MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE (1976)
Master Of The Flying Guillotine is widely renown as one of the greatest martial arts films of the 70s era and maybe of all time. It is a cult classic and rightfully so, with not only presenting the traditional elements one expects in this kind of film but, some colorful characters and fantasy elements too!
The story has the Ching Dynasty leaders creating a new martial arts weapon, the flying guillotine, and entrusting this lethal decapitation device to the hands of blind master assassin Fung Sheng Wu Chi (Kam Kang), whose job is to hunt down any rebels and eliminate them. When his two disciples are killed by rebel leader, the One Armed Boxer (Jimmy Wang Yu, who also wrote and directed), he sets out to avenge them and thus the two are fated to collide and do, when a martial arts tournament inadvertently brings them together and sets them on their path to an epic confrontation, a path filled with bloodshed and treachery. One Armed Boxer might be able to defeat Wu Chi, but can he defeat the flying guillotine?
Guillotine is a lot of fun, especially if you are a fan of martial arts flicks from this classic era. Director, writer and star Jimmy Wang Yu brings all the martial arts action one expects and adds in some colorful and eccentric characters to populate the tournament where a lot of the action takes place. We get a Thai boxer (Sham Chin-bo), an Indian Yogi (Wong Wing-sang) and even the tournament president’s feisty and skilled daughter (Doris Lung), who all battle in the competition with an assortment of weapons and martial arts styles. It’s all very entertaining to watch as we wait for the epic showdown between blind assassin and one armed rebel leader. When that finally happens, we aren’t disappointed. Yu keeps the action coming fast and furious and the different styles make for some varied fight choreography and his visual style is simple and well photographed in widescreen by Chiu Yao-hu. It’s a simple story and yet it is crafted to allow for a lot of variety in the action and characters and a lot of action, period. Most of all, it’s a good time. Add in a cool electronic score by Frankie Chan and it becomes a real martial arts treat.
The cast all perform their eclectic characters well, giving each there own style and personality. As the star, Jimmy Wang Yu makes his One Armed Boxer, who is a returning character from his 1971 One Armed Boxer, a nobel and humble man who is lethal when provoked to fight. As his adversary, Kam Kang is a dangerous and heartless villain whose mastery of the flying guillotine makes him a formidable foe. The rest seem to being having a good time with their colorful characters and handle the fight choreography well.
All in all, this is a martial arts classic and if you are a fan of the 70s era martial arts cinema it is a must see. The film has everything you’d want in one of these flicks, action, drama and a variety of fighters and fighting styles and not without a little bit of humor amidst all the combat and drama. Add to that some wonderful 70s nostalgia from a type of film that they don’t make anymore and you have not only a bonafide classic, but a damn good time!
Rated 4 (out of 4) flying guillotines.