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Episode guide: 322- Master Ninja I

Plot: (1984 TV episodes; 1991 combined movie) An occidental ninja, searching for his long-lost daughter, joins forces with a mush-mouthed drifter to help save an airport, and then a nightclub, from thugs, while evading the ninjas who have been sent to kill him.

First shown: 1/11/92
Opening: The bots build a model muscle car, and it’s a bad influence on Gypsy
Invention exchange: The Mads demonstrate their boil-in-a-bag IVs, while J&tB show off their pop-up books for adults
Host segment 1: Crow presents “The Van Patten Project”
Host segment 2: J&tB brawl to Master Ninja’s many theme songs
Host segment 3: J&tB explore other kinds of nunchuks
End: Song: J&tB sing the “Master Ninja Theme Song” while Joel reads a letter; Frank gets even with Dr. F
Stinger: “To them it’s some kind of ritual”
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (159 votes, average: 4.58 out of 5)


• I’m going to fall back on the “good-not-great” assessment for this one. The movie is reasonably watchable while being very riffable (did nobody have the nerve to tell Timothy to slow down and enunciate?). Most of the segments are fun (though the nunchucks one goes nowhere), and the stupidity of the movie brings out some solid, if not dazzlingly brilliant, riffing.
• This episode was included in Shout’s “Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection: Vol XX.”
• The exact year of this “movie” is unclear. Trans World Entertainment came out with VHS tapes in 1985 that featured these two episodes and it’s called “Master Ninja I,” but I don’t know if they’d been stitched together to form a movie, or whether Film Ventures International did that when they came out with their version in 1991. In the end I decided to go with the copyright date on the screen.
• These two episodes aired on NBC on Jan. 20 and Jan. 27, 1984. The series was called “The Master.” The individual episodes were titled “Max” and “Out-of-Time-Step,” respectively.
• In the invention exchange, the script does not call for them to open the “Naked Lunch” book–so the prop guys didn’t bother making something that opens. Unfortunately, that makes it not look very much like a book.
• Callback: “He learned too late that man is a feeling creature…” (It Conquered the World) “I’m a ninja warrior!” (paraphrase of a line from “Viking Women.”
• Crow’s crack about “check your career!” came before Timothy became a very successful and award-winning director.
• In the first barroom scene, after being harassed by the sheriff, Lee proceeds to trash the place. Why? What did the owner of the bar do to Lee to deserve all that damage? Does the sheriff own the bar? If so, it’s not established.
• I like the way Crow ZOOMS out of the theater as he heads into the segment 1, hurrying to prepare his presentation.
• One small problem with segment 1: Timothy is not Dick’s son. He’s Dick’s half brother.
• In the theater segment after segment 1, Crow’s net falls off. They keep going.
• They mispronounce Clu Gulagher’s last name twice.
• We get another reference to “Bonnie, your Time/Life operator.” This commercial must have permeated somebody’s consciousness.
• Once again there’s a bit that makes a reference to a portion of the movie we haven’t seen yet. At the end of segment 2 we see Frank, with top hat and cane, saying “It’s show ti-…” We have no idea what he means until we return to the movie and get the second plot about the aging hoofer.
• The second episode—er, I mean, portion—of the movie presents yet another modern night club with an enormous dance floor on which dancers perform but do NOT take off their clothes (see “Flashdance” as the prime example). I contend such places DO NOT EXIST. Most night clubs, if they have live shows, have a TINY stage so they can jam as many tables in as possible. And NOBODY dances in a night club and keeps their clothes on.
• Segment 3 features yet another plea for people to write in, (remember “ways to off Gaos”?) and once again we never hear anything more about it. Did nobody write in?
• Cast and crew roundup: These people all also worked on “Master Ninja II”: executive producer Michael R. Sloan, episode director Ray Austin, special effects guy Phil Cory, stunt coordinator/ninja choreographer/co-star Sho Kosugi, stunt coordinator Gary Charles Davis and theme song composer Bill Conti. Sound guy Glen Glenn (creative parents, Glen!) not only worked on Master Ninja II, but also “The Corpse Vanishes” and “Hangar 18.” And our old pal Karl Michael Demer is back with more “music.” In front of the camera, of course Lee and Timothy and Sho Kosugi will be back. In addition we’ll meet Clu Gulager (who they call “Gallagher” all through this) in “San Francisco International.” And Bill McKinney (who did a nice interview on the Shout! Factory DVD) will be back in “Final Justice.”
• CreditsWatch: Frank’s name appears along with Mike in the “additional music” credit. There’s also an additional contributing writer: Mike Gandolfi. Trace and Frank are still “villians” and Dr. F’s last name is still “Forrestor.”
• Fave riff: “Hey mister, your ninja’s dragging!” Honorable mention: “I just passed wind in my suit. I ask you, as a point of honor, give me a second.”

