Legend Of The Eight Samurai (1983)

Directed by
Splendidly cheesy swords & sorcery epic
Reviewed by Simon on 2021-08-20

Supercute princess Shizu (Hiroko Yakushimaru) loses her family to an evil clan and only manages to escape thanks to her Faithful Retainer. She meets two Samurai who claim they have come to protect her and produce a couple of glowing crystals as evidence. They tell her the story of how her family wiped out the evil clan 100 years earlier, but their queen put a curse on them with her last breath. Then one of her ancestors married a dog and died, producing eight glowing crystals from her chest and announcing that in 100 years they would turn into Samurai and dispel the curse when the evil clan reincarnated.

Anyway, Sonny Chiba and some other guy are two of the eight, so having found her they just need to find the other six and go kill the evil queen. Complications arise when cavalier egotist Hiroyuki Sanada decides to kidnap the princess for the reward offered by her enemies, but along the way they fall in love and are attacked by centipede monsters and what not.

It's kind of dumb but it's a traditional epic fantasy story at heart and over the 130 minute runtime it's reasonably well fleshed out.

The scale of the production is grand, with some impressive sets and costumes and pretty funky special effects for the day. It's a bit like a Ray Harryhausen movie meets Zu: Warriors Of The Magic Mountain, meets some generic swords & sorcery. There's a tremendous amount of melodrama leveraged, which makes for a powerful force, and an inexplicable soft-rock tune with English lyrics that plays over both the end credits and a very cheesy love scene.

The fight scenes are passable but the choreography is crude compared to what they were doing in Hong Kong at the time, films such as Eight Diagram Pole Fighter or Duel To The Death are on an entirely different level. With three very talented martial arts in the cast I assume the main difference is how much time they spent on them.

It's hard to believe this is the director who would go on to make Battle Royale, it's hard to imagine two more different films. SATOMI HAKKEN-DEN is very much a product of its time, and it seems unlikely that Kinji Fukasaku had any great ambitions beyond making a commercial vehicle for its stars... and that's what he delivers.