Legend of Eight Samurai 1983
It's kind of a bizarre story to be honest. Something you might see on the American television show Jerry Springer. The broad strokes of the plot go something like this. Poor old Lord Motofuji (quite possibly the best name ever), needs some new skin for his burned face. But, since there are no second hand face skin stores around, what's a person to do? Well peel some virgin skin off of someone else. Naturally. Throw in some princesses marrying dogs and some witches soaking in baths of blood and there you have it. A traditional Japanese folk tale. Come on, admit it, you really want to watch this masterpiece now, don't you? Did I mention the eight, magical crystals that spurt out of the princesses' body?
The Look and Feel of The Legend of 8 Samurai
I very much enjoy the look and the feel of this movie. It isn't realistic in the way you would see with a movie shot in real locations but, instead, uses well constructed sets. This gives the story a theatrical, almost stage play feel that works very well with this type of fable that involves mysticism and monsters. Some people in the audience could look at the sets and complain that they look fake but in a movie where devils, demons, goblins, evil spirits and all kinds of hoodoo happens, I am perfectly satisfied with how everything in this film looks.
A Most Memorable Scene
One of the most unforgettable moments in the movie happens when a group of warriors surround a feeble old lady and she tears the wrinkly, human flesh away from her face to reveal the giant insect monster that she really is beneath. Transformed into a huge, centipede type beast, she attacks the surrounding men without mercy. This battle is so unique that it reminds me of one of my favorite movies, the classic Sam Raimi, Evil Dead. You will surely be talking about this scene after watching this.
"Remember that time the princess was attacked and abducted by that giant serpent?" While this might not be something that comes up in your conversation very often, you would certainly be talking about it if you were on the same adventure that the characters in this story are on.
While this movie does not exhibit the unrivaled skill of Tomisaburo Wakayama that we all marveled at in Shogun Assassin, the sword fights in The Legend of Eight Samurai is still greatly entertaining. In terms of pure action, this chanbara movie certainly delivers the goods. There is something fun in watching gangs of robed men slice away at each other with what are essentially four foot razor blades.
While I grew up watching a lot of Asian cinema, I must confess that I prefer Samurai movies to kung-fu movies. There is something more graceful in the choreographed fights between swordsmen. It is almost like watching a well rehearsed ballet performance. So, if you are either new to Asian period pieces or have just never watched a samurai flick before, The Legend of Eight Samurai would be a fantastic place to start.
Is that Sonny Chiba?
For anyone familiar with Asian cinema, martial arts movies or even Quentin Tarantino's amazing Kill Bill flicks, Sonny Chiba is a well known and much respected actor. He's also a draw card. Which causes some of the more unscrupulous promoters to use his name, his status and the loyalty of his fan base to suck in more viewers. It's a shame really because this is a darn good movie that stand up to any scrutiny or review with or without Chiba's name. So the good news for you is that yes, Sonny is, in fact, in this movie. The down side is that he is not in t very much. His role is as a supporting cast member only.
I Like the Music
Some other reviewers, ones that I quite respect and enjoy, have complained about the type and quality of the music used in The Legend of Eight Samurai. I have no idea what the hell they are talking about. Admittedly I am no professional music composer such as the magnificent John WIlliams, but I like the music in this fable. Now I might have exceptionally poor taste in music but, if I do, then I'm betting that I am not the only one, so there's a good chance that you will also enjoy it.