121 Replies to “Episode guide: 322- Master Ninja I”

  1. Bombastic Biscuit Boy says:

    This episode is a happy combination of wretched (but watchable) “movie”, great riffing, and wonderful host segments.
    A slight plot point: So does anyone know if Max actually killed Clu Gallagher in the first epi…I mean, first half of the movie? How would you off someone with a shruiken, anyways? He was evil and all, but isn’t that a little drastic?

    Crow: Hey, this movie is now Cluless…

    Joel: [During the flashback] Oh boy is this ever Japan, you guys…

    and of course:
    Wru rimp-risted American rooser!


  2. During the letter reading; everytime Joel stops to sing “Master Ninja theme song”, I lose it. Also, am I the only one that thinks the old hoffer looks like long time comic writer and editor Denny O’Neil?


  3. slappy magoo says:

    Hey, let’s give some credit where credit is due. Timothy Van Patten went on to do some commendable work behind-the-scenes, especially on HBO, where he’s directed eps of The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, The Wire, Game of Thrones and The Pacific, a miniseries where he won an Emmy for Best Miniseries along with approximately 793 other producers. I believe this makes Van Patten the only Emmy Winner to start his career playing a character named after a piece of lunch meat.


  4. Alex says:


    This is an excellent episode, along with its sequel, Master Ninja II. I love the Master Ninja theme song. But of course, who doesn’t? XD

    Definetly thumbs up for this one. Too bad Rhino couldn’t get this one on VHS, though.


  5. EricJ says:

    @7, 55 – The only things that don’t work as well as they used to are the riffing assaults/jokes about Tim Van Patten being a loser without a career since Tim went on to become an incredible director of HBO TV dramas

    Yes, even for S3, you can see a bit of Mike and Kevin “Bully the guy whose fault this is” influence creeping into the riffs, which brings down the humor.
    Mr. VP is unquestionably a charmless mushmouth, but I REALLY chafe at the guys’ (Servo, most often) reduced to “bluh-bluh-bluh” mocking of a character’s strange or garbled delivery. It doesn’t add anything to the discussion, and pointlessly drowns out a line that could’ve helped us understand the heck was going on.

    @8 – Before the two characters meet, every time our “hero” drives off in his van, they HAVE to first cut to the hamster running in his lil’ wheel…What, is the engine hamster-powered? If there wasn’t a running riff there, there should’ve been. (“Hey, easy on the accelerator, Tim, my heart’s exploding!”)

    Also, I’m geezer enough to remember when this show first aired: If you’re wondering why we got this series in the first place, there’s a line in one of the other episodes where this week’s latest perky teen victim sees Van Cleef and says “You mean you’re a real ninja, like in ‘Revenge of the Ninja’?”
    Most people don’t remember, but the entire series was cashing in on Sho Kasugi and the surprise 1983 B-cult success of “Revenge of the Ninja” in mainstream theaters:
    Which, in fact, historically STARTED the entire 80’s ninja craze in the US, long before Leonardo and Michelangelo got their hands on it.


  6. JCC says:

    And here I am thinking that the mocking of Van Patten’s garbled delivery is a highlight of the episode. It’s not like if the Bots didn’t mock him we’d be able to understand what he was saying anyway. In one of the episodes I think Van Patten says “long suit” instead of “strong suit”. Maybe I’m just a cruel person who enjoys cruel humor.

    And I could be wrong, but I think the crew thought Timothy was Dick Van Patten’s son, which he’s not, he’s his younger brother.


  7. One of my favorite Joel episodes.


  8. Creeping Terror says:

    @27: I agree. That’s one of the things that bugs me about “Escape 2000.” The developer is the bad guy. The first time I watched the movie, I thought, “Wait… I’m supposed to hate urban renewal?!?!”

    Who keeps an animal in a car? If Max forgets to roll down his windows once on a summer day, then Henry’s cooked!

    Does anyone else think that the tune for the phrase “Master Ninja Theme Song” has the EXACT same melody as “Everybody dance now”?

    And poor Lee Van Cleef. There are people in their late 50’s that are spritely, energetic, and fit for a role like this. Lee wasn’t one of them. He has a gut (as noted by the riffers), and never seems to have a lot of energy in his scenes (even if he’s just sitting and talking). This is some of the worst body doubling I’ve ever seen.

    OK episode. It seems to get better with each viewing, but it will probably never enter my regular rotation.


  9. Joe Raygor says:

    Is it true that 624 was supposed to be “Master Ninja III” before Frank announced his departure?

