Unboxing the latest lost release by the genre distro
After my review of the film, the folks at Vinegar Syndrome were kind enough to send over a physical copy of New York Ninja for an unboxing and to allow me to dig into some of the extras. The ambitiousness of this project is somehow matched by the presentation here in one of there more elaborate packages to date. Housed in one of their trademark hard boxes adorned with artwork by Tom Hodge of The Dude Designs and R.P. “Kung Fu Bob” O’Brien the vibe of this film is perfectly conveyed before you even pop the disc in. Inside the box you’re treated to some more artwork, a 40 page book and a 2 disc Blu-ray set with reversible artwork. When I first watched the film I was left with so many questions, but most of those are thankfully answered here for those who choose to dig in.
Along with the film, which is presented here on Blu-ray from a 4k scan is a commentary track with re-writer/re-director/editor Kurtis M. Spieler. The young director had a few features under his belt before this undertaking and he adds some much needed context to how this project came to be and some info about the absent original director John Liu. These points are further elaborated on by the cast and crew in the included Doc Re-Enter The New York Ninja, which attempts to dig into the history of the project not only from the Vinegar Syndrome side, but from those who worked on the film originally. It’s not the story you’d expect; John Chiu opted to have no involvement with the film when it was rediscovered via its raw film elements that were purchased on a pallet by the distributor.
While the story of how this film came to be from the book, to the doc, to the commentary are very consistent, it’s the little details you pick up in each incarnation of the story that shines some light on another aspect of the production. You can tell this was obviously a labor of love for Kurtis and Vinegar as you begin to realize just how much work went into this endeavor. Also included is a handful of deleted scenes that show how bizarre and surprisingly dark the film truly went in some respects. Paired with those extras is a fascinating trip around New York with Fangoria’s Michael Gingold who shows the locations then and now. Given this was shot in the early 80s things have definitely changed quite a bit. One thing I forgot was how ubiquitous payphones were until watching this, since they play a rather large part in the story.
Vinegar Syndrome yet again shows why they have become a favorite of collectors and genre film enthusiasts by delivering a comprehensive package, for a film that was lost to time. Its that perception is reality that lends the film a certain amount of gravity before you’ve even put the disc in thanks to this rather exuberant presentation. Thankfully the film manages to live up to this promise and delivers the goods, while also answering the questions you will no doubt be left with after the credits roll. If you can’t make it to a screening, I can’t think of a better way to experience this forgotten action cult classic.
Check out the full rundown of extras and some images of the package below:
• Region Free 2-disc Blu-ray Set
• Scanned & restored in 4K from its 35mm original camera negative
• Digitally mastered 2.0 stereo mix with an optional analog mono mix
• Commentary track with re-writer/re-director/editor Kurtis M. Spieler
• “Re-Enter The New York Ninja” — an extended making-of documentary with the cast and crew
• “Re-Directing New York Ninja” — an interview with Kurtis M. Spieler
• “The Music of New York Ninja” — interviews with the members of Voyag3r
• “Locations Unmasked” — revisiting the locations of New York Ninja with Michael Gingold
• Deleted scenes with commentary
• B-roll and outtake montage
• Original sizzle reel VHS
• Theatrical trailer
• Still gallery
• Case artwork by Tom Hodge of The Dude Designs
• Blu-ray sleeve artwork by R.P. “Kung Fu Bob” O’Brien
- English SDH subtitles