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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Heist > British > Horror > Mystery > Crime > Corruption > Shinobi (Trilogy: Ninja, A Band Of Assassins (1962,) Shinobi No Mono 2: Vengeance, Shinobi No Mono 3: Resurrection (1963)/Radiance/*both MVD)

Green Ice (1981/Via Vision/Imprint Region Free Import Blu-ray)/Mask Of Fu Manchu (1932/MGM/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Night Of The Blood Monster 4K (1970/Blue Underground 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray*)/Shinobi (Trilogy: Ninja, A Band Of Assassins (1962,) Shinobi No Mono 2: Vengeance, Shinobi No Mono 3: Resurrection (1963)/Radiance/*both MVD)

4K Ultra HD Picture: A- Picture: B/B/B+/B Sound: B-/B-/A-/B- Extras: B-/B-/B/C+ Films: C+/B/B/B-

PLEASE NOTE: The Green Ice Import Blu-ray is now only available from our friends at Imprint/Via Vision Entertainment in Australia and can play on all 4K and Blu-ray players, while The Mask Of Fu Manchu is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series. All can be ordered from the links below.

Now for a new group of thrillers you should really know about...

Ernest Day's Green Ice (1981) is a heist/mystery film with Bondian leanings, a British production with many people who worked on those films at the time, produced by Lord Lew Grade, his desire to have a huge hit film with a big Hollywood movie star brought the late Ryan O'Neal (when he was still a top box office star, but not the first choice for this film) as Joseph Wiley. He's an electronics expert and one with a tendency for smart comments and getting involved unwisely with various situations.

He also instantly becomes interested in a mysterious woman (Anne Archer, continuing her long line of leading lady roles even then) who seems to have money and influence, then gets the wrong hotel room that happens to have some pricey emeralds in a night stand at the hotel he is at. He makes the mistake of impersonating the seller and all hell breaks loose. She also finds out her younger sister is dead and suspects the man (Omar Sharif) she was about to marry.

The film becomes a mix of fight scenes (some work better than others,) comic moments, plot twists, banter between the leads and a few surprises, yet the film has a few moments that just do not work as well and the main version here is slightly shorter than the earlier version also included in an upscale from a low def source. That includes a scene where the leads are driving a car and Grade's dreaded process shooting for car driving returns. You'd think after abandoning that tired, bad-looking, dated thing for his underrated TV series Return Of The Saint with Ian Ogilvy, that would be the end of it. Bringing it back was a bad idea.

Cheers to Ernest Day for finally getting to helm a feature film, for which he does a decent job. An assistant director and assistant cameraman on so many other films for years, including several Bond films, Lawrence Of Arabia, Ryan's Daughter, The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Juggernaut, the first Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible, plus actual Director of Photography work on Led Zeppelin's The Song Remains The Same, Revenge Of The Pink Panther, Superman IV, Rambo III and The Long Day's Dying. That's quiet a filmography, sop it is surprising he did not get to direct more.

So why did the film not do well in the U.S.? While it did make theaters overseas, Universal picked it up here and actually sat on it until they used it to help promote cable TV and then it hit home video. No, it is not a great film, but it has enough good moments everyone should catch this one for all the things that do work. Archer was on her way up, while O'Neal would only have one more big hit (So Fine the same year) before his lead actor days ended and he started to make bad script choices that ruined his career.

Also not helping was a movie poster (you can see it on the cover at the link below) that tried to make a heist film look like Star Wars with shooting a gun-like device hooked up to some kind of tube. We never see this in the film and it made the promotion look too desperate. I remember people mocking it at the time.

John Larroquette and Philip Stone (Kubrick's The Shining & Barry Lyndon, Thunderball, Fragment Of Fear) also star.

Extras include a slipcase, while the disc adds an extended cut of the film, upscaled to high-definition

  • NEW Feature Length Audio Commentary by author David J. Moore on the extended cut (2024)

  • NEW Gravity Artist: Stunt Coordinator Vic Armstrong on ''Green Ice'' (2024)

  • Isolated Music and Effects Track featuring score by Bill Wyman

  • Textless titles featuring Maurice Binder designed sequences

  • and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Charles Brabin's The Mask Of Fu Manchu (1932) finally arrives on Blu-ray after having a successful run on DVD. Warner Archive is issuing it and it is a favorite of ours, even with a little political incorrectness. As featured on the Hollywood Legends Of Horror Collection box set, we covered it when Warner originally issued it:


Then when Warner Archive reissued it:


In my coverage, I noted...

