Movie Reviews 87 – Master of the Flying Guillotine (1976)

MasterFlying GuillotineWhen it comes to classic Kung Fu movies I sometimes feel that it is I who is the ‘grasshopper’ trying to find his way. I vaguely remember a long time ago someone telling me about some crazy head chopping armament used in a few Kung Fu movies but never saw one myself until now. Master of the Flying Guillotine is a treat of 70’s Kung Fu madness that will leave you wanting more.

First a little history. The ‘Master’ of the flying guillotine in this case is a blind old man living atop a desolate mountain. But he is not the ‘good guy’ here and is in fact a remnant of a group of brutal fighters supporting the current Ching dynasty by killing of prior Ming dynasty loyalists. When two of his pupils are killed by a ‘one armed’ fighter he sets off to kill all ‘one armed’ fighters to avenge his pupils. Apparently, he already knew there would be more than just a single ‘one armed’ fighter!

Jimmy Wang Yu

We soon learn from clips from an earlier movie that this is a sequel from the ‘One-Armed Boxer’ series (and whose original title is “The One-Armed Boxer vs The Flying Guillotine) with Jimmy Wang Yu in the title role and who also wrote and directed both films.  I’ll skip some of the storyline and get to the meat of the movie when yet another evil master fighter himself wants to get this ‘one armed’ fighter and decides to hold an open fighting  tournament in order to lure him out. These fights are to the death and the arena sees a parade of martial artists, each exhibiting either a unique fighting implement, fighting styles, or even a physical characteristic. I don’t want to describe all the fights in the movie as that is part of the enjoyment but I will say to watch for the long armed Asian who plays a prominent role in the movie as a whole. The finale has the Master of the Flying Guillotine himself in the arena and he fights everyone in sight. Who will prevail?

Master Flying Guillotine
The scene with an exorcist-like rotating head will make your own head spin, but that is just a sample of the many insanely contrived sequences throughout the entire movie. And once again we learn where Quentin Tarantino picks up his nostalgic cues as we hear a variant of “Battle Without Honor or Humanity”  (Tomoyasu Hotei) from the Kill Bill Part 1 score whenever we see the Master enter a scene. (To be honest, that track is credited as being an original 2001 composition, so Hotei probably ripped off the essence of the melody from whoever scored this movie).

My one sore point with the DVD was that the dubbed master used was incomplete so on several occasions the movie drops into subtitles and an asian soundtrack. Hardly a distraction, I was just glad they tried to keep the story intact.

Now it seems I have a few more “One-Armed Boxer” movies to look out for.  And only then will it be “Time for me to leave”.

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