Friday, March 11, 2011

Bajing Ireng dan Jaka Sembung (The Warrior and the Ninja)

Director: H Tjut Djalil
Starring: Barry Prima, El Manik, Rita Zahara

Barry Prima was Indonesia's top action star. Throughout the 80s, Prima  (real name Bertus Knoch) starred in a series of very popular low budget action/fantasies that mixed wizards, demons, foreign invaders and a healthy dose of gory, over the top martial arts action (in real life, he was a black belt in Tae Kwan Do). Arguably, his most popular character was that of Jaka Sembung (renamed as simply The Warrior for foreign export), a comic book created freedom fighter of which five films were lensed. Each film's core story involves Jaka Sembung's running battle against evil Dutch invaders and their various attempts to pillage Indonesia's land and it's people. What's a bit of an eyebrow raiser is that in real life, Prima himself is of mixed Dutch ancestory (on his father's side)!

The Warrior and the Ninja is the third of the five films and my favorite of the ones I've seen (I have yet to catch up to the fourth and fifth entries). While it's not quite as epic or gory as the first two; "The Warrior" and "The Warrior and the Blind Swordsman", it has a higher action quota with some long and very entertaning martial arts bouts. This one has our hero costarring with another well known local character, Bajing Ireng (called the Black Squirrel in the dubbed version; she's the Ninja of the film's title). The Black Squirrel is a kind of female Robin Hood/Zorro type character who's exploits initially lead the Dutch colonists to mistake for that of Jaka Sembung. Eventually the two team up to take on the local villians that the Dutch employed. These include an evil witch and a fighter who is eternally sitting in the lotus position. Yes, he fights while in that position, too! During the bloody, action filled climax, the female ninja defeats the witch by literally ripping the skin off of her face! This was one of those "did I just see what I think I saw?" moments that had me hitting the rewind button a couple of times.

A subplot involves a crazed fighter who emerges from a volcano (Sembung's master had previously put him there). His body is now made of molten iron from his imprisonment. In crazed fits, he goes around killing people by hugging them, thus burning them to death. Knowing a good thing when they see it (?) the Dutch enlist this local looney to destroy Sembung. This leads to an intense mid film fight in which Jaka eventually wins by striking the Iron Man so hard that he splinters into a hundred bloody pieces!

As you may have guessed, this is one wild, ridiculous, over the top movie (as are it's prequels). What it lacks in budget (the miniatures used look like toys), it makes up for in it's sheer go for broke attitude. I have not seen any of the comic books that these films are based on, but I imagine that the films try very hard to emulate them visually. Prima is very good and makes for a memorable hero and the film's local setting lends it a particularly exotic feel for us Westerners. Overall, this is great bloody, silly fun that comes highly recommended.

                                                         ***1/2 / ****


  1. Just adding on the count of the Jaka Sembung films:
    To my knowledge, there are only four, not five.
    This once confused me as well, until I saw the Indonesian Wikipedia entry for this one. BAJING IRENG was apparently renamed to BERGOLA IJO for the Indonesian VCD release. I have since found several copies under both names (including the English NINJA version), and it is really the same movie.
    The fourth and last would be JAKA SEMBUNG DAN DEWI SAMUDRA (1990) then, which I have yet to find.

    Hope that clears up the possible confusion of titles - I fell for it as well ;-)

    1. Thanks, info on these Indonseian lensed action films is very limited (and often incorrect, at that). If only there were a book published on Indonesian martial arts/action/fantasy films of the '70s and '80s.

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  3. General information on many Indonesian movies is also provided online by the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture, but in Indonesian only:

    Maybe it helps to locate films and their basic data there to avoid confusion, but you will need the original Indonesian title. Also it does not seem to list alternative titles.
    (Sorry for delete & repost, corrected a mistake)