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Legend of Eight Samurai More at IMDbPro »Satomi hakken-den (original title)

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11 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

If you play videogames, you've already seen this movie. See it again anyway!

Author: NinjaChampion ( from The world of my imagination
4 February 2002

Every once and awhile (Normally among the younger generation, such as myself) you will see a movie and think "Wow, every movie I have ever SEEN has stolen ideas from this!" You will probably be overjoyed, having finally found that one adrenaline pounding action flick that you've always searched for. Thats how I felt when I first saw "Yojimbo" anyway. "BUT!", you say, "this isn't about "Yojimbo"! You need to explain the "Legend of the Eight Samurai"!" And indeed I do, but first, the comparison has to be made. If "Yojimbo" is the movie that every martial arts director has in some way emulated, "Legend of the Eight Samurai" ("LOTES") is the movie that every Japanese made videogame has, in some way, borrowed from. Stop reading if you want to be surprised, but I will present the partial list of comparisons between this film and classic videgames.

Plot Summary: There are a group of warriors (Almost any videogame) who possess Eight Glowing Crystals (The original final fantasy, other crystal-heavy games) which must save a Princess (Mario, Zelda, Lolo, etc.) from an Evil Evil Demonically Resurrected Warlord With Weird Magic Monster Stuff (Castlevania, Final Fantasy, etc.). Along the way, an unlikely hero (almost every videogame ever) will enlist the help of a Ninja Assassin (any videogame from the 80's), the One Bad Guy Who Turns Good at the Last Minute(any Final Fantasy Game), the One Guy Who Can Somehow Use Gunpowder(any Fantasy Setting Game), the Young Boy(every game from Pokemon to Zelda). In the course of the movie, the heroes will fight a giant centipede (everything from Abraxis to Zelda), miracously cure all of their wounds with only One Night of Sleep (EVERY game). Actually defeating the final badguy requires the life sacrifice of many characters (Most games), one Ultimate Powerful Bow and Arrow that was forged by good for, well, I don't really know (Zelda), and the ending has the credits roll while a confusingly translated Japanese Pop song plays.

Now, that may have sounded funky, but you REALLY have to see this. If you aren't convinced already, here's one more incentive: it has Sonny Chiba! If you've never heard of Chiba, you should look into his work. The goriness (and hillarity!) cannot be done with more attention to detail than in a Chiba movie.

I started watching this movie because of Chiba. I kept watching because of the Big Freaking Centipede. In the end, I felt like I understood the source of every videogame and anime plot since 1975. You should see this movie even if you don't play videogames. At the least, you'll find it entertaining for the action sequences and the occasionally (And suprisingly well translated) bits of dialogue.

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8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

LEGEND OF THE EIGHT SAMURAI - classic tale retold in jazzed-up version

Author: Brian Camp from Bronx, NY
3 February 2002

LEGEND OF THE EIGHT SAMURAI (1983) is a live-action Japanese costume fantasy retelling the oft-told tale of eight warriors identified by their receipt of magic crystal balls sent by a long-dead princess to insure protection of her descendants. Here, the eight warriors who receive the crystal balls come together to protect the fugitive Princess Shizu of the Satomi Clan, which has been all but wiped out by the supernatural descendants of the Hikita Clan. The action is larded with fantasy elements, including a couple of monsters (a giant centipede and giant snake) and the long-lived evil matriarch Tamazusa (Mari Natsuki) who stays alive a hundred years after her 'death' at the hands of the Satomi Clan by taking special baths in blood.

Despite the title, there's no mention of samurai in the film's English-dubbed dialogue. The characters refer to each other as ninjas, even though few ninja costumes or accessories are visible. It's an unwieldy film with over a dozen major characters, none of whom take center stage until well past the film's half-way mark. The main focus of the plot is the gathering of the eight warriors as they meet and realize their destiny to protect the princess and attack Tamazusa's castle to destroy the Eternal Spirit who keeps alive the evil remnants of the Hikita Clan. Too much of the film is spent on gathering the eight, a task which is not completed until 100 minutes into the 133-minute film. When things finally get going here, the main characters turn out to be Princess Shizu (Hiroko Yakushimaru) and the reckless young Shinbei (Hiroyuki Sanada) who kidnaps Shizu at one point and travels quite a distance with her before they're reunited with the others. Both are too callow and unformed to be of much interest, while the more exciting characters, such as the loyal retainer Dosetsu (Sonny Chiba) and the female fighter Kano (Sue Shiomi), get far less screen time.

The climactic battle at Castle Tamazusa is rousing and full of action, but it proves too little too late to compensate for the two hours it took to get there. The earlier action scenes are all too short and choppy to generate much excitement. To make matters worse, the English dubbing is particularly horrendous and the tacked-on music score is all synthesizer-created with three incongruous American pop songs (sung by John O'Banion) thrown onto the soundtrack with utter disregard for the historical and cultural tone of the film.

