Starring: Jimmy Wang Yu, Kam Kong, Lung Kun Yee
I remember back in the mid 70s when this film played in theatres. Looking over the poster at the MALL 205 movie theatre in Portland, Oregon, I thought “a flying guillotine?” How and why would they make the traditional guillotine fly? Seems like it would be big, bulky and awkward. In the end I didn’t see the movie.
All these years later I was able to spool up Pathfinder Pictures’s Anniversary Edition DVD of what turned out to be a VERY cool movie. Now I know that a flying guillotine is a lethal, sharp toothed weapon on a rope that could be used for an assortment of grizzly deaths, whether it be Decapitations, lacerating legs, arms, etc. Essentially a killing machine that apparently has been used in other films before and after MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE, most notably inspiring Gogo’s ball & chain weapon in Tarantino’s KILL BILL.
Filmed in Taiwan in 1976, this kung-fu period piece tells the story of vengeance between a one armed hero and a blind assassin. That’s all you need to know. Just watch this disc and see for yourself. The fight scenes are terrific, including a 25 minute tournament of fighters who literally kill each other in the ring. Beheadings galore, impalements, broken limbs and fighting on a red hot cabin floor where the victim literally burns the bottom of his feet off. There is even some silly over the top comedy gags which seem out of place, but nothing really seems out of place in this dazzling and delirious martial arts flick. Made independently by it’s star and director, cult movie sensation Jimmy Wang Yu, the production values are slick and the energy high. MOTFG also has a personality. Wang Yu is an interesting chap whose screen presence is not the usual Jackie Chan show off silliness but more Jimmy Stewart. An “everyman” who doesn’t need to steal every scene with gravity defying stunts. He plays it all with a look and his handsome appearance makes him incredibly appealing. The source material found for remastering the DVD is obviously a little rough around the edges but disc executive producer Gregory Hatanaka did the best he could to find the most satisfactory original vault elements for this release.
The disc includes recent interviews with Jimmy Wang Yu, a nice touch as the man still has the sweet personality and humbleness you usually don’t see in older “action” stars from the West. The commentary is enlightening although I wish there was more discussion of how the film was made and distributed in Asia and the world. All in all, I recommend the disc for its enthusiastic release. Obviously the folks who put it together love the genre and their passion is appreciated.