I hear his theme music, he's around here somewhere...
  — Crow

The Movie


Timothy Van Patten and Lee Van Cleef in Master Ninja

This "movie" is comprised of two episodes of a short-lived early ’80s action TV show called The Master. It’s about an old Ninja (Van Cleef) and his hot-headed American apprentice (Van Patten) as they travel around in a van (with a pet hamster) looking for the Ninja's daughter and helping out people in trouble. The first part deals with the duo’s first meeting as they team up and help a young woman (played by a young Demi Moore) and her father (Claude Akins) save their private airport from corrupt businessmen and dirty cops. Part 2 deals with the duo helping an man and his two daughters save their nightclub from some more corrupt businessmen.[1]


  • Master Ninja I is one of many movies (re)distributed by Film Ventures International, a distributor not known for bringing quality to their films. The credits effects have near-constant double images that make the visuals difficult to follow, in addition to the washed-out colors and poor lighting. The film also appears to be taken from an overseas PAL copy converted to US NTSC standard (framerate conversion explaining the double images), meaning the audio is slightly higher pitched than normal.
  • The entire series of The Master was released on DVD & Blu-Ray in February of 2018.

The Episode

Host Segments

Crow's model car

Prologue: The Bots make up their own model car while Gypsy quotes the lyrics to "Born to Run", and Magic Voice is a bit cranky.

Segment One (Invention Exchange): The Mads make Boil-In-A-Bag IVs, while Joel and the Bots make pop-up books for adults including Anna Karenina and Naked Lunch.

Boil-In-A-Bag IVs

Segment Two: Crow discusses the conspiracy that is... the "Van Patten Project"!

Segment Three: Crow, Tom Servo, and Joel have a war of background music.

Segment Four: Joel and the Bots demonstrate alternatives to nunchucks.

The Van Pattern Project

Segment Five: The SOL crew starts their own funk-fusion action band to chase away the bad movie blues, and create the "Master Ninja Theme Song". Frank smothers Dr. F.

Stinger: "To them it’s some kind of ritual."

MST3K cast


  • Unusual credits: Joel and the Bots sing the "Master Ninja Theme Song" instead of "Mighty Science Theater" being played.
  • Frank Conniff and Michael J. Nelson provided additional music for this episode.
  • Forrester and Frank nearly smother each other with a pillow. This is later how Forrester meets his demise between the seventh and eighth seasons.
  • This episode aired second during Turkey Day '92.



  • The hockey mask portion of Crow's head falls off early in the second theater segment, and remains off until Joel and the Bots leave the theater.
  • They mispronounce Clu Gulager’s last name twice.
  • Timothy Van Patten is not Dick Van Patten’s son. He’s Dick’s half-brother.
  • Crow refers to the third season of The Good Guys, in which Rufus got rid of the taxi and helped out more in the diner. The Good Guys only ran for two seasons. Crow is describing Season Two, not Three.

Obscure References

  • "Wrap your hands 'cross my velvet rims, and strap your hands 'cross my engines!"

Gypsy is slightly misquoting lyrics from Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run".

  • "...William Burroughs' Naked Lunch."

A book about a series of sometimes surreal vignettes which, despite the crew's reluctance to open the book, does not center around an indecent mealtime.

  • "A wand'ring ninja I..."

The title reminds Servo of the song "A Wand'ring Minstrel I" from The Mikado, an operetta set in feudal Japan (but which does not involve any ninjas).

  • "He learned too late that man is a feeling creature..."

A call back to It Conquered the World, specifically Peter Graves' enthralling ending monologue regarding Van Cleef's character in that movie.

  • "Mmmm..." "Ax!" "MAX!"

A reference to an Electric Company segment from the 1970s.

  • "I do like the John Cage soundtrack."

John Cage is an experimental music composer best known for his work 4'33", consisting of four minutes and thirty-three seconds of complete silence.

  • "Tonight on Bravo, Martha Graham's new dance company!"

Bravo is a cable TV network that initially focused on art & culture programming. It later shifted to more sensationalist reality-based shows. Martha Graham was a modern dance choreographer.

  • "Cripes, those turtles moved in next door!"

Presumably a reference to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

  • "Meanwhile, in the movie 1941..."

