The ninja craze hit all aspects of pop culture in the 1980s, as we mention on this week's podcast looking at The Master. One thing we did not discuss is the 1983 TV movie The Last Ninja. It was far from the last, and maybe closer to the first on high-profile network TV!
IMDB says simply: A story of an art dealer who leads a double life as a ninja.
The lead is Michael Beck because of course in 1983, the networks would go with an American dude as a titular ninja. He plays Kenjiro Sakura. Why not? Beck also stars in The Warriors, Xanadu, and one of my personal faves: Megaforce!
Giving the movie "Eastern cred" are the likes of accomplished performers Nancy Kwan and Mako. And go further down the cast, and you find John Laroquette and Irene Tedrow!
The Paramount-produced movie premiered July 7, 1983 on ABC against repeats (Magnum, Simon & Simon, Fame, Gimme a Break) but finished third in the 9:00 hour and barely edged the Fame rerun for second in the 8:00 hour.
This cool article explains the "occidental master" trope and notes that the movie was produced by one of the original Kung Fu's creators. The author says it's thought this was a pilot for a series but NBC's Master beat it to air. In fact, this article is such a thorough review that I am not going to read all of it. I think I want to see this one myself first!