The Octagon (1980)
Starring Chuck Norris, Karen Carlson and Lee Van Cleef. It was directed by Eric Karson and written by Paul Aaron and Leigh Chapman. It was filmed in Los Angeles, California and released on August 14, 1980. It is notable for its inventive use of 'voice over' effects to portray the inner life of Chuck Norris's character, Scott James. This was actor Richard Norton's (China O’Brien series, Blood of Heroes, Lady Dragon, Rage and Honor 2) film debut.
Years before the phrase “domestic terrorism” was a household phrase or quick youtube clickbait video, a group of filmmakers took it upon themselves to create the Martial Arts cult classic and possibly the best ninja film ever made in the States.
Scott James was raised by his adoptive Japanese father alongside his half-brother Seikuro in the ways of Ninjitsu without all that Naruto melodrama. After Scott surpasses his brother in all tests Seikuro lashes out against his brother and is disowned by their father and cast out. From then on – “He is no longer your brother, he is your enemy”.
Flash forward to the present day (late 70’s or 1980) Scott is now a retired World Karate Champion and after an evening at a dance party, he meets a young dancer and escorts her home where they are attacked by burglars. Scott quickly defeats them and is shocked to discover that they are not burglars but ninjas. But, ninjas don’t exist anymore except for the only two left – him and his brother.
After a series of assassinations and acts of terror, it has become common knowledge in Covert circles that there is a secret training camp where soldiers are being kidnapped and forced into prison camps where they are trained in the ways of the ninja and radicalized if not forced into acts of terrorism under threats to their families and loved ones.
Considered the best of the NINJA craze as well the first to bring the ninja into American Pop Culture. The Octagon is responsible for spawning numerous copycat films, merchandise explosions and the rise in sales of Jika-tabi shoes and the appearance of cheap kitana swords over fireplaces and mantles throughout the 1980’s. If it were not for The Octagon there would be no Sho Kosugi, Micheal Dudikoff, David Bradley; there would be no mania over ninjas in video games like Shinobi, Ninja Gaidan, Stryder and there would be no Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles and no Snake Eyes & Storm Shadow in G.I. Joe. Ninja toys, uniforms and schools popped up all across the Country if not the Western Hemisphere. Common people could name weapons and articles of clothing just by sight alone. It was a treasure hunt to venture into your cities Chinatown to seek out gear like Nunchuks, Sai’s, Swords, Grappling Hooks, Shurikens (Yes, you could buy actual Shurikens back in the day) and literature.
The Octagon stands alone among other films in its genre because of its tone, subject matter and lack of self-deprecation, It’s an actual film. The use of voice over delivered with an echo effect gives the film an almost ethereal tension as Chuck Norris’ character battles his own emotions and demons ; should he kill his brother or not.
In the meantime – don’t lose hope, don’t fear the reaper, and don’t dishonor your families or your home and whatever you do… Don’t ever take your fingers off the Rewind Button.