Master of the Flying Guillotine

1976 kung-fu classic

Rating: 16/20

Plot: After a one-armed man kills a pair of his former students, the blind and bearded titular master of the titular weapon of mass decapitation goes on a one-armed man killing spree to get revenge. The shenanigans threaten to ruin a kung-fu tournament.

It's no wonder this is a favorite of Tarantino and kung-fu aficionados. It's balls-to-the-wall action, that sort of uncouth action that nudges aside any semblance of plot. The characters are very colorful. The least interesting character is probably the hero, the one-armed boxer played by director Yu Wang. I'm not even sure that's a knock on the one-armed boxer played by director Yu Wang, but when you have a disco-dancing flamboyant Thai boxer, a guy named Wins-Without-a-Knife who wins with a knife, and a guy whose arms extend to a length of about ten feet when he fights, having only a single arm is not going to seem like a big deal. I like when the weirdness in these movies is played straight. I'd almost understand if, following the first time that guy's arms extended, there was a comic shot of a guy with really big eyes and a springy noise sound effect, but Master of the Flying Guillotine doesn't have anything like that and is better for it. The bad guy's awesome, and the guillotine might be one of the most menacing weapons in the history of martial arts movies. I didn't think about the special effects used to make the guillotine be a flying one, and that's a credit to the special effects team. This is a "tournament" martial arts film, and there's a bulk near the middle made up of a series of fights. It's a great excuse to show a variety of characters and fighting styles. Another thing great about this is the music, some really cool krautrock stuff including Neu!. And the climactic fight scene between the one-armed man and the blind man? As epic as you'd think a fight between a one-armed man and a blind man would be! Definitely recommended for fans of the genre.


Barry said...

I put this in my Netflix cue because of your review. I shall let you know what I think....eventually.

Shane said...

Uh oh...

I didn't think anybody read my kung-fu movie write-ups. I hope you like it.