Thrilling Bloody Sword: More Gonzo Entertainment From Taiwan

5 min readMay 10, 2023

Thrilling Bloody Sword opens with the theme from the Battlestar Galactica television show. Not the cool Battlestar Galactica from 2004, but the ridiculous one from 1978. Stealing a random theme song for the opening credits is the first hint that the filmmakers are just going to do whatever the hell they want to do. It’s not a bad place to begin. Such an attitude opens the door to scenes like seven fully grown men on their knees, pretending to be dwarves as they do a Three Stooges routine set to The O’Jays classic For The Love of Money.

Where else are you going to find scenarios like that except in a 1980s fantasy film from Taiwan? The ’80s in Taiwan were the golden age of gonzo filmmaking, producing such treasures as Boxer’s Omen, The Ginseng King, and Child of Peach.

Thrilling Bloody Sword is a jumbled combination of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves mixed with the biblical story of Moses. It begins with a queen giving birth to a giant, bloody, pulsing red jellybean. The king is horrified and orders it thrown away, but his minister secretly puts the gooey lump in a basket and sets it afloat on a river.

Instead of drifting over to Pharaoh’s daughter, the basket is found by seven dwarves. The pulsing sack pops open to reveal a little baby girl who grows up into a beautiful young woman.

Just when you think we are going to leave The Ten Commandments and Ancient Egypt behind, a demon lady appears dressed as Liz Taylor in Cleopatra. I mean, why the hell not?

Evil Cleo goes to visit a flaming red demon idol and asks it who the fairest in the land is, and you can guess what happens. Of course, it isn’t her, it’s the bloody jellybean girl (put that name on a resume and see where it gets you). Cleo decides to kill bloody jellybean girl, but a handsome prince volunteers to intervene. He goes on a quest to find and save jelly girl and has to face many dangers before reaching her. What sort of dangers, you ask? Dangers such as a giant pair of flying novelty teeth or a horde of “frog sirens.” I’m not sure how reliable the translation is, but the “frog sirens” are played by men in black clothing wearing swimming flippers on their hands and feet. They attack our hero in a cave, along with a man in a very rubbery pterodactyl suit.

As part of his quest, the prince tries to collect magic weapons so he can defeat Cleo and her mustachioed partner who likes to laugh manically while spinning in the air. The two of them remind me of Team Rocket from Pokemon. Fortunately, we are spared Team Rocket’s manifesto recitation. 20 points if you can recite it from memory.

So, the hero fights monsters, the alternate Team Rocket terrorizes everyone, the seven dwarves shuffle around trying and failing to be comic relief… oh, and there is a Tinker Bell character with a star-tipped wand, too.

The movie basically bounces back and forth between fairytales until your sanity is hanging by a thread. Just as you are questioning why you are still watching, a scene comes along that keeps you going. My favorite was when the hero had to face an approximation of a seven-headed dragon. It was 7 wiggly marionette dragon heads all stuffed into a green tarpaulin. Feast your eyes —

There is also an animatronic talking chicken and a humanoid demon creature that appears to be made out of a pile of bloody red scraps of meat. He can disassemble himself and shoot rocket-propelled limbs at his opponents. The key to understanding Thrilling Bloody Sword is to avoid asking, “Why?”, and to ask instead, “Why not?”

The film was made by Hsin-Yi Chang in 1981. Like Boxer’s Omen and the other aforementioned Taiwanese films, it doesn’t make sense to call these films good or bad. You can call them ridiculous and over the top, but they are also very entertaining. It’s a non-stop parade of unexpected imagery. The surrealists undermined reality to unnerve and disturb their audience, but in the world of Taiwanese fantasy film, reality is traded in for freedom. Once our hero sticks his sword up a man’s anus and hoists him over his head, anything is possible.

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