''Charles Brabin (as well as an uncredited Charles Vidor) directed The Mask Of Fu Manchu. Long before Christopher Lee immortalized the role and political correctness pushed Sax Rohmer's legendary madman underground, Boris Karloff played the sadistic title character, out to rule the world and stop ''the white man'' at any cost. The film is a hoot in its strange sense of racism, with a pre-stardom Myrna Loy as his exotic assistant and Jean Hersholt in a solid supporting role. Karloff is amazing as the villain and the torture sequences are ahead of their time considering how graphic the genre has become, particularly of late. The chase is on for a valued item that will make Fu Manchu even more powerful unless he is stopped.

Well, MGM got Cedric Gibbons to do the Art Direction and when you add the clothes, you get something that shows its age a bit, yet really has the money up on screen. The film was a hit, but pre-WWII pressure from China convinced MGM not to do any sequels, though the character would rise again in a 1940 serial from Republic Pictures (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and had already surfaced in early sound films with future Charlie Chan Warner Oland. This is a strong, underrated film that all true Horror fans will enjoy.''

Despite its age, even years later after those DVD editions, the film holds up in interesting ways and has some fine work in it. I like the look, now more vivid than ever. Of course, Karloff is impressive enough and every serious horror fan should see this one at least once.

Extras repeat the great feature length audio commentary by writer Greg Mank, then adds the animated shorts Freddie The Freshman and The Queen Was In The Parlor. Too bad they could not find a trailer or do a featurette on the Fu Manchu character, but Warner still has the rights to later Christoper Lee films in the later series, so we'll see what they come up with as those films hit Blu-ray and maybe 4K. Speaking of which...

Christopher Lee stars as a sadistic judge in Jess Franco's Night of the Blood Monster 4K aka The Bloody Judge (1970). In the 17th century, a ferocious Judge sentences several women to torture and death for acts of supposed witchcraft. The film is loosely based on Judge Jeffries, who likes to condemn women for his own sadistic and sexual enticement. The film makes you question who is the true evil culprit, and most signs point to the court system. Sadly this sort of thing really happened which is ghastly to think about when watching the film.

Night of the Blood Monster has been restored and uncensored with newly discovered film elements on 4K UHD from Blue Underground.

This is a more commercial film from Jess Franco, a quite interesting filmmaker who made over 100 films and of whom ventured into the surrealistic adult genre more with films like Vampyros Lesbos, She Killed In Ecstasy, Macumba Sexual, Sinfonia Erotica and many others (most of which are available from Severin Films). Not to say that Night of the Blood Monster doesn't have it fair share of sexual content and violence, but comparing it to other Franco's work where things really get explicit, this one seems a bit more mild akin to his version of Count Dracula, which also starred Christopher Lee.

The film also stars Maria Rohm, Diana Lorys, Maria Schell, and Howard Vernon.

Special Features:

Audio Commentary #1 with Film Historians Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson

Audio Commentary #2 with Film Historians Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw

Audio Commentary #3 with Film Historians David Flint and Adrian Smith

Bloody Jess: Interviews with Director Jess Franco and Star Christopher Lee

Judgement Day: Interview with Stephen Thrower, Author of "Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco"

In The Shadows: Interviews with Filmmaker Alan Birkinshaw and Author Stephen Thrower on Harry Alan Towers

Deleted and Alternate Scenes

Trailers and TV Spot

and a Stills Galleries.

And that leaves us with the most important ninja trilogy of all time. Shinobi is a solid new box set with three key films that brought back the ninja and established them into what we know them as today, all the way to the most commercial iterations: Ninja, A Band Of Assassins (1962,) Shinobi No Mono 2: Vengeance and Shinobi No Mono 3: Resurrection (1963). Naturalistic, realistic, raw, sometimes brutal and with some of the best fighting sequences you will ever see in any film involving ninja, taking place in the 16th Century.