    I love this episode. Not the greatest, but it’s one of the easier episodes to get through, since the plots are so basic. Great riffs too.


  10. Mac aka: afriendlychicken says:

    @44 Matt: I’ve been watching the show for 21+ years and I’m the same way. In fact for me, the worse the movie is the more I seem to enjoy the episode. And welcome aboard! :-))

    “Look I’m getting on that plane and…uh…where I’m going I can’t be with me.” That’s still one of my favorite lines of the show and I’m not sure why. I think it’s just Trace’s reading of it.

    And my personal favorite season is almost at an end, just after the torture that is Fu Manchu. But what wonderful torcha!


  11. Stressfactor says:

    @ #58

    Uhhh, actually, the original version of the phrase *did* use “Long suit” at some point over the years it changed to “strong suit” — which is the version more commonly seen today. If you read older books or British books you’re likely to see the phrase “long suit”. It came from card games and indicated that one had a long string of cards in the same suit or suite… i.e. clubs, aces, diamonds, etc.

    A “strong suit” meant that you had a string of high cards in the same suite — like having ten, jack, queen, king, ace all in clubs or diamonds, etc.


  12. JBagels says:

    I could be wrong but I think this is the episode where Servo says something like if you have nunchuk ideas write it on a piece of paper and then throw it out, “you’ll be glad you did”. That would be the reason we never heard any actual ideas from people. Incidentally, I use “you’ll be glad you did” in my daily life because of Tom Servo.


  13. 1 adam 12 says:

    Favorite riff: “Whew, smells like urine and cedar chips in here.”
    I’m also old enough to have seen the original series “The Master” on regular broadcast TV, and yes, I liked it. I was nine, so sue me. Love the episode front to back. The scenes outside of the theater are great, with the low point being Host Segment 3, still not bad. Oh, and the phrase, “Go to bed, old man!” is from standup comic Dana Gould, who was friends with some of the cast and crew, and may be from the twin cities area, not sure.


  14. Mr. B(ob) says:

    I’m a Lee Van Cleef fan and enjoy seeing him in just about anything, but he certainly was in many things better than this TV show. However, I’ll have to admit that I watched The Master when it originally aired on TV just because Van Cleef was in it and being fairly young I had a higher tolerance for cheesy TV. That said, I think this is a strong episode, but it’s not on my top 10 or 20 list.

    I do have a few favorite moments. Topping the list, when Sho Kosugi fires the arrow at The Master who then catches it and breaks it, Joel chimes in with (indignantly), “Those things are $4.50 apiece!” Never saw that one coming the first time and it still makes me laugh. It’s the one joke I never forget no matter how long between viewings.

    MST3K ERROR: In the episode (2nd half of the “movie”), Out-of-Time-Step, the villain is played by Soon Tek Oh. He’s the head gangster type, yet Joel and the ‘Bots constantly refer to him as Sho Kosugi. Sho Kosugi played the ninja trying to kill The Master in the first half (episode) and he was the fight choreographer for the series, but he’s not Soon Tek Oh. I’m surprised at the error because Soon Tek Oh was in virtually every TV series imaginable in the 70’s and 80’s and given the penchant of some of the MST3K writers for TV shows of that era someone should have recognized him. He’s a fine actor and it’s good seeing him even if the show is not that great.

    In fact, The Master has a bunch of good people associated with it, Lee Van Cleef, Sho Kosugi, and good guest stars like Soon Tek Oh and Bill McKinnney (who was in Outlaw Josey Wales), so how did it end up so mediocre? As Trace Beaulieu once said, a lot of things can go wrong when you’re making a movie, or in this case a TV show.

    TRIVIA: Sho Kosugi is largely credited with bringing the ninja craze to the USA. His action/martial arts films back in the day ushered in the popularity of ninjas in American pop culture. Check it out! Also note that his sons have both appeared as contestants on the obstacle course game show, Sasuke aka Ninja Warrior here in the US.

    I gave this one 4 stars. It’s funny and well done, but the TV show/movie drags a bit for me in spite of the good cast and good riffs.


  15. Rocky Jones says:

    I also tend to enjoy this one more than MN2. I immediately recognized Shanna Reed from her role on “Major Dad”. Gotta admit…she’s not much of an exotic dancer, no matter how many times they insist on trying to sell us on the idea.

    “You’re a dancer….DANCE!”

    “I can’t…I can’t!” – “We know…we know!”


  16. Troy says:

    The Master Ninja episodes hold a very special place in my heart, since they were my first exposure to MST3K, and what instantly got me hooked on the series.

