To me Cyborgs are magic. Ninjas are magic. Cannon-productions are pure magic. So the only thing to do was
to talk to one of the most productive directors in Hollywood, Sam Firstenberg, the creator of such classics
as Revenge of the Ninja (the best Ninja-movie ever?), Cyborg Cop 1 and 2, American Ninja, Ninja
III and many more.
Sam started his movie career
in 1973 when he met the legendary producer Menahem Golan. He started with serving coffee, cleaning and driving. Just being
a runner. But the magic was there. Sam was on a movie set! After many hard, but funny, years as a assistant director and also
director for his own short movies he finally was offered the directors chair for Revenge of the Ninja. So let’s talk
with Sam about his long career in movies, and of course we begin with Ninjas!
Fred Anderson: In 1983 you directed in one of the biggest
cultmovies ever, Revenge of the Ninja starring the notorious Sho Kosugi How did you get involved in a Ninja-movie?
Sam Firstenberg: The company that bought my student film "One More Chance", Cannon Films, had just finished a movie called
Enter the Ninja. They were looking for a director for the sequel and asked if I would be willing to take on the project, to
make an action movie. The truth is that I had never before heard the word "ninja" in my life, but being young and eager I
did not want to pass on such an opportunity so I faked my way in by letting them think that I knew what it was all about.
After watching the original movie, and two books later, I was knowledgeable enough to get started, and then I was introduced
to Sho Kosugi, the star of the movie, and he took me under his wing, so to speak, and gave me an in-depth introduction into
the subject. I then realized that all we had to do was make a good action movie with a ninja twist.
FA: I’m not sure, but Revenge of the Ninja should be the first
of your works for Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. Tell us about these legendary producers. Where they easy to work with?
I have known Menahem and Yoram for many years, in fact many years before I directed Revenge of the Ninja
- I worked as an assistant director on many of their films, even one that Menahem Golan directed (Diamonds with Robert Shaw).
The way they worked was that Yoram Globus was in charge of finances, and had little input on the creative side; Menahem Golan
was the creative producer, involved in all the stages of making the movies. His main interest was in the script and in the
editing. During the shooting I was basically left alone. I would say that in this sense, it was very easy to work with them,
as long as we did not go over budget or exceed the schedule - which I never did. They trusted me and we had a very good relationship.
FA: I’m not familiar
with Breakinī 2, but was it a success? Wasn’t this at the end of the breakdancing-era?
First, I think the movie was at the height of the breakdance era. The first movie to come out was Breakin'
and then a movie called Beat Street, but "Breakin'2-Electric Boogaloo" topped them all and became a national and
world-wide immediate hit with the young audience. It was 1985 and even today, I still get fan mail from people who say that
this movie influenced them as teenagers. Incidentally, two weeks ago it came out on DVD.
have been told that on e-bay original posters and laser discs go for about $200- $300 apiece! It became an icon of the 1980's.
FA: In Ninja 3 you worked for the second time with actress Lucinda Dickey. How was it working with her?
SF: Coming from a dance background, she easily adapted to the ninja moves. Lucinda
was not a martial artist, but she quickly caught on. Ninja 3 was the first time I worked with her; Breakin2 was the second
FA: Talking about Ninja 3,
is this the weirdest ninja-movie ever made?
SF: Yes! And the only
one with a ninja hero that is a woman.
FA: I can’t say Michael Dudikoff is one of my favorite actors but I always enjoys American
Ninja 1 and 2. How was it working with Mr. Dudikoff and what’s your personal opinions on these movies?
SF: Michael was the perfect American Ninja teenage idol type, with
his James Dean demeanor. The first American Ninja is definitely one of my favorites with a wholesome and reluctant hero and
with an innocent love story. It has very juicy villains. The second American Ninja does not have as good a story as the first
movie. It would have been better if it had continued the themes of the first movie, but unfortunately it did not.
Haven’t seen Avenging force, but friends tell me that itīs one of the most solid movies in Dudikoff’s
career. Can you tell me more about making this movie and working with Dudikoff?