15 June 2020 | Movie-Misfit
Absolute Madness, But Highly Entertaining!!
This 1991 oddity from director Ting Shan Si is a film I think, doesn't get the love it deserves. One thing is for sure, The Beheaded 1000 certainly isn't boring! With great sets, some nice cinematography, hundreds of extras and some great wire-fu moments, such as Joey Wong's escape from the police force in the first half of the film, there is a lot to like here. A lengthy blend of action, horror, fantasy and comedy, you can't help but appreciate the work involved in this early 90's flick...
This was to be director Ting's last film. Having worked in the film industry from the late 60's, including directing classics such as Furious Slaughter, Knights Errand and A Queens Ransom with Jimmy Wang Yu, Ting also gave us the wonderful Whiplash with Cheng Pei Pei, and Hong Kong Supermen starring Bruce Liang, and many more. With his swan song, Ting keeps a lot of that old-style, classic kung-fu feel which is what I think sets The Beheaded 1000 apart from all other New-Wave Hong Kong films of the early-nineties such as New Dragon Gate Inn, Blade Of Fury, and The Swordsman Trilogy for example. At times it feels like a Yuen Woo Ping movie from that period, with its low angles for action, fantasy elements, and spats of comedy throughout which sometimes clashes with the old-school style Ting delivers!
Also produced by its star, legend Jimmy Wang Yu plays the role of a royal executioner, famed for beheading almost 1000 convicts with a solid-gold blade. As he nears his final accomplished number, with plans of retiring and having trained the awesome Chin Siu Ho to be his successor, all hell breaks lose with a demon and the vengeful vixen, Blood Lotus, played by Joey Wong.
The Beheaded 1000 is a great role for Jimmy Wang Yu. Having been in the business by this stage for almost 30 years, you would expect him to be a little more graceful in his moves, but not at all. That's not to say he disappoints! Wang Yu still fights like Wang Yu, whether its with a sword, flying through the air, or pulling some shapes. He looks amazing as the executioner, but does provide some unintentional laughs along the way. And being put next to an incredible mover like Chin Siu Ho, doesn't help...
The wonderful Wu Ma pops up as the Guardian Of Hell who gets a bit of a fight scene with his Chinese Ghost Story co-star, Joey Wong, who I think was miscast. She looks bored in her fight scenes and hardly acts, but does so without upsetting the cart too much. Being a Taiwanese production, there's also a host of recognisable faces through-out such as Lam Kai Man from A Heroic Fight, and the great Alan Lee Hoi Hing from Ninja USA and Ninja Final Duel, with the awesome Alexander Lo Rei - the kick-ass action star who surprisingly, also happens to be the assistant director and fight choreographer of the this wild flick.
While it could easily pass as a classic 70's kung-fu drama in its look, drama and delivery, The Beheaded 1000 features some great action moments courtesy of Lo Rei. It's definitely not as wild as some of the ninja stars own wire-enhanced films, instead, offering some very graceful wire-fu and grounded fight scenes that really work. I quite enjoyed what was on display but definitely would like to have seen much more!
Having been made in 1991, the visual effects actually don't come across too bad at all, although by today's standards are comical. From camera blends and tricks, to animated lasers and electricity, it all makes for an entertaining ride and seemed quite ambitious at times. One battle even shows a demon coming out of a ghosts stomach; something that looks like it was a rejected puppet from the Gremlins movie. It's just another little thing that helps make The Beheaded 1000 wacky as fuh, but a lot of fun. Some of those other ingredients include ghost kids who appear from beans, giant cartoon spiders, floating skulls that shoot electric, Wu Ma growing into a giant, rocket firing wine bottles, a fire dragon, and lots of ghosts with attitude.
The Beheaded 1000 is probably just a little too long in its 2 hour (plus) running time, but its great lighting and cinematography make sure you don't bore of it too quick in between the action and horror scenes. I really enjoyed it and appreciate the totally unique style it took compared to everything else that was coming out of Hong Kong and Taiwan at that time. The majority of Jimmy Wang Yu movies are absurd and crazy in some respect, and that's why I love them. This is one such movie, and was the legends last starring role until he came out of retirement for Donnie Yen's epic, Wu Xia (aka Dragon) in 2011...
I wouldn't say no to a 4K restored version!
Overall: Often hilarious, beautifully shot, and never dull, The Beheaded 1000 is one of the wildest 90's kung-fu movies out there, and well worth the watch!