1941 is a 1979 comedy directed by Steven Spielberg, set in California shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It features John Belushi as a reckless Air Force pilot.

  • "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Gerbil."

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer was a 1986 film loosely inspired by the confessions of Henry Lee Lucas.

  • "I hope Stephen J. Cannell was in that car."

Stephen J. Cannell was a prolific TV producer known for creating such series as The A Team, The Rockford Files, and Renegade.

  • "He looks about as much like a ninja as Irene Ryan."

Actress Irene Ryan is best remembered for playing Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies.

  • "It's Over the Top!"

Over the Top was a 1987 movie about arm wrestling starring Sylvester Stallone and Robert Loggia. Later, that film was one of the first solo-riffing treatments by Michael J. Nelson for RiffTrax.

  • "I'll just die if they find my Tiger Balm!"

Tiger Balm is a brand of heat rub.

  • "He's a William Daniels wannabe!" "Michael..."

Actor William Daniels is known for voicing KITT on Knight Rider, as well as his work on St. Elsewhere, Boy Meets World, and the musical 1776.

  • "A man's gotta know his limitations."

A line spoken by Clint Eastwood in the first Dirty Harry sequel Magnum Force.

  • "...lifted from Then Came Bronson."

Then Came Bronson was a very short-lived TV series from 1969-1970.

  • "Is that Mrs. O'Leary's barn?"

A apocryphal account of the Great Chicago Fire claims that it was started when a cow owned by a Mrs. O'Leary knocked over a lantern in the barn where it was kept.

  • "Looks like Edie Sedgwick fell asleep again!"

Edie Sedgwick, who appeared in several films directed by Andy Warhol, was severely burned in 1966 after falling asleep with a lit cigarette.

  • "What, now he's a Wallenda?"

The Flying Wallendas are a well-known family of circus acrobats/stunt performers.

  • "It's a Woozle, his name is Peanut."

Peanut the Woozle is a sarcastic monkey-ish creature who is one of the longstanding members of comedian/ventriloquist Jeff Dunham's act.

  • "He's the Ugly." "No, he's the Bad!"

Obviously a reference to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, but more subtly a reference to the infamous trailer which confused Van Cleef's ominous Angel Eyes (the Bad) with Eli Wallach 's tainted soul Tuco (the Ugly).

  • "Out you pixies go!"

A quote from Sheldon Leonard's character Nick the Bartender in It's A Wonderful Life: "That's it, out you two pixies go! Through the door or out the window!"

  • "He broke ape law'"

Claude Akins (who plays Demi Moore's father in Master Ninja) played an ape in Battle for the Planet of the Apes. MST3k later ended up spoofing the various plot twists of the original Planet of the Apes sequels with the host segments involving Professor Bobo, Dr. Peanut and the other apes in the reinvented Deep 13.

  • "You're practically Leo Buscaglia..."

Leo Buscaglia was a professor and author whose impassioned public speaking technique gained a wide audience by being broadcast on American Public Television in the 1980s.

  • "The ninja creeps in on little cat feet."

Riffing the poem 'The Fog' by Carl Sandburg : "The fog comes / on little cat feet. / It sits looking / over harbor and city / on silent haunches / and then moves on."

  • "Quick! Take a turn here on Steven J. Cannell Boulevard!"

MST3K 322 Promo

As mentioned above, ​Steven J. Cannell was a writer for television, starting with Adam-12 and Columbo and went on to create such TV series as 21 Jump Street (with Johnny Depp), The A-Team, Silk Stalkings, and Wiseguy.

  • "Well at least we can enjoy another Film Ventures International credits sequence, huh?"

Film Ventures International is the distributor of this and several other movies riffed on the show. FVI films are exclusively re-releases with altered title and ending credit sequences that use variations of the same "blur, pixelize, add stutter, and make the colors washed out" filter, often with background footage coming from other sources (often unrelated films, but in the case of Master Ninja it's stock footage of a man doing exercises in a martial arts class).

  • "Boy, that Parquet floor must really sting." "Butter."

Joel and Servo are describing two different things. Joel is referring to the floor styling, known for its intricate designs in such a small space. Servo is referencing the famous Parkay butter commercial.

Video releases


Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.