    Incidentally, I still have VHS copies of Master Ninja 4 and 5 floating around in the back of my closet (my friend Scott grabbed 3), which we obtained when our local “Placer TV & Video” rental chain went out of business. It’s been a long time since we watched them, but I’m pretty sure the versions we purchased had the original TV series intro, though I can’t remember if both episodes were stitched together or shown independently.

    I do remember that these episodes were just as goofy as the first four… er… two installments used for MST3K. Timothy was still unintelligible, Lee VanCleef developed even stupider ninja powers and continued to molest small rodents, and Sho Kosugi randomly popped up to chew scenery and chuck smoke bombs before mincing away in his Queen Latifah outfit.

    In my opinion, it’s a shame they never got around to riffing the third “movie,” though if you’re looking for pure grade-A riffing material, Master Ninja 5 leaves the entire rest of the series in the dust when it comes to cheesiness.

    Those two episodes consisted of a bad rip-off of The Manchurian Candidate (with lots of hot lady ninja action, gratuitous PTSD Korean war flashbacks, and extended sequences of Max talking to the hamster) and an even worse rip-off of Magnum PI and Raiders of the Lost Ark set on the absolute *worst* sound-stage jungle I’ve seen in my entire life, plus some poor kid’s science fair volcano which looks like it was accidentally sat on by a sixth grader. (and despite the fact that it was obviously made out of paper mache, baking soda, and bright red tempera paint, they continually cut back to this crappy footage roughly once every five minutes as part of some bizarre masochistic attempt to convince us that, yes indeed, these characters are on an island.)


  17. Herkaleez says:

    Master Ninja I and II are classic MST episodes! Both are definitely in the “GREAT” category. It’s a shame they couldn’t have done more of these in season three, rather than the boring, black and white, American sci-fi films.


  18. Warren says:

    I wouldn’t put this in my pantheon of all-time best episodes, but it’s not too far behind. It is cheesy but watchable, and the host segments aren’t bad (I especially like the sinister synth music from the Van Patten Project). During McAllister’s final confrontation it seemed like the perfect moment to whistle the main theme from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. It’s a little surprising that they didn’t do it. 4 stars and free food for Henry the hamster/gerbil/whatever.


  19. Kenneth Morgan says:

    I find it interesting that, while they’re pretty merciless riffing on Timothy Van Patten, they go pretty easy on Demi Moore. I think there are only two jokes aimed at her and they’re fairly mild. Minor point, I suppose…

    Plus, you have to wonder when Q Branch started supplying ninjas with gadgets. The thing Van Cleef uses on the steering wheel certainly applies.

    One of the funnier episodes, I’d say.


  20. Sampo says:

    #61 Joe Raygor: Yes, at one point “Master Ninja 3” was announced as an upcoming episode, but it was later withdrawn without explanation. This is the first time I’ve can recall anyone saying it had anything to do with Frank’s departure, though.


  21. Fred Burroughs says:

    I like the stinger to this ep: “To them its some kind of ritual” because on my first viewing, that line jumped out at me as strange. Not just because of the half-hearted mealy-mouthed delivery, but in the scene, Tim VP is trying to be intimidating to scare the sheriff with the mysterious ninja threats. Instead of saying ‘he’s going to enjoy killing you,’ or ‘These ninjas take pride in torture,’ he says the confusing and vague line about some kind of ritual. If I were captured by these ninjas, I wouldn’t be very scared, but I would probably say a lot of “huh?” and “come again?” or maybe “and . . . ?”

    And though there are a lot of Lee van Cleef fans, this was actually a step up from most of his work on B-movies to a major prime-time TV show. Sure, he was an imposing presence (and in great shape) in the 50s and 60s, but most stuff he appeared in was cheese (Good Bad & Ugly excepted).


  22. Sitting Duck says:

    @64: I’m afraid you are wrong. The write it on a piece of paper and then throw it out gag was used in The Day the Earth Froze for the What is a Sampo sketch.

    And speaking of sampos (sort of), Sampo’s Theorum is in effect again. Practically everyone who has spoken of it loves the Master Ninja Theme Song in the final host segment, while I find it annoying (especially how it interrupts the letter reading in mid-sentence).


  23. Mr. B(ob) says:

    In the early 1960’s Lee Van Cleef and Clint Eastwood were both still struggling to get good work and even when they were in something with some quality or budget (Lee Van Cleef in the classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Eastwood in Rawhide) they had bit parts or were “second bananas”. When Leone offered them the chance to be in his “Dollar Trilogy” movies they both saw an opportunity and it turned both of them into huge stars. Van Cleef became more popular than Eastwood in Italy and stayed there, going on to star in many feature films there while Eastwood returned to the USA a huge star with an ascendant career thereafter. When Van Cleef finally returned to the US after his success abroad it seems safe to say it helped him finally get more respect here and landing a leading part in your own TV series is no easy feat, it’s just a shame it wasn’t a more successful project. Sergio Leone is reputed to have said that Van Cleef’s eyes made holes in the movie screen when he looked toward the camera and he certainly made better use of Van Cleef’s look and his talent than probably any other filmmaker.


