This sequel to THE ONE-ARMED BOXER (1972) sees the return of Jimmy Wang Yu as a one-armed kung fu instructor forced to use his fighting skills and wits to combat a blind master of the flying guillotine. This cult classic is a delicious guilty pleasure from director and star Wang Yu who revels in unusual gadgetry, grindhouse conventions and bizarre fantasy fighting over the more grounded, skillful martial artistry of his peers. As the narrator explains, the Qing Emperor trained numerous assassins in the use of the Flying Guillotine to kill off Ming rebels. This weapon looks like a Qing-era hat with a saw blade brim and a long chain attached. The user throws the weapon with practiced precision onto his victim’s head. Chain netting with blades at the bottom drop down and one quick pull severs the head. It even collapses for easy carrying while traveling. One of the emperor’s assassins is Fung Sheng Wu Chi (Chin Kang) who discovers his two students were killed by a rebel named Yu Tieh-lun (Wang Yu). Although blind, Wu Chi assumes the guise of a Shaolin monk and goes in search of Tieh-lun who now runs a kung fu school. Tieh-lun and his students briefly attend a martial arts competition that Fung later crashes to behead a one-armed competitor he mistakes for Tieh-lun. With the aid of foreign fighters from the competition, including a yoga master with arms that extend and retract, Wu Chi begins to close in on the one-armed boxer. To level the field, Tien-lun and his students prepare a series of elaborate traps involving burning floors, bamboo poles, caged birds, and flying axes to lure their enemies into. This culminates in a memorable fight in a coffin-making shop. The film in undoubtedly influenced by the 1975 Shaw Brothers production THE FLYING GUILLOTINE, starring Chen Kuan-tai. Wang Yu puts his own spin on the gimmick which is made all the more entertaining by his fine-tuned grindhouse movie sensibility that he uses to entertain and make up for lack of better fighting skill. Expect to see him walking up walls as he did in RETURN OF THE CHINESE BOXER and some unconventional fighting styles. There is also the arm-extending skills of the so-called yoga master who strangles his victims from a distance. Even Chin Kang’s head does a 360-degree spin towards the end. The finale incorporates coffins with spring-loaded hatchets and more of Wang Yu’s gravity-defying wall-climbing. Although the film could have easily relied on its gadgets and limited special effects, brothers Lau Kar-leung and Kar-wing deliver choreography that keeps the fighting fierce and imaginative. The competition that takes up a big chunk of the film’s running time features various styles such as Monkey Fist and Eagle’s Claw. Wang Yu seems to have a particular interest in Thai boxing and the many scenes where Tsen Chien-po portrays this art as the villainous Nai Men are excellent. Many familiar genre actors make an appearance. Long-time Wang Yu collaborator Lung Fei turns up as a Japanese fighter out to steal away with Doris Lung. Lau Kar-wing briefly duels with Jack Long (SEVEN GRANDMASTERS) during the competition. MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE is a guilty pleasure for any moviegoer who enjoys a bit of overindulgence. As writer, director and star, Wang Yu proves to be an extraordinary showman whose creativity, experimentation with genre conventions and knack for surrounding himself with great talent produces a unique spectacle that’s worth losing your head over.
REVIEW: Master of the Flying Guillotine (1976),
Chin Kang • Doris Lung • Genre: Kung Fu • Jimmy Wang Yu • Lau Kar-leung • Lau Kar-wing • Lung Fei • Master of the Flying Guillotine (1975)