The film is especially disappointing because it was directed by Kinji Fukasaku, a highly regarded director known for Yakuza (gangster) films and the recent box office hit BATTLE ROYALE (2000). His earlier space opera, MESSAGE FROM SPACE (1978), was a variation of the same story told in LEGEND OF THE EIGHT SAMURAI and featured some of the same cast members, Hiroyuki Sanada, Sonny Chiba and Sue Shiomi (who played the princess in that one). Fukasaku also gave us the U.S.-Japanese co-production, THE GREEN SLIME (1968).

On the plus side, LEGEND OF THE EIGHT SAMURAI is quite colorful and beautifully appointed and the special effects are, for the most part, pretty impressive. (The giant centipede, flung about on wires, is the notable exception.) But the film lacks the formal beauty of traditional Japanese samurai films and seems pumped up in style, with the youthful romance played up, in order to suit the 1980s youth audience. For U.S. fans, the botched English soundtrack and over-length are quite fatal, along with the absence of any exceptional action scenes until the very end. The story comes from the 19th century Japanese novel 'Nanso Satomi Hakkenden,' by Bakin Takizawa, which was also the basis for the breathtaking 13-part animated series, THE HAKKENDEN (1990). Elements of the story also turn up in the original 'Dragon Ball' animated TV series.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Crouching Thighs, Not-so-Hidden Butt

Author: Selina Kim
4 September 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS AHEAD! You have been warned!

Much of what I could say about this movie has already been said by other reviewers, with some minor exceptions.

Story elements -- for example, turning the group of captive women into magic temptresses with poisonous breath -- get introduced and then dropped, or brought back for a few seconds' cameo at best (the poisonous women turn out quite pathetic, achieving only one kill among them). Also, if you've seen this movie and watched the scene where the entire backstory is explained via scroll, you will know what I mean when I say: whatever happened to the dog? The reincarnated princess gets her father's lightsaber, I mean her predecessor's flute, but the dog puts in no reappearance as a dog or as a human (unless I missed something very subtle about either Hiroyuki Sanada's or Sonny Chiba's characters)... and he was, shall we say, rather important to the original princess. And although the tragic female ribbon dancer/swordfighter (far classier than her descendant, O-Ren Ishii) gets relatively little screen time, it's still more than the later additions to the group get in terms of character development or backstory, which is practically none. Chiba doesn't even get one line of clichéd surprise that two of the crystal-holders are a woman and a young boy. I can only conclude that the movie was written and edited under the same sort of chemical influence required to fully enjoy it.

I also believe that Sanada must have had a clause in his contract requiring his thighs to be on display at all times. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) Indeed, in one scene he falls to the ground unconscious, and Chiba slings him over his shoulder and carries him toward the camera. Sanada's butt and thighs occupy the center of shot for a surprisingly long time before the director cuts away. So there are indeed redeeming moments in this movie. (Another is when the group has defeated the giant centipede demon, which had approached them disguised as an old woman, and one of the samurai astutely remarks, "THAT wasn't your mother!") A sidenote: as much as the movie borrows from Lucas, which is quite a lot, he seems to have borrowed back from it for aspects of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. The demon matriarch's headgear wouldn't look a bit out of place on Queen Amidala in "The Phantom Menace," and Lucas does the dropped-story-element (midichlorians, anyone?) and underdeveloped-character (wuxia master Ray Park as Darth Maul; the assorted villains -- Jango Fett, Count Dooku, General Grievous; most of the Jedi Council) routines like a master.

One point for having Sonny Chiba in it (there are other elements in this movie that show up in "Kill Bill," in whose first volume Chiba has a small honorific role). One point for Hiroyuki Sanada's butt. One point for strong female characters. One point for the interesting sociological fact that apparently, evil undead demon clans have no incest taboos. (It is, however, a mystery to me why the matriarch is attracted to her son, who is sort of the medieval Japanese Jame Gumb.) Minus several million for the soundtrack. I found myself devoutly hoping that the writer and singer of those godawful pop ballads would be crushed in the destruction of the castle.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Should be one of the legends of campy Japanese Film

Author: seishino from Boston, MA
31 May 2004

Satomi Hakkenden will be understood the moment the viewer realizes that the soulful, classically Japanese score is being played on a cheap Casio synthesizer, and that somehow that is good. Being one of the country's very traditional legends (stolen from China), the writers drew from literary sources to make their movie, and it shows. The movie has heaping doses of melodrama, decapitations, and dead children. It also has characters dressed like a costume shop exploded, giant flying snakes hanging by ropes, a truly terrible 70's power ballad love song, and a plot so stereotypically Japanese it can be considered prototypical.

