This may be the greatest frozen samurai/hair-metal music movie of all time. Ghost Warrior (1984) opens up with a scene in Japan, over 400 years ago. Samurai warrior Yoshimitsu (Hiroshi Fujioka) and his wife are to be killed by a rival clan. When shot with an arrow, Yoshi falls hundreds of feet into a lake that is so cold that he is instantly frozen. We then cut to the present day where a couple are exploring Japanese ice caves, and stumble across him. Yoshi is brought to the Cryogenic Technical Institute, where he is thawed out and and brought back to life. Trouble rapidly ensues.
400 years ago, Yoshi (or probably his wife) took care of his hair, and he sported the typical samurai look. You know the one, with the pony-tail standing straight-up in the middle of his head. Think of Eddie Van Halen on the last reunion tour, for example. The problem is, the folks at the C.T.I. may be good at thawing out ancient Japanese warriors, but they missed the boat on proper hair-stylings. When Yoshi wakes up, he looks just like Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P.
Unfortunately, the underpaid orderly — who probably thought all hair-metal guys were wimps like Rikki Rachtman — tries to steal the sword, which is said to be worth a fortune. Yoshi has other plans, and the dude is sliced and diced most efficiently. As Yoshi walks out of the Institute, he notices a television playing a W.A.S.P. video — and is surprised to see his doppelganger singing “Tormentor.”
With a start like this, it is little wonder that Ghost Warrior was one of Joe Bob Briggs’ favorite movies of 1984. It seems like the scumbags in town just have one thing in mind though, to get rid of this funny-looking guy. After leaving the Institute, Yoshi encounters four punks who foolishly take him on. Wrists, torsos, and heads fly as our hero’s razor-sharp blade takes care of business.
At this point, an attractive bleeding-heart translator named Chris Welles (Janet Julian) has been called in, and is doing everything she can to help Yoshi. The authorities are looking to get rid of him too. Her biggest challenge is against the head of the Institute, Dr. Alan Richards (John Calvin) — who brought Yoshi back in the first place, but now is trying to kill him. Richards thinks that the situation has gotten so far out of hand, that offing Yoshi is the only option. The lovely, doe-eyed Chris thinks she can somehow save the good-looking ancient samurai though. In fact, she seems to be falling for him in a big way.
Meanwhile, the one low-life who escaped Yoshi’s wrath has recruited a few more of his dog-breath buddies to go after him. These guys never learn. By this time, Yoshi has befriended an older black man, who stands with him in the showdown against these would-be hoods. One guy drives his motorcycle straight at the samurai, who simply steps aside and holds his sword flat, right at gut-level. Ouch.
Similar fates are in store for the rest of the gang, but the ultimate outcome is always assured. He is a samurai out of time, and there is nothing that can be done to change that. He is able to communicate this to Chris at the end, and allows himself to be driven off a cliff and into a deep lake. It is a fitting ending, for that is the way he would have wound up the first time, had those meddling scientists not interfered. Plus, he managed to find some rope and fix his hair back to proper samurai-style, so nobody would ever mistake him for Blackie Lawless again.
Ghost Warrior is part of MGM’s DVD on-demand service, which is breathing new life to this and other forgotten B-movies from the vaults. Back in 1984, Joe Bob said “Check it out.” His advice still holds true, and I only hope that there are other W.A.S.P. related mid-eighties films out there awaiting resurrection.