  24. rcfagnan says:

    I had never seen this one before its release on dvd, but the hooplah surrounding me perhaps built this episode up too much for it to be able to realistically live up to. It’s not bad, just not the be all, end all that I was expecting. I would probably have to admit to liking the second one better (General Van Patten’s speech is funnier than the Van Patten Project imho).


  25. Cherokee Jack says:

    Can’t see Demi Moore without thinking of that picture of her on that chaise lounge (some of you guys will know of which I speak).

    Thanks, Internet, for that indelible image…



  26. Joe Raygor says:

    Just thought of another good riff:

    Crow: “Must be using *selective* gas”

    Just the matter-of-fact way he says it after Van Cleef throws a gas bomb that somehow knocks only the villain out despite everyone being in the room. Really cracks me up.


  27. Torgo's Pizza's on my speed dial says:

    I loved both Master Ninja films; knowing that there are more out there inspire me to find them and do my own MSTs. (Or at the very least beg both the Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic crews to parse them.)

    For my part, I’ve found a particular pleasure in watching the SOL crew take on failed TV shows, particularly ones from the 70s and 80s (San Francisco International and Code Name: Diamond Head were on heavy rotation for me for quite a while); recognizable actors playing the same characters they usually played, either ripping off a big movie or trotting out a carbon copy of last season’s Hot New Show.

    At the same time, you can almost see the people running the shows (some of them actually pretty damn talented) trying to keep the whole enterprise from falling apart – whether it’s an uncooperative guest actor, a writing staff having to change whole plotlines because of terrible network notes or a sudden budget cut that means a major stunt sequence has to be completely reworked – at the very edges of the film frames. It almost makes you feel bad for laughing. Almost.


  28. Matt D. says:

    I feel a little like 77 in that the Master Ninja shows were built up a bit high for what they are, but that being said they were still pretty good. I prefer the first one to the second one, but I also think that the union portion of two is the best “segment” of both of them. I’m full of contradictions here.

    I loved that they put the Master Ninja Theme Song into the background music for the extras on the Shout! DVD.


  29. Jbagels says:

    My fault, I should probably watch these episodes before commenting. I guess nobody had any other nunchuk ideas then.


  30. Cornjob says:

    This episode and it’s companion have very special meaning to me. More than 20 years ago when I was in high school my best friend and I ended up spending about a year training under an older friend who had earned a 1st degree black belt in Ninjitsu. I don’t share this with many people. It’s personal, and part of the training involves a degree of secrecy and modesty. And I am fully aware that, “I was a teenage Ninja” sounds absurd, like the title of a really bad late 80’s failed action/comedy.

    But Ninjitsu is a documented martial art that now has academies that advertise on the internet, like Kung Fu and Karate centers. As with dancing and acrobatics, martial arts are best started young, so there are more teenage ninjas around than you might think. I was one them.

    Historicly,there are four primary Ninja “clans” (see the books of Stephen Hayes, the real first western ninja, for more information if you’re interested). Sho Kosugi is a member of the same clan that my trainer was a member of. Sometimes we would watch Sho’s movies, and he would point out particular moves for us to take note of. So the Master Ninja MST episodes were a special treat for my best friend and I years later.


  31. Cornjob says:

    BTW by the time the 90’s were rolling around, pop culture was so saturated with ninjas that even I was getting tired of them, and I was one.


  32. pablum says:

    This is one of the best episodes of MST3K. A hilarious 80s action series and some great riffing and host segments. And its so good they come back for more with Master Ninja II.


  33. JPB says:

    Master Ninja will always have a special place in my MST-loving heart. My brother was watching the show back then but I hadn’t really given it a chance. I finally sat down and watched the VHS tape my brother had taped this on and I was hooked and have been for almost 20 years. The one-two punch of MN I and II made me a fan for life. “Oh, size 8 petite…”


  34. monoceros4 says:

    “I don’t share this with many people.”

    And well you shouldn’t. Some white boy claims he’s gotten ninja training–hoo boy, nothing to make fun of there!


  35. Pete says:

    @58: I always thought Timothy was Dick Van Patten’s son also. Imdb says he’s a half-brother. But he is 31 years younger than Dick, and younger than Dick’s sons – Nels, James, and Vincent.

    I remember his from “The White Shadow”, “Class of 1984”, and of course “The Master”. It’s good to see he’s still working as a directory.


  36. EricJ says:

    And just ftr:
    “Ah, the ‘serenity’ of post-war Japan…”

    (For those who didn’t take 20th-cty. world history in freshman year, what are we missing? I know MacArthur took over, and there were food shortages, but any other overviews that can help fill in the reference?)


  37. Watch-out-for-Snakes says:

    Watch out monoceros4 (#87), Ninja Cornjob has a *selective* smoke bomb and/or shuriken for you.

    Ha. .. Ninja Cornjob.

    don’t mean to laugh, just those two words together are humorous. I can’t help it.

    For the record, I like your story up at post #83. It is one of the reasons I enjoy this discussion community here at mst3kinfo. There is a lot of opening up here, lots of experiences shared and whatnot, all through the prism of MST3k, with very little of the snarkiness of most other internet communities and pretty much no vile hate that you see on most message boards.

    Ya’lls is alright in my book.

    if you excuse me,



  38. Cornjob says:

    Thanks for the feedback. As good a martial artist as Sho Kosugi is, the martial arts were about all that was good in his movies. There was lots of atrocious acting and threadbare plots to chuckle at. But watching the man move is like watching Bruce Lee. Seeing a man do incredible things that although they are staged are real. Unlike the CGI laden martial arts in today’s movies that often look like a Mortal Kombat Game.

    Sho is still making movies. As of the 80’s he held black belts of varying degrees in 8 martial art forms besides Ninjitsu. he may have expanded his training since.

    BTW, in Japanese Ja means “man”, and nin means “endurance”. Directly translated Ninja means “man of endurance”

    Also, any white belt wannabe ninja knows that walking through the middle of downtown in the middle of the day in a full black ninja uniform is more than a little obvious. My trainer instructed us not to wear our uniforms or belts in public for the simple reason of not advertising one’s training and skill level to any potential opponents. But the uniforms look cool in the films so… .

    We also didn’t have lasers up our sleeves, and we weren’t possessed by demons (any more than other teenagers anyway). But there were plenty of kicks.

    This I swear, or I’m not Ninja Cornjob


  39. JCC says:

    @63 Stressfactor – Thanks for the info! And here I was just thinking that Tim’s tongue had betrayed him again. I think I’ll stick to saying “strong suit” though…


  40. Alex says:

    I love this one. Lee Van Cleef aka Master Ninja, AkA Rizzo the Rat. Demi Moore! It’s an NBC show from the 80s and has all the action hallmarks. Exploding cars. Bar fights. Plus, ‘ninja’ ‘played’ by ‘Lee van Cleef’ climbs up the side of the building.

    After Clu Galager is takenout.
    “Now this movie is Clu-less.”

    I remember hearing about Clu Galager and his son involved in that Project Greenlight show, btw.

    The tranquility of post-war Japan!!

    If anyone forgets, it’s the only country to be bombed with a nuclear weapon twice. Hopefully the last.

    “I tawt I just saw a grade-b actor. I did.
    I did just saw a grade-b actor it’s Wee Van Qweef!”

    “It’s those turtles, now we’ll never get any sleep.”

    “He was Demi Moore, he was everyone.”


  41. Cornjob says:

    Clu played the dad in the 2nd Nightmare on Elm St. film.


  42. Alex says:

    That’s right. I saw that Nightmare On Elm Street show where he (Clu Galager) talked about getting hit in the face with that bird that exploded or something.

    Think I’ll watch Master Ninja ‘I’ this weekend and maybe rent one of the old Nightmare films to go with it.


  43. pondoscp says:

    Finally, a week late, here is my review of what I feel to be the best episode of MST3k ever, “Master Ninja 1.” It’s funny how three of my absolute favorite MST3K episodes have Lee Van Cleef in them (MN1, MN2 and ICTW). Total coincidence. This one has Van Cleef and Van Patten driving around a lot in a Van. Another coincidence.
    Let’s start with a few odds and ends:
    In the end credits, Joel’s name is misspelled! It reads “Created by Joel Hodson”!
    I’m on Clu Gulager alert! (Is that from “Touch Of Satan”?)
    On an unrelated note, how can Godzilla be allowed in the intro, but his sound effect was deleted from the recent “Gamera” release? Anyway…
    Nuncluks is a KTMA callback. Just like every “dickweed” is a KTMA callback. Funny they don’t want people to see those, yet they are referenced in later episodes.
    @60 – Yes! C7C Music factory! I get it stuck in my head every time I hear the Master Ninja theme song!
    @61 I read somewhere that Master Ninja 3 was considered for episode 624, but Frank wanted “Samson” as his last.

