Eight mysterious crystals from the body of a long dead princess now identify the eight samurai who are destined to help a beautiful young princess overcome a curse on her royal family. They are set against an evil queen who is immortal.
The queen and her son live in a castle assisted by two ghouls, first, a blind witch , and second, a snake charmer, and a legion of anonymous samurai. The eight samurai (called ninja in the film due to the popularity of ninja in the 80's) have individual skills that the princess will require to defeat the queen and the demon who gives the queen her power.
Borrowing greatly from Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, Sonny Chiba's character relies on the earlier portrayal of Kambai. The story focuses however on the love story between the princess and one of her samurai, a very Kikuchyo-esqe farmer turned samurai who fights like a madman in the finale.
The photography is borderline excellent and especially vibrant. Swordfights are frequent and dazzling, most involve the samurai being vastly outnumbered. Choreography, although not up to modern standards, is adequate and exciting. Certain scenes are staged very well, including the brief fight in a garden with flowered trees where the wind blowing during the fight cause the petals to fall like snow.
Despite frequent location changes the story seems to flow rapidly and evenly except that the revenge story comes to a halt at a few points to build the Kikuchyo like eighth samurai character who becomes the love interest. This is the only part of the film that creates empathy for any of the characters, but since the acting can be described as hammy, and the dubbed translation drops most of the emotion from the acting, this part can get tedious.
Other notable flaws are poorly puppeted rubber creatures, some poorly voiced dubbing, and an intrusive 80's love song that plays during the "love story" part of the movie. Also, at one point it calls attention to an object that, because of the reduced size (TV format)isn't on screen. I normally don't mind standard screen size if it is edited properly, but this film deserves widescreen.
The movie as it has been released is a 3 star, If it were redubbed, the love song removed, and released in widescreen, it may deserve a 31/2 or 4 stars.