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Master of the Flying Guillotine

Review by: 
Suicide Blonde
Release Date: 
Martial Arts
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Yu Wang
Yu Wang
Kang Chin
Lung Wang
Bottom Line: 

I have no idea why I am bothering to even write a review, because if you're a certain kind of person, you'll look at the title Master of the Flying Guillotine and say "Oh hell YES, I must see this!" If you are not that kind of person, you aren't reading this review anyway.

But I do have standards to maintain, so here goes. A blind kung fu master who sports some of the freakiest eyebrows I've ever seen is all annoyed because two of his henchmen were recently killed by a one-armed kung fu master. (There's mention of some political reasons behind this but those hardly matter so I won't go into them.) Blind kung fu master gets out his flying guillotine and starts practicing on some handy statues, then on a live chicken. Animal lovers take note - this movie did NOT get one of those "no animals were harmed" certifications. Once he's finished showing off - I mean, giving his flying guillotine a test drive - he blows up his own house just because, and sets off to find the one-armed kung fu master.

A word about the flying guillotine. It has to be seen to be believed, and manages to be totally ridiculous and fairly awesome at the same time. Kind of like the rest of the movie, now that I think of it. 

Turns out the one-armed kung fu master is a teacher at a kung fu school, where we have the obligatory training scenes and the master showing off with some nigh-impossible feats of kung fu. Then everyone heads over to the big kung fu tournament, and this is where the movie hits its apex of awesomeness. Realizing that no one watches these things for the plot, the film-makers give us a lengthy tournament scene pitting fighters against each other. What's more, the fights showcase not just traditional kung fu but Thai boxing and other martial arts specialties. Possibly the highlight of this scene is an Indian guru/fighter who can make his arms ten feet long when it suits him. It's not the most convincing special effect you've ever seen, but it is memorable. 

The tournament's going great when blind kung fu guy lets loose with the flying guillotine and decapitates the wrong one-armed man. Oops, clumsy! If you've guessed that there will be a lengthy showdown between blind guy and one-armed guy, you'd be right - but you may not guess that there's a pink-tinged flashback, a scene that gives new meaning to the term "give him a hotfoot" and a big fight in a coffin workshop. 

What makes the movie so enjoyable is that there is almost no plot to get in the way of the fun. Once you take it for granted that blind guy must kill one-armed guy and doesn't mind if he gets a few of the wrong one-armed guys along the way, it's all good. From then on it's fights aplenty. Add to this some bad dubbing, cheesy special effects, and a score that keeps it all moving (even if parts seem to have been lifted wholesale from Kraftwerk's Autobahn album), and you've got a splendid bit of entertainment.

Once thought to be lost entirely, Master of the Flying Guillotine is available on DVD in several editions. You can choose from the English dub or Mandarin, and while the film will never look fantastic, the fades, scratches, and other signs of wear and tear only add to the experience. You could be in a crappy theater in 1977, catching this at the two-dollar matinee. And isn't that a lovely thing?

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