[LEGEND OF THE EIGHT SAMURAI (1983)]
Woof. I really got my years mixed up. Not by much, but a few years in technological terms is quite meaningful nowadays. And it started really exploding in the 80s.
In some respects we have Japan to thank. And while we might think strictly of Atari when remembering the techno 80s there were other advances outside of home entertainment.
But yes. I thought I was watching a movie from 1979. I misread the box.
I missed the fine print (Made on Mars).
We have previously seen Sonny Chiba as an ass-kicking karate expert, but here the name of the game is swordplay.
Yet that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Really, this film makes my recent proclamation of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly as being a weird film almost completely meaningless.
THIS is a weird film!
It is weird even when it’s not weird, and when it’s actually weird? This is some far-out David Icke kind of stuff.
But first a word about the atrocious title.
For all I know there may actually be a story of seven samurai in Japanese history, but the reference (and plot) to eight samurai is to Kurosawa what 14 Minute Abs would be to 15 Minute Abs. Put differently, “If you liked The Seven Samurai, then you’ll LOVE The Eight Samurai.” Or, “Purchase admission to Seven Samurai and receive an additional samurai at no extra cost.”
But wait…there’s more!
Director Kenji Fukasaku really had a dodgy band of art directors/set designers to work with. It’s not that they don’t have the chops…it’s their taste which we question. And the music supervisor should absolutely be made to sit in the corner and listen to John O’Banion for all eternity.
Plain and simple: this film is as cheesy as a Velveeta milkshake. Indeed. Bottoms up.
And yet, for all of that maudlin naivete it still passes muster as not only a watchable film but (dare I say?) a good film. Not great, good…
Why? Mostly the acting. Yes, amidst this candy store of sugary-sweet special effects and fantasy costumes there are moments of real, inspired acting with actual technical proficiency.
Hiroko Yakushimaru is really pretty good as the princess (always has to be a princess in these kinds of stories).
Hiroyuki Sanada plays what for perceptive Western audiences would be the Han Solo character (though Solo’s precedent is almost certainly in the older, classic samurai films).
Sadly, Sonny Chiba doesn’t really get a chance to shine here. There are all sorts of ridiculous hand-weapon battles, but not much in the way of empty-fist war ballet.
As with the ubiquitous princess, we also have lots of crystals…glowing crystals.
If it seems I’m making fun of this film, that’s because I am. But the truth is that I really liked it.
Would I watch it again? Sober? Probably not.
But am I disappointed to have sat through it? Absolutely not. It was entertaining and, in its own way, touchingly artful.
One last note. Mari Natsuki is one bad bitch. Ever wanted to see a smoking-hot undead person (reptilian?) bathe in a pool of blood before lasciviously kissing her grown son? Me neither. But I saw it. And in some strange way my life is richer for having had that experience. Happy viewing!