    Ok, the show itself, best moments/highlights:
    -…person we control, in a funny sort of way
    -Frank says “Thanks, Dad” to Dr. F in the invention exchange segment. I think that’s a SCCTM callback to the “Thanks Dad” line Crow says that got a lot of love around here.
    -I had Jello today (Frank is priceless in this invention exchange, but isn’t he always? :))
    -A wandering Ninja Eye!
    -He learned to late… (It Conquered The World callback)
    -Hi, I’m Max Kellar, I’m a seagull
    -So I called Allstate immediately
    -those IUDs are dangerous
    -Demi Moore? I’ve dreamed of her running out of the woods into my Chevy van!
    -special guest appearance from the car from “Stranded In Space”
    -where do you get those dash mounted gerbil cages?
    -Have we had an Irene Ryan reference since “Ring Of Terror”?
    -It’s “Over The Top”! (One of those best RT, IMO)
    -It started to fall before he even kicked it!
    -We made some mistakes, you made some mistakes
    -You’re jacking in it, Trav…
    -And I’m going to learn the true meaning of Christmas
    -Clubber Lang, these are fictional characters!
    -Jacksmaster, in color!
    -It’s Show…! Don’t even think about it Frank (from the end of Host Segment 2)
    -Jack Perkins, no!
    -That’s not dancing, it’s typing
    -the music in the club is very warped; in the regular “The Master” episode, it’s not. Rights issues, maybe?
    -the steering wheel gag is great all on it’s own
    -I get the feeling everybody in this movie had a bad childhood
    -You’re an actor, act!
    -I’m a Ninja Warrior! (Viking Women callback)
    -I bought that chair and you’re gonna use it!
    and of course, Master Ninja Theme Song!
    and one more “I had Jello today”

    More trivia about this episode:
    -In the CC promo, it’s Dr. F on the bed while Frank gives the episode plug. It feels like a continuation of the episode, like the rest of the CC promos. Where are these promos? They need to be on a Shout! DVD release of some sort.
    -Turkey Day 1992, “Master Ninja 1” was movie #2, the year Frank ate a turkey for each movie shown. “It’s only begun to bite!” says Crow just before the movie starts. “Master Ninja 1” was shown in between “The Beatniks” (which had it’s world premiere that night) and “Space Travelers.”

    And I want everyone to know that I will be having reviews of the other 9 episodes of “The Master” along with my “Master Ninja 2” review, next week. I only have two more episodes of “The Master” to watch and, hoo boy, let me save that for next time!


  44. dad1153 says:

    Thanks for the (arduous?) task of covering the rest of the “Master Ninja” movies pondoscp. You’re a life saver… no, literally, lives will be saved from complete and total boredom by your actions. Looking forward to your reviews. ;-)


  45. I’ve always liked this one, although the first half is funnier than the second. It’s like a 1980s counterpart to Riding with Death; that was from the 1970s, and had truckers and CB radio and flares and a laid-back air, whereas Master Ninja has a van, and ninjas, and twangy mock-Japanese music. Actually, looking at it, there isn’t much that screams “the 80s”, but the same is true of the A-Team, really. It has a drab look and makes me feel a little glad that Miami Vice happened. I have to respect it a tiny bit for not having any caucasian actors in yellowface. No doubt if there had been a 1990s equivalent it would have had two episodes from one of the lesser X-Files / Buffy clones (Kindred: The Embraced, Strange Luck, something like that). It’s testament to Demi Moore’s genes that I’m still surprised to see her in things from the early 1980s, ’cause she’s aged well. I can’t actually remember what she did in the episode, though, she seems to appear and then disappear again. Does she share any scenes with Lee Van Cleef? I would have been annoyed to sign up for a TV show with Lee Van Cleef and then never meet him.

    Master Ninja theeeme song!

    I get the impression that the producers of the show saw Lee Van Cleef in Escape from New York, and cast him on the strength of that. He has a similar all-black outfit and projects an air of understated menace. According to John Carpenter’s DVD commentary he had great trouble walking when they shot New York, because of a nasty leg injury he sustained in the 1950s, so I can understand why he had a stunt double for Master Ninja, which was a few years later. It’s a shame, because he looks the part, and I can suspend my disbelief just enough to imagine him as a former martial artist. The problem is that we barely see him train Timothy Van Patten’s character – and in any case Patten seems to have no trouble knocking people out with standard punches. It’s odd, because training montages were *the* big clichés of ninja cinema, and a cheap way to pad things out. I will never be able to unsee Apollo Creed’s tight, tight shorts.