None of that is to say that the movie is bad. All of those things add to the ambiance of the movie. It also contains incredible special effects for 1983, some of the moments are surprisingly poignant, and the fight scenes are great. The plot may be telegraphed from a mile away, but it is still entertaining to watch it all unfold. If you are at all a fan of Japanese culture, you have seen this movie before, in one way or another. Yet if this sounds at all appealing to you, you owe it to yourself to see the original. Satomi Hakkenden deserves a larger spot in great camp history.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

The wonderful possibilities of the story are not brought to fruition.

Author: aggie80 from United States
5 April 2004

Some wonderful pagentry and costumes, but limited actions. This movie has a lot of really great possibilities for some intense character development, but the majority of these threads are cut before the actors have the opportunity to bring out the full potential. The Eight Samurai are closer to being ninja than warriors, some of them not using typical weapons, the young hero fighting with a pair of kama.

Some intense magic being used. Instead of using the two hours plus to develop characters and help explain some of the magic happenings, things are really dragged out. The last half hour of the film is by far the best, with some good action scenes and a relatively happy ending. Typical of most Japanese films, the majority of the good guys sacrifice themselves for the good of the whole, with some rather surprising aspects.

The sound dubbing is below average on this one, with some drawn out, semi-romantic scenes with 80's pop music thrown in behind them. Most of the special effects, with the exception of the giant 'millipede' are surprisingly good for the era.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Silly but Fun...

Author: jmaruyama from Honolulu, HI
29 September 2002

SATOMI HAKKENDEN (Literally `Satomi (Clan) Eight Dog (Samurai) Legend') is a silly yet enjoyable romp that is a true guilty pleasure for Japanese Action Movie fans, mixing elements of Fantasy, Romance, Adventure and Traditional Samurai Drama (Chambara).

Inspired by the massive 106 Volume, 1814 epic Japanese novel `Nanso Satomi Hakkenden,' by Takizawa (Kyokutei) Bakin, SATOMI HAKKENDEN attempts to modernize and reinterpret the legend of the Eight `Dog' Heroes of the Satomi Clan of Awa Province, whose Princess Fume upon her tragic death gives birth to the Hakkenshi (Eight Samurai) whose spirits are reincarnated in human form carrying mystic crystal beads signifying the virtues of Confucianism (Jin-Sympathy, Gi=Duty/Justice, Rei=Proper Form, Chi=Wisdom, Chuu=Loyalty, Shin=Faith, Kou=Filial Piety, and Tei=Brotherly Affection).

Shizu (Yakushimaru, Hiroko) is a descendent of Princess Fume and is being hunted by the sinister forces of the Hikita Clan, whose Black Magic wielding, Lady Tamazusa (Natsuki, Mari) needs Shizu's blood to give herself eternal beauty (somewhat Snow White-like). Enter the Hakkenshi who attempt to protect Shizu from Tamazusa's minions and her Black Magic spawned threats. During the course of their adventures, Shizu falls in love with one of her protectors, the wild-child Shinbei (Sanada, Hiroyuki) who just so happens to be the bastard son of Lady Tamazusa.

1980's `Super Producer', Hiroyuki Kadokawa and legendary maverick director Kinji Fukusaku team-up once again to bring together this loud, Special-Effects laden spectacular with mixed results.

The action is superb, compliments to Chiba, Shinichi (aka J.J./Sonny Chiba), Shiomi, Etsuko (aka Sue Shiomi) and the rest of the Japan Action Club and their unique blend of swordplay and martial arts action.

Much time is spent on the romance between Shizu and Shinbei. At the time Yakushimaru was the darling of Japanese Cinema, having just come off of her Box Office smash hit `Sailor Fuku Tou Kikanju' (Sailor Dress and Machinegun) and Kadokawa wastes little time exploiting her new found popularity.

Yet, the story is slow at times and often confusing as a parade of characters march past the screen. Characterization for the Hakkenshi is almost non-existent, save for their stereotypical attributes (the staunch leader, the brooding androgynous samurai, the mysterious warrior princess, the tall and silent muscleman, the token kid and the `bad-guy' turned `good guy').

SATOMI HAKKENDEN is a pure `popcorn' movie for the teenage set.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

RPG movie?

Author: jademasq from north carolina
27 August 1999

more of an RPG movie with each of 8 samurais as RPG characters in a role playing games. each one has their own story and own ending. the fights are great...story is your typical rpg game...princess seeks out 8 samurai to help her destroy evil people....everything's great. the fights...they are great too. especially the one where this man was fighting off everybody in this patio while white (cherry?)blossoms are falling down. one thing.... special effects... kind of corny...but if you can look past the special effects and you're the type of RPG fanatics...this is the movie for you

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Something old, something new...and a lot of blue.

Author: Andy Troy ( from Hempstead, NY
8 September 2003

LEGEND OF THE EIGHT SAMURAI, on its most base level, is every kid's dream movie: it has eight (count 'em!) mystical warriors, immortality, monsters and evil deities, sacrifices and heroic deeds, and a pointless breast or two. Unfortunately, the elements of the film fail to tie together into a good, coherent film.

The movie deals with a princess destined to destroy some evil undead guys (unfortunately, they're not zombies, which are always B-movie gold). Told through a confusing Chinese manuscript back story, she is apparently the reincarnation of a martyred girl from generations ago. Over the course of 133 long minutes, she is joined by the titled eight warriors (although I think only two of them even come close to being samurai...), including Sonny Chiba as the typical fighter-dude, a huge cave-dweller and his son, a female ninja assassin, and an evil general who sees the light side...or something.

As earlier mentioned, this movie is one of those martial-arts epics that attempts to cram everything that should be cool into one two-hour feature. This story might work exceedingly well as a video game (Final Fantasy, anyone?) but just as FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN failed to convey a sense of a coherent world, LEGEND OF THE EIGHT SAMURAI also tends to focus more on (poorly conceived) set pieces and monsters than atmosphere and action. There are a few good moments to be found in the ending storm of the bad-guy fortress, but the sacrifices made and the triumph attained mean nothing to the viewer due to the huge amount of material thrown in their face. My rating: 6/10

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

1 ninja, 1 samurai, and 6 fighter/adventurers fight for princess shizu!

Author: fogish from Utah, USA
18 June 2000

good movie but i suggest watching it and pretending you are an 8 year old. basic plot evil "demons" try to get rid of an entire clan that destroyed them 100 years earlier. they don't kill princess shizu of that clan and seek her out. shizu heads to her uncles clan and runs into several men who want to save her. they collect 8 people who have magic crystals and all go to the demons castle to destroy them. good movie i wont spoil the ending it doesn't take much brain faculties to watch it either.

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"How can I believe such a story".

Author: lost-in-limbo from the Mad Hatter's tea party.
15 August 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I love samurai films. Especially crazy ones. Cheesy ones. And "Legend of 8 Samurai" (even though the script used ninjas instead of Samurais) doesn't disappoint on both accounts. However for its long-winded running time this gaudy Japanese 80s (even though it looks older than that) period ninja fantasy hokum just doesn't deliver enough of it. Sometimes fairly ponderous (especially the journey part gathering all the 8 ninjas), but many distractions finds its way in. Like the god-awful, out-of-sync dubbing. The tasty dialogues are outrageously daft, but the dubbing only tops it off. It's funny… especially the out-the-place tones in the voices. One character goes about discussing his regrets, where he killed women and children and for some reason the dubbed voice seems so gleeful despite the sorrow-filled actions. Although there's a wry smile evident. Then we get these retro guitar riffs, electronic beeps and power ballads finding its way in. Talk about painful, namely the corny American induced power ballads. You know, it accompanies the love-making sequences or scenes of utter happiness. To balance out the cheese. We get colourful costumes, plastic armour, hokey sets, important historical picture stories, curses aplenty, blood bathing, hysterical screaming, evil cackling, puffed-up sulking, delicious snake eating, heart-felt flute playing, magical crystals, an demon rock with flickering lights, voices from beyond the grave, a gigantic flying snake and centipede (yep it's a sight to behold), glowing bow and arrow set and excitingly kinetic action set-pieces of martial arts combat. It's very well staged with some atmospheric encounters early on and plenty of scope within its framing, but it doesn't really fire in to full gear until it reaches its unsparingly climatic battle of good vs. evil. The stilted plot is dramatic, but at the same time a complete mess involving tragedy, witchcraft, romance and one's fate in almost capturing a surreal daytime serial vibe to it all. Must have been the music soundtrack. Hey was that a car horn I just heard too? The villains are sinister, exaggeratedly zany and pure comic quality. You know, they just build themselves up (being so evil) for one great fall. The 8 samurais (ah I mean ninjas) had some interesting drawings (albeit stereotypical), but their character arches are never truly expanded on. Disappointing. Instead more time is spent on the two young leads (which starred Hiroyuki Sanada). The performances are okay with Sonny Chiba making an appearance. Directed by Kinji Fukasaku (who would be known for "Battle Royale"), there are some interesting visuals and charming special F/X despite the scratchy low-budget look. Daftly out of sorts, but fun junky nonsense.

"There's no power on this earth that can destroy us". Wrong!

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