Ninjas are at war with each other and spying for warlords who want to defeat all the other samurai groups, but Goeman (Raizo Ichikawa) has his entire village wiped out and that sets him on a road to revenge that will lead to bringing down the warlord responsible for the massacre, Oda (Katsuhiko Kobayashi) and much more.

After suffering through the formulaic and often reactionary ninja B-movies of the 1980s, these are much more realistic, though some liberties are taken with history and it is fictional, though still reflective of events of the time. Character development is a plus and the actors are very good here, something we cannot say for their 1980s counterparts. It may not be for everyone, but if you liked the ninja sequence in the 1967 Bond film You Only Live Twice, you'll likely enjoy these. Hope Radiance gets to issue more of these films.

Extras include:

  • Interview with Shozo Ichiyama, artistic director of the Tokyo International Film Festival, about director Satsuo Yamamoto

  • A brilliant visual essay on the ninja in Japanese cinema by film scholar Mance Thompson

  • Interview with film critic Toshiaki Sato on star Raizo Ichikawa

  • Trailers

  • New and improved optional English subtitles

  • Six postcards of promotional material from the films

  • Reversible sleeves featuring artwork based on original promotional materials

  • Limited edition booklet featuring new writing by Jonathan Clements on the Shinobi no mono series and Diane Wei Lewis on writer Tomoyoshi Murayama

  • and Limited Edition of 3000 copies, presented in a rigid box with full-height Scanavo cases and removable OBI strip leaving packaging free of certificates and markings.

Now for playback performance. Night of the Blood Monster 4K is presented in 2160p on 4K Dolby Vision/HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image UHD disc with HDR10, an HEVC / H.265 codec, a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and lossless audio tracks in Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) Mono. The film is nicely shot and there isn't too much noise or degraded elements in this 4K transfer. There is also a Blu-ray version with similar specs presenting the film in a lesser resolution of 1080p.

Both look strong on the 4K UHD format and is no doubt the best this film has looked on home video. The film features a great score by Bruno Nicolai (Count Dracula) that is captured well on this release. While you can see the budget wasn't super high on the film it captures the era it tries to portray well with period accurate props and costumes.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Green Ice looks pretty good from its new 2K scan, lensed by the legendary Gilbert Taylor, B.S.C., whose great work includes A Hard Day's Night, Polanski's Repulsion, Cul-De-Sac & Macbeth, Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove, Theatre Of Death, Hitchcock's Frenzy, Badham's Dracula, Hodges' Flash Gordon and the original versions of The Omen and Star Wars. He never lensed a Bond film, but this gives you some idea what he would have done and in addition, he lensed no less than eight episodes of the classic British spy series The Avengers, so he knew what to do with the genre. As a side note, he lensed the black and white Diana Rigg/Emma Peel episode A Sense Of History and some of the darkest episodes of the final series with Linda Thorson as Tara King.

The original theatrical mono sound is presented in a decent PCM 2.0 Mono sound mix that does justice to the film, with dialogue clear enough, the surprisingly good music score by rock music legend Bill Wyman (The Rolling Stones, Willie & The Poor Boys) makes the narrative and action better, plus the ever-underrated Maria Muldaur (best known for "
I'm A Woman" and the classic "Midnight At The Oasis") delivers two songs for this film: "Tenderness" and "Floating" and they are both decent and show another side of her vocals. A few years later, the Bond series would try double songs for a few years with interesting results.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on Fu Manchu rarely shows the age of the materials used and easily succeeds the good-for-its-time DVDs we reviewed years ago. Detail, depth and clarity are great, even stunning in some shots as MGM was determined to compete in the genre. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix of the original theatrical monophonic sound is definitely a step above the old DVDs and is as good as this film will likely ever sound. Very impressive.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfers on the three Shinobi films can show the age of the materials used and the anamorphic lenses are definitely not as good as the best we have now, but still look better than old CinemaScope lenses and the filmmakers give all three films a consistent look, feel and atmosphere that makes them very watchable. The PCM 2.0 Mono on all three films can show the budget limits of the films, but are as good as these films will ever sound. Fans of the films and the genre will be very pleased.

To order the Imprint Green Ice import Blu-ray, go to to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


...and to order The Mask Of Fu Manchu Warner Archive Blu-ray, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo and James Lockhart (4K)



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