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The title creature is one of the most grotesque monsters known to
zoophagousdom. Neither gorgon, nor utukku nor amphisbaena, it is rather
a flying head, or undead being that could detach from it's trunk at
will to swallow the living whole and has bloodthirsty tendencies, still
having the spinal column & all of the internal organs intact! This
aeronautical mooncalf, as depicted in this movie, can breathe fire,
shoot laser beams from it's eyes, & even spit out exploding miniature
disco balls. After a long night of blood drinking, the monstrosity
floats back to rejoin with the body. By day, the beast is an innocent
girl who's the victim of a terrifying curse, caused by a mass of fleshy
matter, generated in the uterus, that lives within her body...
The origin of the Penanggalan (for such it is called) can be traced to the Malay Peninsula, it's legend tenuously handed down through the gauntlet of time, leaving us with only tattered remnants of its original horrific glory. Having full control over her organs, the dreadful cockatrice uses them much as the octopus manipulates its tentacles, yet this fact is often overlooked in descriptions. The Penangalian would use her entrails (primarily her small intestine, because of their length) to perform a variety of common mechanics, as well as using them to grapple with & constrict her prey. In the Philipines, and throughout Southeast Asia, it was said she would land on rooftops of houses where children were being born, signaling her appearance with a high-pitched whine.
The IMDb lists Féi toú mó nü as a 1977 production, yet the soundtrack blatantly steals music from other movies (a common HK movie practice) bearing later copyright dates, most noticeably THE BLACK HOLE (1979), CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982), HERBIE IN VANCOUVER(1982), and STAR TREK 2(1982) , and This particular film has never been subtitled into English, but is none the less perhaps the most accessible to Western viewers, with the possible exceptions of STREET RACING GRASUEH (Ta'ah Psushii Le'ak) & the more recent DEMONIC BEAUTY (Krasue). But this being a HK flick Kung Fu, Nunchucks, plus a highly psychedelic climatic battle between powerful Taoists are featured as well. And let us not forget the pulsating organs that are attached to the head, and the extremely brutal. blood-saturated showdown where teeth bore into flesh, knives penetrate intestines, and an axe chops into necks and hacks limbs off causing the red red blood to spray, and making this one of the most intense films from out of Hongkong!
This film is all Pete Tombs' excellent book MONDO MACABRO promises and more.
The action more than speaks for itself. It kicks right in with the amazing sight of the young girl cursed by a wizard, sprouting lower-jaw fangs, her head flying in search of blood, with spine and guts hanging below. WOW! This film is only marginally cheesy or camp, a genuine chiller, in line with much of the Shaw brothers 70s productions. The presence of Taoism saving the day is a common thread in Chinese horror, too. The film moves fast, doesn't waste a scene, and there's plenty of blood and guts for the gorehounds. ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I adore Shaw Brothers horror films like Oily Maniac and Seeding of a
ghost and I especially dig their period films like Human Skin Lanterns
and now Witch With Flying Head. The film is full of great low-tech
special effects and gore and the titular creature is one of the best
gruesome imaginings ever put to screen in practical fashion (i.e.,
minus the weak CGI of modern films with bloated budgets)--really up
there with some of the best characters from Hellraiser and Stuart
Gordon's Lovecraft adaptations in my mind.
This is not just a great and surprisingly deft atmospheric horror film, it also boasts some great fight choreography and all the essential elements of Chinese horror--live snake puking, body horror, sorcery, Taoist exorcism and spellcasting, flying fireballs, animated photo effects, occasional music lifted from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and much more. This film is absolutely essential for anyone that gobbles up forgotten cult films. It's truly a remarkable looking artifact from the expansive Shaw dynasty--9/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Here's a movie so obscure that no one seems able to agree when it even
was made! For know the official year seems to be 1982, but previously
it has been 1977! Then rumors flourished on cult-film forums that one
of the actors had died already in 1970!
The movie has also mistakenly been known as a Hong Kong horror, but it was actually made in Taiwan.
No dubbed or subtitled version exist yet, but most of it is pretty self- explanatory anyway. A young bride is cursed by a sorcerer and becomes a Penanggalan, the type of Asian vampire also seen in 'Mystic in Bali', and every night her head get wild boar tusks and leave the body to fly around with the entrails hanging like a tail!
The gory special effects is pretty cool and do get plenty of screen time, along with the usual scenes of people puking out snakes, and the flying head shooting laser-beams out of the mouth! Don't tell me anymore!
My beaten-up copy of "The Witch with Flying Head" is in Mandarin,so the plot went beyond me,but here is the general gist:a young woman is possessed by evil sorcerer via his little snake.She becomes a witch with a detachable head that flies around complete with a spine and pulsating entrails hanging from it.This sexy witch preys on people sucking their blood.Fast-paced and vastly entertaining black magic/terror tale with a nice amount of gore.The action is filled with bloody deaths,crazy Chinese magic rites and incantations,not to mention martial arts fights.The soundtrack is stolen from "Star Trek 2" and "Conan the Barbarian",but I ain't complaining.Overall,I enjoyed this sleazy spectacle and I want another flying head's bite.8 out of 10.
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