Ninja Lee Van Cleef: The Master

For the run-up until the publication of BLADE OF DISHONOR on Sept. 10th, I’m revisiting the books and films that inspired it: ninja, samurai, MMA fighters, WW2 epics, and yakuza flicks.

No, not that movie with all the yelling! The TV series starring Lee Van Cleef as a ninja master roaming the world in a van with goofy drifter Max Keller, dodging Sho Kosugi and fighting injustice!

a-masterI loved this show as a kid, and I’m still miffed they never had a crossover with the A-Team or Knight Rider. Ninja master John Peter McAllister (Lee Van Cleef) leaves the ninja life in Japan to seek a daughter he never knew he had. His former student Okasa (played by Sho Kosugi), a ninja master in his own right, decides this is dishonorable and cannot suffer his mentor to live.

The show was rather ridiculous, playing on pop mythology of the ninja powers, but it was good fun. I recall Max and Peter hanging from their ankles as prisoners in a dojo, and Van Cleef smashes a lightbulb with his foot and cuts the ropes using the glass held between his toes. It was better than Ninja III: The Domination, where evil ninja spirits possess a woman, but The Master’s charms were the non-stop action and the simple fact of NINJAS ON TELEVISION in the early ’80s.

Do you remember THE MASTER? The episodes were repackaged as TV movies, but sadly neither these nor the shows are available on NetFlix. Youtube clips are all that remain: