Written by: Michael Den Boer on January 22nd, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, December 10th, 1983
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Writers: Kinji Fukasaku, Toshio Kamata
Cast: Sonny Chiba, Hiroko Yakushimaru, Hiroyuki Sanada, Etsuko Shihomi
DVD Released: February 8th, 2005
Approximate Running Time: 136 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo Japanese
DVD Release: Adness/Ventura
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.99
Synopsis: Princess Shizuhime (Hiroko Yakushimaru) is forced to flee from her kingdom when the undead armies of the Hikita Clan kill her whole family. She must get to the land of her uncle before the Hikita Clan find and sacrifice her. Along her journey she meets Dosetsu (Sonny Chiba) who tells her tale about Tamazusa’s (Mari Natsuki) century-long curse with her family’s clan. Enlisting the help of the eight samurai’s who each bear a magic crystal Princess Shizuhime in now one step closer to ending the family curse.
The Legend of the Eight Samurai is loosely based on novelist Bakin Takizawa ninety eight volume epic “Eight Dog Warriors of the Satomi clan”. Hiroyuki Sanada starred opposite Tom Cruise as Ujio in the film The Last Samurai. Kenji Ohba was the Bald Guy in the Sushi Shop opposite Sonny Chiba in the film Kill Bill volume one. Etsuko Shihomi is one of Sonny Chiba’s most frequent collaborators appearing in more then twenty films together. The Legend of the Eight Samurai is blessed with an excellent ensemble cast many of them belonging to the famed Japan action club. The chemistry between two leads Hiroyuki Sanada and Hiroko Yakushimaru is evident for the moment they share the screen the together.
Sonny Chiba as Dosetsu might have been a secondary role in the hands of a lesser actor. Chiba has this charisma about him that enhances everything he is in. My favorite moment in the film would have to be when Sonny Chiba fights a giant centipede. The films love theme which is also played at the beginning and end of the film has cheesy eighties written all over it. There is a story told in the film about how the King promised any man who brought him the head of his enemy would then have his daughter. A twist a fate would force the King to keep his word when a dog brings him the head of enemy. What is even stranger is the fact that the princess stays with the dog and she sacrifices herself to save the animal. This story about bestiality may disturb some viewers.
I had seen this film via an English dubbed tracked version and the voice actors made the dialog seem campy which hurts the film. Watching The Legend of the Eight Samurai in its native language Japanese was like watching the film for the first time. The film is beautifully photographed especially during the wedding scene when thousands of petals float through the air. Fukasaku is no stranger to making epic films. He expertly crafts intense battle scenes. He manages to capture every ounce of beauty is every one of his meticulous framed picturesque compositions.
Adness presents The Legend of the Eight Samurai in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 2.00:1 aspect ratio. The Legend of the Eight Samurai had only been available in North America is pan and scanned version that exhibited color bleeding. Adness’s DVD breathes new life into the film as their transfer showcases the films bold color palette like you have never seen it before. The amount of detail in exceptional in every frame and flesh tones finally look natural. There are no problems with compressions or artifacts.
This DVD comes with only one audio option the films original Japanese language track presented in a Dolby Digital Stereo. There is plenty of action in this film during the course of the film the speakers are given a thorough workout. The audio is crystal clear and it packs a lot of punch for a Dolby Digital Stereo mix. English subtitles have been included that are easy to follow and understand.
Extras include a Sonny Chiba trailer collection with the following titles Legend of The Eight Samurai, Karate Bearfighter, Karate Bullfighter, Killing Machine, Shogun’s Samurai, Black Magic Wars, Karate for Life and G.I. Samurai. Rounding out the extras is liner notes written by Patrick Macias who as usual provides a wealth of information. The Legend of The Eight Samurai is filled with the right amount of melodrama and plenty bone crunching action that adds to this films timeless feel.
Adness comes through once again rescuing another classic Sonny Chiba/Kinji Fukasaku collaboration after years of suffering through inferior releases. This release from Adness has also restored about six minutes of film not available on any of the previous releases of the film in North America. Experience The Legend of The Eight Samurai like you have never seen it before in its best home video version released to date, highly recommended.