|MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE
|Copyright 1975 First Films
| Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 28 September 2007
- The One-Armed Boxer - He often utilizes his head, as well as his very effective single fist, to defeat opponents. Notice that odd bulge around his torso...
- Wu Chang Sheng - Master of a martial arts school and a victim of the flying guillotine.
- Wu Shao Tieh - She can punch your clothes off with her Eagle Claw kung fu. While that sounds promising, it also appears to be painful, so potential husbands had best beware.
- Without-A-Knife-Yakuma - He has a knife! He also has a sucking chest wound.
- Yoga Tro La Seng - It appears that yoga was originally developed as a form of martial arts and this guy is a master. He is known for hurling owls (yes, you read that right) at his opponents. Cracked and broken by the One-Armed Boxer.
- Nai Men - A Thai kickboxer who does a little jig before each fight. Since his ritual is done to music, but an instrument is usually not visible, I am hesitant to ask where the sound is coming from. Fried up, then crushed by a single punch from the One-Armed Boxer.
- Fung Sheng Wu Chi - The blind "Master of the Flying Guillotine" himself. Poultry-hating arsonist with echolocation eyebrows. His reign of terror is ended by several hatchets and a well-placed fist.
|Fung Sheng Wu Chi lives alone in the mountains of China. He is one of the Ching Dynasty's deadliest assassins, a monk trained to use the flying guillotine. He satisfies himself with practicing his kung fu until a pigeon brings him a small clay tile with a message from his two disciples. The students were on the trail of a dangerous Ming revolutionary; due to his skill, the disciples were concerned that he might defeat them. As insurance, they baked the clay tile and imprinted it with an impressive amount of information. However, the gist of the message is, "If you read this, we are dead." As these things go, Fung Sheng does not take the news well. He pulls out his flying guillotine, destroys several things with it (including a chicken), and then burns his house down. Following that, the wrathful monk sets out to find and kill the One-Armed Boxer.
The flying guillotine is an amazing weapon. Folded up, it is about the size of a soda can. When ready, it looks like a bowl with blades on the inside and outside of the opening. The weapon is hurled as one would a frisbee and will drop down over the target's head like a beekeeper's hood. When the thrower pulls hard on the retaining chain, the victim's head is cut off and the flying guillotine returns to its owner. It is not the sort of thing you put in the hands of a violent blind monk.
To drive that point home, let me relate to you the fate of one unlucky fellow. He makes the mistake of eating in the same restaurant as Fung Sheng. Now, this poor guy only has one arm (again, with the awkward torso bulge visible) and finds that he does not have any money to pay for his meal. When he brags about being the famous One-Armed Boxer, in a failed attempt to bluff his way out of the situation, Fung Sheng cuts his head off with the flying guillotine. The assassin swears to kill every one-armed man that he encounters. As if living with a disability in feudal China was not bad enough, now some handicapped citizens need to worry about this guy.
The man that Fung Sheng killed had just eaten a whole chicken, munched several rolls, and drunk a pot of tea. Besides the fact that seeing him eating made me hungry, I was surprised that nothing erupted from his severed neck after the abrupt decapitation. No blood, chewed chicken, or partially digested roll squirt from the stump. Surely, some chicken should have dribbled out; he had to be stuffed with it.
A whole chicken!
Meanwhile, the One-Armed Boxer is teaching kung fu to dozens of students. He emerges from his private chambers and moves among the practicing students, adjusting a stance here or providing guidance on correct technique to others. A lot of the time this translates into "stand still while I show this other pupil how to punch you," but there is one throw that looks genuine. The hero gathers the students around to demonstrate his jumping technique, walking around the edge of a wicker basket without it tipping - even running up the wall and across the ceiling. Excitement passes through the school when news of a martial arts tournament reaches them. Though he does not intend to compete, the One-Armed Boxer agrees that watching the tournament would be a good experience for his students.
Realizing that the martial arts tournament would be a perfect place to round up subversives, the Master of the Flying Guillotine is tasked with investigating. His influence turns the competition into a bloody affair. Most of the losers are carried away on stretchers, and not only due to mobility-impairing injuries. The fighters are being killed, quite often in a gory manner. Would you like to be beat with a three-section-staff? Or how about smacked to death by Yoga Tro La Seng's telescoping arms? It is a neat effect, the Indian's limbs ratcheting longer, but I would not want to fight someone who has six feet of reach.
The tournament ends abruptly when Fung Sheng appears and kills a one-armed fighter. Wu Chang Sheng makes the fatal mistake of opposing the Ching assassin, earning himself a close look at the flying guillotine (embedded in his kidney). His daughter, Wu Shao Tieh, also gets in the way and is sliced open by the wicked blades that rim the guillotine's exterior. She is carried to safety by Yakuma as the killer monk continues his rampage.
Knowing that he does not stand a chance against Fung Sheng, the One-Armed Boxer orders his students to evacuate the school. They dawdle too long and the monk comes storming in; one student accidentally comes between the flying guillotine and its one-armed target. Once the students clear out, our hero is left to deal with the Ching assassin by his lonesome. He gives it a go, but quickly flees into the night.
The monk is assisted by the three foreign fighters: Nai Men, Yoga Tro La Seng, and Without-A-Knife-Yakuma, though the yoga master is snapped apart like an unfortunate snow crab when he tangles with the One-Armed Boxer.