    “Gypsy, what are you ‘sposed to be?”, “Gigi” (silence)

    The letter at the end, from the chaps on the aircraft carrier, made me feel sad that they never shot a host segment on board an aircraft carrier. That’s how Douglas Trumbull did Silent Running – he used a decommissioned aircraft carrier dressed up to look like a spaceship. And MST3K’s interior sets were based on that look, indeed the premise was loosely based on the film; it would have been a neat callback. But probably impractical. Still, we can but dream. And of course Van Patten went on to be a top director of some of the best TV shows of recent years – and TV has changed so much since 1984 that it really means something to be a top TV director, whereas back then even the best TV director was humble when Charles Band walked into the room.


  46. gorto says:


    For some reason, the riff about local bar fly relaying exposition about “hearing” about Lee Van Cleef’s ninja background at the truck stop, which was responded to as ” yeah, it’s a ninja truckstop” by Joel, had me laughing for days on end. Got me in trouble in fact, as this hysteria would erupt at awkward times and people may have sensed I was laughing at their faces… see what damage this ‘MST3K’ show can do to society.


  47. Sitting Duck says:

    Master Ninja I fails the Bechdel Test. Demi Moore portrays the only female character with a speaking part in the first half, and none of the female characters in the second half interact with each other.

    The spirit of Eighties ninjas lives on in the affectionate parody Ninja Slayer. However, it’s had a mixed reception, in part due to how it tends to look like what would happen if Terry Gilliam tried his hand at anime. Personally, I find that makes it even more hilarious.

    According to his IMDB entry, Timothy Van Patten was born in 1959. So he would have been in junior high during much of Vietnam, rather than a baby. Interestingly, he’s listed as being in only eight of the thirteen episodes that aired.

    Is it just me, or was the cop car getting flipped in the first car chase something that could have been easily avoided?

    As a point of interest (and for what it’s worth), Mythbusters demonstrated that arrow catching is a possible, but unreliable, technique.

    The villain’s acting performance in the second epi– half of the movie was really cringe-inducing. Whatever it was he was trying to do, it was painful to sit through.

    @ #34: Back then, international box office wasn’t the big deal it is now. So it’s feasible that Rocky wasn’t released in Japan.

    @ #69: Perhaps they’re supplied by Dr. Agasa.

    Favorite riffs

    Hey, what’s a guy got to do to get beat up in this place?

    When Mummenschanz goes bad.

    Don’t worry. Just a Van Patten, ladies and gentlemen. All part of the act.

    “You had more tenacity than I expected. And speed, and courage.”
    And an agent who couldn’t guarantee a stunt double.

    I’m here to kill Mr. Christianson.
    Oh, go right up, Mr. Van Patten.

    Meanwhile, Timothy’s having a ‘Nam flashback.

    Those who can’t ninja, teach.

    “Think it’s kind of sicko for the leader of a wheelchair brigade to get such a charge out of watching other people dance?”
    Yes, actually.

    It’s the Battle of the Network Has-Beens!

    “I didn’t know what he was going to do…”
    So I did a voiceover.

    I hear his theme music. He’s around here somewhere.

    Maybe he can take his ninja equivalency exam and get a certificate.

    I’m not a real ninja, but I play one on TV.

    Ninja Auto Mechanic. In color!

    Meanwhile in downtown Fargo.

    You know, I’ve got the money, the club, and the girl. Yet I feel empty. Why?

    “Come on, Max. You can do it.”
    If not, can I have your van?

    Osaga, hi! I haven’t seen you since the first episo– I mean, the first part of the movie.

    So these are Morris dancers gone horribly wrong.


  48. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    #6: Can you imagine them doing 2 stitched together episodes of The A Team?

    Surreally enough, Charles Heath wrote some A-Team novelizations that did that.


  49. Prime Minister Jm J. Bullock (pondoscp) says:

    Still the absolute greatest episode of MST3K.


  50. Droppo says:

    OK, how do I adequately express my love of this episode?

    Let’s put it simply:

    Master Ninja I is my favorite television episode of all time. Of any series. Ever.

    I don’t even know where to begin:

    The elderly Lee Van Cleef playing a ninja.

    The mush-mouthed Tim Van Patten playing his “hunky” sidekick.

    Their complete and total lack of chemistry.

    The guest stars: Demi Moore, Clu Gulager, Claude Akins, the bald guy who played Charlie Patterson.

    My favorite riffing sequence ever:
    LVC: “Found myself with a ticket home and nowhere to go.”
    Crow: “Why didn’t you go HOME?”
    LVC: “There was something about the tranquility….”
    Joel: “The tranquility of post-war Japan?”
    Tom: (laughs)

    Lee’s gut and stunt double.

    I…..I could go on forever.

    It is the height of comedy and I am forever grateful to the Brains for making it.


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