Master of the Flying Guillotine
1974, NR, 90 min. Directed by Jimmy Wang Yu. Starring Lau Ka Wing, Jimmy Wang Yu, Kam Kang, Lung Kun Yee.
REVIEWED By Joey O'Bryan, Fri., Oct. 20, 1995
This deceptively titled, cheapskate martial arts picture that seems to promise a follow-up to Ho Meng-hua's fantastic The Flying Guillotine (1974) is, instead, a continuation of fight film icon Jimmy Wang Yu's classic The One Armed Boxer (1975) that even throws in a pinch of the Yu favorite for good measure. In this light, the original Chinese title, The One Armed Boxer vs. The Flying Guillotine, is less of a cheat. Unfortunately, the movie isn't very successful at presenting this legendary scrap since the two enemies don't even meet and duel until the last 10 minutes of the picture -- not exactly making for the epic brawl that one might expect. To make matters worse, our one-armed hero doesn't do much of anything for the first hour of the movie: He just hangs out and watches people fight, walks around the edge of a wicker basket, and tries to teach his students how to stand upside down on a ceiling. This, of course, is not to say that the movie isn't action-packed, because it most assuredly is, thanks to the handy plot device of a local fight tournament, which provides a whole half-hour of non-stop fight footage to liven up the proceedings. And these battles are pretty lively: With martial arts choreography by the famed Lui Brothers (one of whom, Lui Chia-liang, went on to become, perhaps, the most masterful of all chopsocky directors), and a whole gallery of exotic combatants to root for, this section is probably the most entertaining part of Master of the Flying Guillotine. It's just too bad that it really doesn't have much of anything to do with the main plot. And just what is the plot? Simple. A powerful and blind monk (played by the incredibly named “King Kong”) set on avenging his murdered friends, vows to use his “flying guillotine” to wipe Yu off the face of the earth, even if it means killing every one-armed person he meets into just to be sure. This movie, written and directed by star Jimmy Wang Yu, is, to put it mildly, a mess. The story is senseless, the direction is sloppy, the running time is padded out with lengthy flashbacks to the series' previous installment, and it doesn't come close to matching either of the films that inspired it. Still, I'd be lying if I said this movie wasn't a hoot. Sure it's silly, but it's also campy, brainless fun, and just how often to get to see stuff like this on the big screen anyway?