Issue #245          HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES              January 3rd, 2005

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The Beheaded 1000
(1993; Blaine & Blake Ltd.)

Cantonese: Chin yan jaam
Mandarin: Qian ren zhan
English: Thousand People Beheaded

RATING: 5/10


Shaw Brothers alumnus Jimmy Wang Yu toplines this Taiwanese period fantasy as revered executioner Ren De-tie, who is so swift and sure, his victims’ severed heads never touch the ground. After many years of service, he has taken 997 heads and looks forward to using his golden blade on the two remaining members of the vicious Blood Brothers Gang, Chee and Blood Lotus (Joey Wang Tsu-hsien). The former is soon captured and, the night before he is to die, Ren is visited by a spirit (Pauline Wong Siu-fung) who asks that he lessen his blow, ensuring Chee a slow and painful death. Reluctant to engage in an act of such calculated cruelty, the old master has his pupil, the supremely overconfident Quick Kid (Chin Siu-ho), stand in for him. Chee warns that, if his head is left dangling, he will return from Hell as a demon; intimidated by the rants of this monstrous butcher, Quick Kid botches the execution. Upon witnessing this debacle, Lotus swears to avenge her fallen confederates by destroying everyone who played a role in their capture. Chee and the other Blood Brothers soon return from the grave, pledging to annihilate the entire populace, but Ren has an improbable ally in The Guardian of Hell (Wu Ma), who cannot abide such barbaric pests, undead or not.

Jimmy Wang Yu Joey Wang Chin Siu-ho (right)

While the HK fantasy film craze of this time was its obvious inspiration, THE BEHEADED 1000 is far more traditional in approach and execution, with weak, outdated special effects, cumbersome pacing, and an overabundance of hand-wringing melodrama (notably, a subplot about an upright constable whose incurable obsession with Lotus ends up costing him a different part of his anatomy). That said, this minor effort from veteran director Ting Shan-si (THE 800 HEROES) is not without some enjoyment thanks to a surplus of outlandish ingredients. One murder victim ends up as the prime ingredient in a batch of poisoned meat buns, a ghost excels at playing the flute despite his lack of mouth (and head!), beating hearts are ripped out (leading to the immortal rejoinder "How can you use my intestines as a gift?!"), and there is an amusing climactic attack by giant green animated spiders that sound suspiciously like Ghidrah and The Green Gargantua! In his last lead role to date, Jimmy Wang Yu maintains a straight face and his character’s dignity, no matter how absurd events become, while other players (including Monica Chan Fat-yung as Ren’s naive daughter) routinely project to the back row. General viewers will have little patience for it but THE BEHEADED 1000 will provide a modicum of fun for those who cherish similarly impoverished but charming Taiwanese martial arts fantasies like WOLF DEVIL WOMAN and MAGIC OF SPELL (sic).

Monica Chan (background), Wu Ma Jimmy Wang Yu Joey Wang


The film was reduced to 101 minutes for its HK release but this Taiwanese DVD offers the extended version exhibited in that country. There is only a single menu page displaying the six chapters and nothing in the way of extras. Judging from intermittent flaws in the image, the movie looks to have been pulled from an old CLV laserdisc release. Contrasts are weak and light video grain can be seen throughout much of the presentation. More distracting is the fact that video mattes have not been employed. As a result, the numerous optical FX constantly wander over the 35mm source print’s hard matte. The Mandarin audio is flat but coherent, and the burned-in Traditional Chinese/English subtitles are legible, if not consistently sensible.

This DVD is available at:

Images in this review courtesy of Shengchi/Scholar Films. To read captions, hover mouse over image.

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Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2005. All Rights Reserved.

DVD Specifications

  • Taiwan Release
  • NTSC Region 3 Only
  • Shengchi/Scholar Films #DG-1043
  • Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Post-synced Mandarin Language
  • Permanent English and Traditional Chinese Subtitles
  • 6 Chapters
  • 4:3 Letterbox (1.68:1)
  • 124 Minutes

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Quebec: 13+
  • Singapore: PG
  • Contains brutal violence


  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful