Master of the Flying Guillotine (1975) / Action
aka One-Armed Boxer vs. The Flying Guillotine
MPAA Rated: R for strong violence
Running Time: 93 min.
Cast: Jimmy Wang Yu, Kam Kong, Doris Lung, Lung Fong, Lung Fei, Sit Hon, Lau Kar Wing
Director: Jimmy Wang Yu
Screenplay: Jimmy Wang Yu
I haven't seen The One-Armed Boxer, of which Master of the Flying Guillotine is a sequel to, but I don't think I really have to in order to enjoy this to its fullest potential. The movie stands completely on its own. Old school kung fu (i.e. no wire-fu) at its finest, full of completely visceral pleasures from its sheer originality and non-stop, thrilling fighting. All of its pleasures are completely on the surface, but with action this exhilarating, that's not a bad thing at all. Long before "Street Fighter" or "Mortal Kombat," there was this gem of martial arts cinema, and all from the mind of writer/director/star Jimmy Wang Yu.
The main story picks up where the first film left off. The one-armed boxer has just defeated two disciples of the blind man with the flying guillotine, who makes it his mission to exact revenge on every one-armed man in the land until he gets the right one. The boxer heads a school for kung fu, and his students have urged him to enter a martial arts competition, which he does in the name of education. Meanwhile, the final battle draws near.
I hesitate to include the main plot, as it's rather simplistic and doesn't generate much interest in and of itself. The joys of Master of the Flying Guillotine come only through the gritty fighting, the solid build-up to its riveting finale, and the occasional moments of good comic relief sprinkled throughout. Sure, the acting isn't stellar, and the direction isn't going to win many awards, but Yu's inventiveness in his battles knows no bounds, scoring all of its points with some of the best kung fu confrontations you'll ever see in any movie.
Master of the Flying Guillotine is strictly for kung fu junkies, as it will most likely be seen as too cheesy or uninteresting by anyone not an avid fanatic of 70s martial arts films. Still, even watching this just to make fun of, there can be no denying that you'll have a great time one way or another. It may be a staple film of its genre, but even if it completely conforms to convention, it still manages to be unlike any other film before or since. Chop-socky B-movie goodness of the highest order.
© 2003 Vince Leo