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SAM FIRSTENBERG. The Polish ninja of B movies

The creator of "American Ninja" and "Avenging Force" will soon visit the 20th Cult Film Festival in Gdańsk. On this occasion, a short reminder of the phenomenon of his work.

Author: Jaroslaw Kowal posted on 08/06/17

The cult of Sam Firstenberg

Probably everyone has already realized that the 1980s are back. Movies like Turbo Kid or Beyond the Gates instantly become cult (not to mention Kung Fury), and you can buy Turbo gum in stores again. It might seem that this is a temporary fashion, but if you follow the online auctions of video cassettes, you will discover that there is a collector's market in Poland, whose members can spend horrendous sums on one tape.

I myself am a collector of the second category, I have never spent more than a hundred zlotys on a cassette, but I perfectly understand where the fascination, sentiment and collecting enthusiasm of people who allocate such huge funds for this niche, and growing hobby come from.

Sam Firstenberg himself is one of the characters who has brought many of us to the mania of collecting old tapes. He directed, among others, the third part of the Delta Force saga (the one without Chuck Norris), the American samurai or the Cyborgcop, but he is famous primarily for popularizing the story of well-trained ninja warriors operating under cover of night, with the fact that in his version they attacked in broad daylight and they fall after a few kicks from Michael Dudikoff. Sounds ridiculous? In the 1980s, ninjas made a sensation in American action cinema (even Bond underwent ninjitsu training in You Only Live twice), in cartoons and in comics, they became a pop culture phenomenon, and then disappeared just as rapidly, leaving behind only entertainment for children like Ninjago.

Firstenberg did not hide that he knew nothing about martial arts and was completely uninterested in this subject.

Ninja hiding on the palm tree tops; losing duels with cardboard boxes and barrels; using smoke screens only to take a step forward after they have fallen - these are some of the elements that made the first American ninja immortal. Firstenberg did not hide in later interviews that he knows nothing about martial arts and is completely uninterested in this topic. His heroes were far from Yuri Boyka or John Wick, but at least we could see the choreography as opposed to Liam Neeson's duels in The Taken. There is no room for such characters in today's action cinema. The genre split into high-budget productions and extremely cheap fan movies, with no space for centered images, and that was exactly what the American ninja was.

Firstenberg's activities at one time were considered a great, noncommittal escape from reality, but today is seen by many as the cause of the collapse of the night warriors' face. In recent years, nothing, apart from Isaac Florentine's Tear's Shadow, has come off even on average, unless we consider the ninja to fit perfectly into this characterization of Batman in the Christopher Nolan edition. Ninjas are out of Hollywood today (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I don't take into account), but if someone wants to blame Firstenberg, he must also recognize that thanks to him, most of us even heard about them.

“The truth is, I don't consider the films I directed to be art, but rather entertainment. My goal has always been to give viewers a solid story where good won over evil. It made it possible to identify with the hero who overcame all obstacles to fulfill his rightful mission "- argued Firstenberg in one of the interviews. The idea was simple and as old as the world, but the execution made the director, born in Poland and raised in Israel, a B-class film icon. In another interview, a question was asked about Michael Dudikoff and the reason for his popularity, to which the author of Avenging Force replied briefly: "chance and charisma.” These words fit perfectly as a description of the careers of both men and although there is no indication that the entertainment in which they specialized would return in a form other than fan-friendly, low-budget tributes, cinema hits from Fabryka Dreˇw never had more competition than action films from the VHS era.

proofreading: Kornelia Farynowska


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