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Hong Kong 1975
Directed by
Yu Wang
93 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
David Michael Brown
4 stars

Master Of The Flying Guillotine

Synopsis: Fung Sheng Wu Chi, The Master of the Flying Guillotine (Kang Kam) is a blind man out for vengeance after his disciples were brutally killed by Liu Ti Lung, the legendary One-Armed Boxer. As he is visually impaired his killing spree involves slaying anyone he meets who is challenged in the limb department. As luck would have it a fighting competition brings the One Armed Boxer out of hiding for a final battle to the death.

Any readers who have not witnessed the sheer lunacy of the flying guillotine are in for a blood-soaked treat. A small basket connected to a rope is flung in the direction of your adversary, hopefully landing on their head. Then with a quick jolt of your wrist a series of blades hidden at the bottom of the basket slice through the victim’s neck and your opponent’s head is pulled away neatly in the basket. It’s a wonderfully macabre piece of machinery that brings a devilish excitement to this film whenever the weapon is brandished.

It’s not hard to see why Master of the Flying Guillotine is Quentin Tarantino’s favourite film. This often-thought-lost film is a fantastic mix of kung fu, bloody action and a series of insane characters who line up to fight each other. There’s The One Armed Boxer, the kung fu yoga expert with arms that can extend to over a metre long, the man, “Win Without A Knife” Yakuma, who claims he can beat anyone without a knife and always ends up stabbing everyone in sight and, of course, The Master of the Flying Guillotine himself. All take part in the seemingly endless battle that culminates with the ultimate showdown. The film is actually the sequel to The One Armed Boxer and that would explain how the action kicks off almost immediately without a word of explanation. Director Yu Wang, who also plays The One Armed Boxer, handles the action with aplomb. Not surprising, as he is often in the thick of it. He worked under contract with the Shaw Brothers for many years until he broke free with the original The One Armed Boxer, which became a box office sensation.

The film does have a few pacing issues but comes highly recommended for all the wrong reasons. I defy anyone not to cheer out loud whenever the eponymous  weapon is flung towards someone’s unsuspecting cranium. It’s over the top, take-no-prisoners attitude combined with a zany, maybe sometimes unintentional, sense of humour lift The Master of the Flying Guillotine severed heads and shoulders above the rest. Its re-discovery on DVD is one of the reasons the medium was invented. Go and buy it now.




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