This Wednesday – The Mystery of Chess Boxing

In the world of kung fu cinema, there are a number of memorable villains. In three classic films, Lo Lieh portrayed what is possibly the greatest kung fu villain of all time: Pai Mei (Gordon Liu brought the character back in Kill Bill Vol 2). But the only antagonist to possibly steal the villainous crown from Pai Mei is the Ghost Face Killer of 1979’s The Mystery of Chess Boxing.

Director Joseph Kuo had just scored big with his masterpiece Seven Grandmasters, in which the only major flaw was the lack of a compelling villain. Bringing back all the major players from that film, this time martial artist Mark Long wore the long wig and  big white eyebrows of typical kung fu villainy, and brought to life the Ghost Face Killer. Ghost Face is an unstoppable fighter with a crazy “five element technique” who rattles off his kung fu styles as he annihilates his opponents. The movie was a smash hit in the 42nd Street kung fu theaters of New York City, and the final fight scene against the Ghost Face Killer (which takes up the entire last reel of the movie) drove audiences wild.

On Wednesday night, we’ll be watching the only known 35mm print of this film. It was pulled from an abandoned theater in Taiwan in the early 90’s, and then sat in a warehouse in the UK until I bought it last month. Until now, this movie has only survived in poor quality VHS. This 35mm print is in incredibly good condition, come see it on the Hollywood’s 50 foot screen and cheer on the fight against the Ghost Face Killer!

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