Sunday, 23 November 2014

Master of the Flying Guillotine


Title: Master of the Flying Guillotine
Director: Jimmy Wang Yu
Released: 1976
Starring: Jimmy Wang Yu, Chin Kang, Lau Kar-Wing, Lung Wei Wang, Philip Kwok, Lung Fei, Doris Lung

Plot: Following on from the events of “One Armed Boxer” Liu Ti Lung (Wang Yu) finds himself being hunted by the blind imperial assassin Fung Sheng Wu Chi (Kang) and master of the deadly flying guillotine who is determined to avenge his disciples.

Review: Despite being a sequel to “One Armed Boxer” it’s really not required that you saw the first film as this film works perfectly well as its own standalone film, while at the same time fuelled by its own grindhouse charms which cover for many of its flaws to provide a deliriously fun experience.

Helmed by its leading man Jimmy Wang Yu who while perhaps not as well known or certainly as skilled as many of the better known actors within the martial arts genre, it hasn’t stopped him from amassing an impressive back catalogue which includes Australia’s only kung-fu movie “TheMan From Hong Kong” as he largely gives us a more fantastical style of martial arts which strangely somehow manages to work still, but then everything in this film is so far stretched his skills hardly comes into question.

Opening to Fung showcasing his skills with the flying guillotine as he decapitates a bunch of dummies (and a chicken) before blowing up his own house as he also shows off his love of explosives which interestingly are his backup weapons of choice. Despite being blind he is hardly hampered thanks to his sharpened sense of hearing which enables his to pin point his targets. On the flipside though it does mean that he has no idea what Liu actually looks like, not that it deters him from his mission of revenge in the slightest as he counters this flaw in his revenge plans by killing any one armed man he encounters, with the plan seemingly being that he would eventually find Liu through process of elimination (or decapitation in this case). Unsurprisingly this does lead to a series of imitators meeting a grisly end as a result of their ruse.

Liu meanwhile has all but retired, preferring to teach his students than compete in competition, as he turns down the frequent attempts to recruit him for a local martial arts tournament which makes up a sizeable chunk of the film as we watch a variety of martial artists each with their own unique style competing against each other with the highlights being an Indian Yogi played by a blacked up Wong Wing-Sang who has the ability to stretch his arms bringing to mind Dalsim from “Street Fighter” while frequent Wang Yu collaborator Lung Fei shows up as a Tonfa welding Japanese fighter, whose weapon of choice also hides a secret blade. Despite his constant presence in the film he largely seems more concerned with stealing away the feisty Doris Lung.

The titular weapon is an interesting one and one rarely seen in most kung-fu movies, perhaps because of its fantastical nature seeing how it is essentially a bladed Frisbee which turns into a bag over an opponent’s head before cleanly decapitating them with a flick of the chain its attached to. Strangely enough it was an actual weapon hailing from the time of the Yongzheng Emperor during the Qing Dynasty and while its effectiveness might be questionable here it makes for an interesting centrepiece especially when used with such fantastical skill from the blind master no less!

The fight scenes are all pretty fun, especially with such a wide range of style on offer especially with the fighting tournament which makes up the middle section basically providing an excuse to include them, much less providing a reason for half of the opponents Liu faces are in town in the first place. Why so many seem to readily willing to help Fung is unclear and if their reasons are rooted in money or the acclaim of beating the one armed boxer is furthermore never explained. Still with so many great set pieces such as a fight inside a burning hut with a heated floor and the final showdown between Liu and Fung inside a coffin shop as Liu utilises a number of tricks and traps including spring loaded axe launchers to defeat his formidable opponent.

While Wang Yu might not be the most skilled of martial artists as I mentioned earlier here his weaknesses are covered thanks to a combination of wire work and martial arts mcguffins as he makes comments to the importance of jumping and balance as he demonstrates walking around the edge of a large pot and even walking along the ceiling as the film once again throws any attempt at logic out of the window not that any of the films from their era were big on it either, but this film genuinely seems to revel in seeing how far it can push things.

Ultimately this film is a lot of fun and while it might not be the most technically perfect demonstration of martial arts it’s so fast passed and fun it gives you no time to concern yourself with such issues as it makes for an enjoyable dose of Kung-fu madness.

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