The Alberta-shot samurai epic and the epic costume sale that followed

An Alberta-shot samurai film epic spent $4 million on wardrobe and the filmmakers ended up selling their surplus samurai costumes to Calgarians.

'I think there's going to be a lot of samurais floating around at Halloween'

Calgarians snap up surplus samurai costumes in October 1989. 0:44
It wasn't your typical Halloween pop-up shop.

In October of 1989, a warehouse in downtown Calgary was filled with samurai costumes that had been used in the filming of Haruki Kadokawa's Heaven and Earth — a big-budget, historical epic set in 16th-century Japan.

Some of the costumes used in the shooting of Heaven and Earth were put up for sale in October 1989. (The Journal/CBC Archives)
Some of the movie's scenes had been shot in Alberta that summer, in part because of the available supply of horses the filmmakers needed to appear on screen.

The filmmakers also hired 3,000 extras — many of whom were local university students, according to a report in the Globe and Mail — to fill out the big-screen battlefield.

CBC News was told the film had spent $4 million on costumes for the production — and there were so many costume pieces involved that they were stored in a rodeo arena during filming.

When the production headed back to Japan after the Alberta scenes were shot, some of the costumes were sold off during the month of October.

"Bargain hunters are coming in droves in search of Halloween costumes and movie memorabilia," the CBC's Collene Ferguson reported.

'A lot of samurais' expected at Halloween

Those shopping for the surplus samurai suits had various reasons for buying them.

Many Calgarians lined up for their chance to buy some of the samurai costumes used to film Haruki Kadokawa's Heaven and Earth. (CBC News/CBC Archives)

"I think there's going to be a lot of samurais floating around at Halloween, but mine is going to stay in the office as a memory," said a woman standing in line.

A male film student told CBC that he'd tried to land a role as an extra in Heaven and Earth, but was told he was too tall.

"I thought this would be a nice way of having a little bit of something to remember it by, because I think it might end up being a big film," he said.

In Japan, the movie had the nation's third-highest gross in film history after its 1990 release, according to the Globe and Mail in December that year.

According to what CBC reported, full samurai suits were selling for $130. Bows and arrows were going for $50, with swords and flags being sold for less than $10. The filmmakers hoped to make $50,000 through the sale of the used props and costumes.

Some of the costumes from Heaven and Earth go up for sale in Calgary. 1:19

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