This masterpiece by the ‘Godfather’ of Taiwan Cinema celebrates its 50th anniversary and to mark the event, Eureka release EXECUTION IN AUTUMN in a brand-new 2K restoration on Blu-ray. Combining Western realism with neo-Confusian philosophies, this cleverly constructed drama about guilt and redemption centres around Pei Gang, a bad-tempered man convicted of triple-murder and sentenced to death. Through flashbacks we learn how the tragedy unfolded.

Caged like an animal and his hands strapped in a wooden stocks board, convicted murderer Pei Gang (Ou Wei) yells his head off that he doesn’t want to die… that the sentence is unfair… while continuously assaulting prison staff including prison Governor Lao Tao (Hsiang-Ting Ko). Sentenced to death by beheading for triple murder, Pei Gang’s execution is postponed until the following autumn by the county magistrate (Fu-Shen Tsui) who has decided that autumn is the traditional season for executions – we see two condemned prisoners wheeled to the place of death before the season forbids any more beheadings. Constantly attacking prison staff whilst forced to engage in hard labour, Pei Gang doesn’t do himself any favours as far as his sentence is concerned… far from it, via flashback we see him in a nasty argument with a young woman (his casual lover) who claims to be pregnant with his child – something that Pei Gang vehemently denies, instead accusing the woman of lose morals, meaning the child’s father could by anyone. Not content with being brushed off she insists on Pei Gang giving her money for support which he refuses, angrily storming out of her room when two dodgy looking men (apparently the woman’s cousins) approach him - the condemned prisoner refers to them as ‘blackmailers’. After a violent fight and thanks to his uncontrollable bad temper, Pei Gang first kills the two men with a cutlass before hacking into the pregnant woman, this is of course the very part which prison Governor Lao Tao does not understand – it might be acceptable to kill two men in an act of self-defence but it’s not acceptable to kill a defenceless woman, and a pregnant one at that!

A short time later Pei Gang’s wealthy grandmother Liao Nai-nai arrives at the prison with an expensive family heirloom made of green jade – it’s supposed to be some sort of bribe to ensure her grandson will not be executed, especially since he is the last in the family and the old woman is adamant the family tree must continue. The man - a relative by the name of Hsing Tao (Shao-Ching Chou), promises to do his best and that he will travel to the city to ask for a reprieve from the County Magistrate but in the end all he does is take Grandma Liao’s payment although a retrial is secured. Desperate to save her grandson’s life, the old woman blames herself for the crime which he committed, citing his spoilt upbringing and his inability to know right from wrong by the fact that she always let him get away with absolutely everything after Pei Gang’s parents had died while he was still a toddler… In another flashback we witness how a young Pei Gang stole another boy’s toy horse and beat him up in the process though in Pei’s eyes he didn’t steal the horse… he simply wanted it and took it. When the injured boy’s parents, who are poor, ask Grandma Liao for some money so they can get their son to a doctor the old woman willingly pays them off but doesn’t return the boy’s toy horse. Later that day, instead of reprimanding her grandson for having stolen the other boy’s toy she promises him a real horse instead! No wonder the spoilt brat grew up to be a hot-headed pain in the ass who believes that nothing and no one (not even the law) can ever touch him… as his Gran will always come to the rescue… only on this occasion even her hands are bound. In a final attempt to secure a heir and keep the family bloodline going, the scheming woman arranges for young Lian (Bao-Yun Tang), a loyal and orphaned family ward who was taken in by Grandma, to ‘marry’ Pei Gang and sleep with him in prison though things take an unexpected turn when, for the first time in his life, the convict displays a conscience…

Winner of 5 ‘Golden Horses’ (an Award handed out at the annual Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival) including Best Director (Lee Hsing), Best Actor (Ou Wei) and Best Film 1972 this sensibly handled study of a man’s transformation in ancient China is atmospherically filmed by Cheng-Ying Lai – dipped in earthy hues to emphasise the change of seasons and connection to nature.
EXECUTION IS AUTUMN (presented in a 2000 copies only Limited Edition O-card slipcase) includes the following Bonus material: new video piece by film critic Tony Rayns; collector’s booklet, plus optional English subtitles (original Mandarin audio).