Heads for Sale (1970)


heads for sale poster

Director: Chang-hwa Jeong

Starring: Chiao Chiao, Liang Chen, Wang Hsieh, Ching Miao, Helen Ma, Ming Kao

86 Minutes

The beautiful Bilian (Chiao Chiao) would seem to not have any trouble finding a husband so it comes as a surprise when her family’s marriage offer is rebuked by the righteous swordsman Lu Hongxun (Liang Chen). No slouch in the martial arts herself, Bilian pays the Lu family a visit in anger, attacking Hongxun before fleeing on horseback before he can explain his reasoning. On the road, Bilian runs afoul of gangsters led by the scar-faced Huang (Ming Kao) resulting in a plot of vengeance when Huang discovers her tie to Hongxun, with whom he has history. When Hongxun and Bilian finally reunite again, heads will fly as the two fight back with their formidable skills at the ready.

A quick film, clocking in at less than 90 minutes, the pacing is blisteringly fast and full of quick exposition followed by effective comedy and a heaping helping of wuxia infused fights. Wirework is among the best ever in Shaw Brothers’ films with an excellent infiltration scene on the rooftops being exceptionally well done. The fights are of a great variety with more than a handful of villains wielding unique weapons and the personas to go with them.

Chiao Chiao, handles her lead role well and is a sympathetic and likable lead. Her martial arts on display is not necessarily the best in the picture, but she does look to have put in the work despite never seeming as formidable as the others in the film. Liang Chen took a bit more time to warm up towards but when his flashback fight shows up and you see his nobility and unexpectedly terrific swordplay, I was on board for the leads and their inevitable team-up. Not without flaw, the speediness of the film leaves numerous loose ends by the film’s end. Characters get introduced with little or no explanation as well as disappear despite the suggestion that their importance would be revealed later on in the film. Typical for wuxia films, I have to wonder if there is material from which the script was adapted.

An entertaining and wholly accessible wuxia picture, Heads for Sale is one of the more lesser-known films from the Korean director Chang-hwa Jeong. While an overall lesser film in his body of work, it does features a number of standout action sequences, a generally lighter mood, and an endearingly winning performance by the lovely Chiao as Bilian.

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Long time film lover and occasional writer. I watch anything and everything though I have massive love for the works of Shunji Iwai, Jackie Chan, Johnnie To, and Kinji Fukasaku. POP! POP!

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