miller is a frustrated artist. His publisher and his agent are out to capitalize on the blooming success of "Robot Ninja," the greatest costumed superhero since Batman! One night, Miller witnesses the brutal rape/murder of a young couple at the hands of ruthless thugs. He cries out for revenge! With the help of an inventor friend, Dr. Goodknight, Miller becomes the Robot Ninja, stalking the dark streets of Ridgway, intent on spilling some blood! The only thing stopping him is a remorseful Goodknight and a frustrated local cop that's always just one step behind him. ROBOT NINJA slashes, stabs, guts, pokes and jabs his way through body after body until his final confrontation with head baddie Sanchez. You'll never see comic books the same way again!

    Robot Ninja is not the film I thought it was going to be. I thought the film was going to be a lighter film than the director's (J.R. Bookwalter) previous film, The Dead Next Door, was. This was not the case. The film is very dark and very violent. The hero kills a lot of people in the film and each death is gorier than the last. The hero is also not very good at the crime-fighting as he thought he would be with him on the receiving end on some gnarly beatdowns. This gives the film a more realistic feel, a feeling I was not expecting.

    Director Bookwalter had disowned the film for the better part of two decades. He never really liked the way the film turned and felt that the video release, for which the film was made for, was an absolute trainwreck. (More on that in "THE PICTURE" portion of the review.) I guess I can kind of see where he was coming from. The film does grow a bit long in the tooth, something a bit more editing would have cured, but the film is actually pretty good. The film has a comic book look to it with Bookwalter and his DP lighting the film in various colors that are strong throughout. The blood, which there is A LOT of, is always that crimson color fans have come to love. The acting is decent but when you shoot a film for that low of a budget ($20,000 is what most say the budget was) you aren't going to be able to find the best actors. You get what you can and hope for the best.

    I can't really say that I had fun watching Robot Ninja given its dark tone and bleak ending, but I can say that the film is good. This is not a light statement either. I am not saying it is good because of how bad it but because it is actually a good film. In recent weeks, the film has drawn comparisons to Kick-Ass, another dark descent into the world of “real” superheroes. I honestly think that Robot Ninja is a better film. Yeah, I said it.


    THE PICTURE AND THE SOUND

    Since its release on VHS, Robot Ninja has looked really terrible. The biggest issue was the black levels. Blacks were crushed so badly that it looked like the Robot Ninja was standing in front of a black backdrop. Many who saw the film thought this when they first watched the film. Director J.R. Bookwalter hated the film for a long time because the film never looked the way he made it look. This brand new 2K restoration is nothing short of amazing. The film looks exactly the way that Bookwalter always wanted the film to look. Blacks are not crushed anymore, revealing actual backgrounds and locations. Colors are more vivid and blood looks like blood once again. Bookwalter did apply some DNR to the picture, but he did so with care, something that the studios should do when they are restoring older films. This is a wonderful restoration and one that might end up on my year-end list.

    The sound has been redone because Bookwalter has always felt that it was weak. He redid the entire effects tracks and they sound really good. While I don’t have any problem with this revisionist stuff, I do wish the original mix was on the blu-ray. The original mix is available on the included dvd. So you can watch it there, but I do wish we had the option on the blu-ray.

    We also have subtitles in English and Spanish for those who need them.

    THE PACKAGING

    Robot Ninja is available through Tempe Digital themselves.



    The slipcover features brand new artwork from Alex Sarabia and it looks really nice.


    The blu-ray case artwork is reversible.
    Inside the case, you will find an 8-page booklet featuring liner notes from director J.R. Bookwalter and soundtrack listing. (more on that in the “Features” section below).


    The blu-ray disc features some art from the comic book cover of this release while the DVD features the VHS artwork. Both discs are REGION FREE.

    THE FEATURES


    Disc 1: The Blu-ray


    Rebuilding the Robot (21m 1s, HD) Director J.R. Bookwalter sits down to talk about the extensive restoration that he did to make Robot Ninja the film that he originally made. He talks about how this restoration would have been done sooner, but no one knew where the original negative was. When it was located, he sent it off to be scanned in at a 2K resolution. He talks about how he had the titles redone because the original titles were done at a standard definition resolution. Bookwalter goes through much of the restoration he did and even explains what “A-B Roll” means. This is a wonderful featurette that could have been longer and I still would have found it fascinating.


    Thank You Miss Barbeau (4m 43s, HD) This is brand new, short but sweet interview with Linnea Quigley. She talks about how she got the role, working with Burt Ward, and what she first thought of Bookwalter.


    Contemplating Coleslaw (5m 42s, HD) Here is an interview with Scott Spiegel, who has a small role in the film. The main thing to take away from this interview is how much Spiegel loves low budget films. He spends the majority of this interview talking about them.


    Dr. Goodknight’s Neighborhood (4m 44s, HD) J.R. Bookwalter’s young son, Benjamin, takes us on a tour of the house where Dr. Goodknight’s scenes were shot. The feature is down tongue in cheek.


    The Robot Ninja (9m 30s, HD) This is a fan film from director Johnny Dickie which also features an introduction from Dickie.

    Artwork and Promotional Gallery (4m 44s, HD)

    Behind the Scenes Gallery (6m 8s, HD)

    Production Stills Gallery (4m 3s, HD)

    Trailers:

    Robot Ninja (1m 25s, HD, 1.33:1)
    The Dead Next Door (1m 47s, HD, 1.33:1)
    Platoon of the Dead (1m 15s, HD)
    Poison Sweethearts (1m 31s, HD)

    Director’s Commentary with director J.R. Bookwalter moderated by Matthew Dilts-Williams of Phantom Pain Films

    Producers Commentary with executive producer David DeCoteau and producer J.R. Bookwalter

    Production Commentary with writer/director J.R. Bookwalter, star James L. Edwards, associate producer Scott P. Plummer, co-creator David Lange, and special make-up consultant David P. Barton


    Disc 2: The DVD


    Robot Ninja: Unmasked (47m 51s, SD) This is a new making of that consists of older interviews with cast and crew along with newer interviews with some filmmaker fans. This is a wonderful making of that I can’t recommend more highly.


    Behind the Scenes Footage with J.R. Bookwalter commentary (30m, SD, 1.33:1) This is exactly what it sounds like. Bookwalter tells some great stories about the making of the film with one of the standouts being the squib story.


    Rough Cut Outtakes (10m 45s, SD, 1.33:1) No scenes were deleted from the film, but the workprint does hold shots that were taken out of the film.


    The Adventures of Robot Ninja TV Show (1m 55s, SD, 1.33:1) These are outtakes from the footage shot for the TV show at the beginning.


    Newscast Outtakes (12m 9s, SD, 1.33:1) Footage shot for the newscasts that appear in the film.


    Location Preshoots (7m 24s, SD, 1.33:1) Footage shot by Bookwalter of him going through the main house in the film telling us what all the scenes are supposed to be like.

    Original 1989 Release Trailer (3m 35s, SD)

    Trailers:

    Kingdom of the Vampires (1m 2s, SD, 1.33:1)
    Ozone (1m 26s, SD, 1.33:1)
    The Sandman (1m 18s, SD, 1.33:1)
    Polymorph (1m 29s, SD, 1.33:1)

    2018 Commentary with Doug Tilley and Moe Porne of The No-Budget Nightmares podcast.

    DVD-ROM Features:

    If you insert this DVD into the DVD player in your computer you will be able to access the following features:

    Original Complete Score by J.R. Bookwalter (track listing found in the 8-page booklet) (MP3)

    Original Treatment and 3 Screenplays Drafts by J.R. Bookwalter (PDF)


    OVERALL:

    Robot Ninja is a really good film. It is dark and sinister way before it became the thing to do in comic book films, all the while giving fans the gore that we have come to expect from Tempe Entertainment. The blu-ray is one of the best I have come across in 2019. The film is there, but the special features are jaw-dropping in their entertainment and informational value. If you haven’t seen the film, it is time that you do. For fans, this is a no-brainer.

    MORE SCREENSHOTS:






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