Friday, July 9, 2010

Canon MST3K Review: Master Ninja I

This episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is from season 3 and is a little different from most episodes. See, instead of riffing on a movie, this episode features two episodes of the short-lived 80s television series The Master, which was later repacked as a series of tapes that tried to make two episodes look like one movie. The first of these tapes was titled Master Ninja I, and featured the first two episodes of the series. Master Ninja, or the Master, or whatever you want to call it, starred Lee Van Cleef (The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, For a Few Dollars More, High Noon) as John Peter McAlister, the only American to become a ninja master. Also, the show features Timothy Van Patten (The White Shadow, half-brother of Dick Van Patten) as McAlister's hot headed pupil, Max Keller. The two are in search of McAlister's long lost daughter Teri, and go around America in search of Teri and to help random people who for some reason are getting harassed by the Man or something like that. A few notes from this episode.

- The first episode, titled Max (real creative, guys), features Demi Moore as a guest star in a role she probably has no recollection of. Actually, she's only in it for about three scenes, but still. In hindsight, if they had replaced Van Patten with Demi Moore, than maybe the show would have lasted longer than half a season. Or not.

- Lee Van Cleef was in a bunch of good movies and had a fine acting career. However, I wonder if he was the best choice to cast as the "Master Ninja". Or at the very least, they could have picked a stunt double that wasn't noticeably slimmer than Van Cleef, who had a bit of a gut and seemed to have a hard time running, much less walking a high wire and jumping off onto the roof of a moving car. At least he could act, though.

- I gotta say, I didn't much like the character of Max Keller. It didn't help that Timothy Van Patten couldn't act and spoke as if he had marbles in his mouth, but Max was just another annoying young putz who drives a van and gets himself thrown out of bars on a regular basis. Max is an annoying little dweeb who is rather loud and often disrespectful towards his master, which is not a good idea considering his master could kill him in 9,429 different ways. Max also drives around in a Chevy Van, and keeps a hamster as a pet. The hamster even has a little wheel and a cage next to the driver's seat in the van. Why a hamster, you ask? Well no one really knows for sure.

- Mr. McAlister has other problems besides mentoring Max and finding his daughter, as one of his former students has followed him around the globe in an attempt to kill him. I think it has something to do with some sort of violation of the ninja code, but I don't exactly remember why. This man is a master of disguise, even though most of the time he's in disguise he just stands there and watches other people doing things.

- McAlister is a veteran of World War II who after the war decided to stay in Japan because he had nowhere else to go and because he enjoyed the tranquility. The tranquility of post-WWII Japan, mind you. I can't imagine a war-torn nation being a haven of tranquility, but then again I'm not a Master Ninja.

- I hesitate to spoil this episode too much, but none of you are probably ever going to see it, so what the heck. In the first episode, a buisnessman by the name of Christensen (played by the legendary Clu Gulager)  wants to buy some crappy small-town airport for some reason. When he gets rebuffed by Claude Akins, Christensen sets fire to an airplane hangar. Well, Max and the Master come after Christensen in his 30 foot building, and Max has somehow learned enough in a 2 minute training montage to throw his voice and dart across the office without being detected. Christensen has a pistol and fires, but while it makes a sound, no bullet or smoke or anything comes out of the barrel. Instead of having him arrested, Max decides to play executioner and throws a ninja star into Christensen's heart. Well, that's a little extreme.

- The second part of this 'movie' was just ridiculous. The dynamic duo go to San Francisco, where they meet up with a dancer named Kelly who might have some information about McAlister's daughter. Even though she's supposed to be a great dancer and all, she dances as if someone had shocked her with a taser. She also has a sister in a wheelchair and her father owns the club she 'dances' in. Well, some evil Japanese buisnessmen are after the club and have some sort of ninja assassin watching their backs.  Well, long story short, while the handicaped girl is called a gimp by McAlister (to which Tom Servo calls him a dickweed), the buisnessman abduct the would be dancing queen, despite the crackerjack security that Max provided (i.e. he got KOd by the ninja that actually knows what he's doing). Well, McAlister and his partner come up with some convulted plan that involves the Master clawing to the bottom of a car driven to their hideout, than coming back at night to rescue the girl. Long story short, the buisnessmen and their ninja are bested, and because he's just that bad ass, apparently McAlister teaches the other girl to walk again. What a bunch of tripe.

- Another reason why I don't like Max is that every three minutes or so, he provides these voiceovers that usually have one line and often are a sorry attempt to be humorous and add nothing to the plot, which needs all the help it can get. God, this show makes the A-Team look like The Godfather.

Bottom line, this show was cheesy as a block of cheddar and was quite easy to parody. There were a lot of good riffs in this episode and overall it was quite humourous. Also, the source material, while cheesy, was far from the worst thing to be featured on this show. So, while I would give Master Ninja I a 3.5339 out of 10, overall this episode gets a 6.380259 out of 10. Thanks for reading, and if you have any comments about this post or ideas for future posts, than send them this way either by commenting or by e-mail at

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