Without an advantage, the One-Armed Boxer is no match for the Master of the Flying Guillotine. He finally comes up with a plan. First he visits the village smithy and has the blacksmith manufacture several odd items. These are spring-loaded hatchet chuckers. Our hero then speaks to the village coffin maker and pays the man a fee for use of the shop. The hatchet-launching devices are placed in various locations around the shop, including in corners and inside of a coffin.
Okay, setting a trap for the Master of the Flying Guillotine is bound to include some dangerous elements, but spring-loaded hatchets? There are workmen toiling away inside of the coffin shop! What is to keep one of them from accidentally opening the one coffin or tripping the booby trap?
Before he takes on the monk, the One-Armed Boxer needs to overcome the remaining henchmen. Nai Men is lured into a small house and forced to fight the One-Armed Boxer. Meanwhile, the students start a fire under the floor (the floor is made of metal plates). Understandably, the kickboxer quickly decides that this might not be the best place to fight. However, he is prevented from exiting the house by students armed with spears. The frantic Thai fights a losing battle against the floor turned frying pan. Once his opponent is dead, the One-Armed Boxer quickly runs outside and stands in a jug full of cool water. He barely has time to enjoy the relief before Yakuma attacks. Those tonfas are deadly, but Yakuma finds that even a one-armed man can have a knife up his sleeve.
We are now ready for the final confrontation between the valiant One-Armed Boxer and the insane Master of the Flying Guillotine. The latter is prevented from simply cutting the head off of his opponent by a forest of bamboo poles that the boxer hides among. Every time Fung Sheng Wu Chi throws the guillotine, it catches the end of a bamboo pole instead. The old monk starts throwing grenades into the mass of vertical poles. That has the desired effect; the hero is forced to flee.
A short fight inside a shop filled with birds takes place before the action moves into the coffin maker's store. As you might have guessed, the One-Armed Boxer's plan works well. Fung Sheng is wounded several times by hatchets hurled from the iron launchers (damn, that looks painful) and eventually the flying guillotine is broken in half. Stumbling through a coffin shop with a hatchet embedded in your chest while a one-armed man punches you is not my idea of a vacation. Nor is it good for Fung Sheng. He ends up in a coffin, ready for burial.
This is a marvelous old school kung fu flick with lots of outlandish styles and unusual characters. Most of the fights are very well choreographed; I especially like the protracted battled between the One-Armed Boxer and the Master of the Flying Guillotine. The music is an odd instrumental mix, with a nearly frantic alternative beat. Fung Sheng's brooding theme is fitting and includes sounds reminiscent of heavy breathing. It lets you know that he is psychotic and dangerous. As if we needed anyone to tell us that. We are talking about a blind monk armed with a chain that ends in a mass of razor blades. He would be a certified danger to society even without an irrational hatred of one-armed persons.
Do not get me wrong, Fung Sheng Wu Chi needed to die, but did they have to do it by flinging hatchets at him? I cannot get over how unpleasant that must have been.
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|Things I Learned From This Movie:
- At higher elevations the air is as thick as shag carpet.
- Breathing lightly will increase the concentration of helium in your lungs.
- Never use wicker to defend yourself from a guy who can kick stone blocks in half.
- The Ching Dynasty was centuries ahead in its woodworking.
- Mongols were known for their signature handlebar moustaches.
- Being kicked in the testicles only hurts when you cannot see it coming.
- Always going barefoot has its disadvantages.
- So does being a "seeing eye peasant."
- Chaff is to radar as songbirds are to blind martial arts masters.
- 5 mins - RANDOM ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST A CHICKEN!
- 6 mins - RANDOM ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST A HOUSE!
- 6 mins - The Master of the Flying Guillotine has gone batshit crazy! Run for the hills!
- 34 mins - They are both winners? Dude, you are definitely an optimist.
- 37 mins - Is he Hasidic Chinese?
- 44 mins - Neat fighting style, but must you do that before every match?
- 57 mins - Personally, I would not have attempted to grab that thing.
- 66 mins - Besides the fact that the woodsman was being stupid and it was not bamboo, but a tree? Sure, makes perfect sense...
- 68 mins - Was that a piñata?
- 75 mins - Well done, kickboxer. Well done.
- One-Armed Boxer: "Nice jumping."
|Audio clips in wav format
|Starving actors speak out
|Narrator: "In the year 1730, during the reign of the Emperor Yong Cheng, one of the early emperors of the Manchu Ching Dynasty, many kung fu experts were recruited by the Emperor and were taught how to use that fearsome weapon, the flying guillotine.
|Fung Sheng: "Was he the One-Armed Boxer?"
Restaurant Owner: "He wasn't the One-Armed Boxer. He was just a bum!"
Fung Sheng: "I don't care who he was. I intend to kill every one-armed man I come across here."
|Wu Shao Tieh: "All that I want to do now is to take revenge from that blind man!"
Yakuma: "Well, don't bother. You aren't good enough."
|One-Armed Boxer: "I think I've got the answer. That's why I called you here. But still, whether my plan can stop the guillotine remains to be seen. The strength of the guillotine lies in its impetus. Once that spinning force develops it becomes almost impossible to stop it."
| Listen to a clip from the soundtrack.
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|Scenes from the movie
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|MPEG video files
|Here is part of the battle between the One-Armed Boxer and the Master of the Flying Guillotine. They are in the coffin shop and the Ching assassin still has his fearsome weapon. However, he is about to discover the agony of spring-loaded hatchets.
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