The Witch with Flying Head (1977)

Genre: Asian 'Flying Head' Horror

Now, if you want to watch one crazy Taiwanese horror, you can’t look much further than The Witch with Flying Head. This one has it all…

As this film was in Mandarin and had no subtitles, this is what I’ve gleaned from the story:

There are three sisters and one day they are visited by an evil wizard, who is in fact a giant snake when he’s not in his human form.

He makes a demand to one of the girls and as punishment puts a curse on her. He does this by shooting some snakes out of his eyes which land on the ground and slither under the girl’s dress. The snakes then enter her you-know-where. Cut to a shot of the snake slithering around in her internal organs next to her beating heart.

Later that evening while the girl is alone, two serpent’s fangs suddenly appear protruding upwards from out of her mouth. Then her head lifts off from her body carrying with it her entrails, including her beating heart. The head then flies through the air and attacks two men out in the street. The head bites into their necks and drinks their blood before returning back to her body.

The sisters call in the help of two monks who perform rituals to remove the girl’s curse. These seem to be succeeding until the evil snake wizard appears and is able to kill the two monks using his magic and the help of the flying head.

The sisters move from their family home to a small shack near the forest. Meanwhile, the girl who is cursed falls in love with a young man and it isn’t long before she gives birth to a baby daughter. All of this happens in between the others having to regularly battle with her flying head when it flies off to drink human blood.

The daughter grows to a young child and is one night nearly killed by her mother’s flying head. She is only saved by one of the sister’s putting herself between the flying head and the girl and in doing so sacrifices her own life.

This all leads to a final showdown in the forest between the flying head, the evil snake wizard, the male lover and a good wizard.

This is a great movie and a great example of a Taiwanese horror. It is completely over the top with the flying head and the beating organs hanging from it, plus lots of real snakes either crawling on bloodied organs or being vomited out alive, lots of gore, and weird Taoist magic with laser beams being fired out of eyes and explosions.

This looks and feels like a Shaw Brother’s production with the story taking place long ago and interspersed with some kung-fu, but in fact it was made by a small production company. Sadly, because of this, all the original prints seem to have been lost and the only one available seems to have been taken from a bad VHS copy.

Although made in 1977, much of the music has been lifted from other more recent movies, notably The Black Hole (1979), Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Star Trek 2 (1982).

The lead is played by actress Chan Mei Wa, who has also appeared in other crazy period pieces such as The Magic Blade (1976) and Flying Guillotine 2 (1978). The evil snake wizard is played by Yue Feng, who made his fair share of bizarre martial arts movies including Return of the 18 Bronzemen (1976). You can view the trailer here.

Director Cheung Yan Git had a prolific career making 19 movies from 1971 to 1993.

I don’t know what it is about Taiwanese movies, they always seem a bit more far-out than their Chinese counterparts. If only someone could start hunting for good quality prints and releasing them with subtitles, there would be a crowd of hungry fans eager to see them.

In the meantime, try and find yourself a copy of The Witch with Flying Head. Even though it’s only in Mandarin, it’s easy to follow and very accessible. You’ll definitely be guaranteed an evening’s viewing like you’ve never had before.

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