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Princess Shizu (Hiroko Yakushimaro) is the last survivor of the
Satomi-clan, and now she finds herself on the run from evil queen Tamazusa
(Mari Natsuki) and her sadistic son (Yuki Meguro), who are in league with
demonic powers and who have eliminated Shizu's whole clan. Good thing then
that according to legend there will be eight fighters to save Shizu from
certain doom, eight fighters who will be recognizable by carrying magic
crystals. And fortunately, brothers Dosetsu (Sonny Chiba) and Daikaku
(Minori Terada), both of whom carry crystals, have set out to gather the
Princess and her other saviours.
The first handful of these are quickly
found (and are played by Etsuko Shihomi, Masaki Kyomoto, Takuya Fukuhara
and Shunsuke Kariya), but the last two are tricky ... and that's not even
the biggest problem, the biggest problem is that the princess is
eventually kidnapped by good-for-nothing Shinbei (Hiroyuki Sanada), who
wants to hand her over to Tamazusa and Motofuji just to collect the reward
and live happily ever after. But while trying to get her to the baddies'
palace, Shinbei sees what Tamazusa and Motofuji's men are capable of
doing, and he has a change of heart and now protects her ... and soon the
two of them fall in love.
Shinbei brings the Princess back to her
crystal-carrying protectors but is not accepted as one of them because he
carries no crystal and sent away. Still worried about the Princess'
safety, he follows them at a distance, until two of the protectors try to
get rid of him for good - and throw him right into the fangs of the evil
army. Tamazusa tries to win Shinbei's confidence by trying to convince him
he's her son, but ultimately Motofuji prepares to have his way with him,
meaning skinning him alive - when one of the commanders of his army,
Genpachi (Kenji Ohba), turns against his own men, saves Shinbei, and
returns him to the Princess.
Why did he do that?
Because he, too,
carries a crystal. And wouldn't you know it, Shinbei eventually discovers
he's carrying one as well. Now all eight of the Princess's protectors are
assembled, but then she is kidnapped by the evil army and held in Tamazusa
and Motofuji's palace, and now the eight heroes have to enter the palace
and fight the entire evil army and quite a few supernatural beings as
well, and one by one our heroes are falling, until only Shinbei makes it
to the Princess, frees her, hands her a magic bow and arrow, and when she
takes a shot at whatever is the center of Tamazusa and Motofuji's evil
power, the palace starts to crumble, burying all the baddies under its
rubble, and only Shizu and Shinbei make it out alive.
Shizu could live
the life of a Princess now, but she gives everything up to be with Shinbei
Somehow cute but ultimately forgettable Japanese sword and sorcery
flick that features tons of action and some great visuals, but also a way
too predictable story with way too many narrative threads that are either
given up at one point or not allowed to come to fruitition, and a cast of
very bland and rather uninteresting characters.
Reviewers like to point
out that this is a fantasy remake of director Kinji Fukasaku's earlier
sci-fi-flick Message from Space,
but the similarities between these two are rather ffleeting and reduced to
the fact that both films are about a princess and her eight heroes
signified by the crystals the carry. And while Message
from Space takes quite a few cues from the Star Wars-series,
Legend of the Eight Samurai can actually be seen as a template for
later (multi character) adventure videogames in structure (the adventures
our heroes have to face in this one more resemble levels than anything
else), cast of characters (each of our heroes has some special abilities)
and even storyline as such. The interesting thing is of course that in
1983, videogames as such were still in their infancy ...