Directed By: Jimmy Wang Yu
Starring: Jimmy Wang Yu, Tien Wu Chu, Kang Chin
Tag line: "It's A Mean Machine - Cuts Your Head Off Clean!"
Trivia: Most or all music featuring in the film was used without permission of copyright holders (when the film was first released)
Admittedly, I'm not all that familiar with the films of Jimmy Wang Yu, a martial arts superstar who rose to prominence in the '60s and '70s. I'd seen a handful of his movies over the years, such as Blood of the Dragon (also known as Blood of the Ninja), The One-Armed Swordsman and Return of the Chinese Boxer, and really enjoyed them. Having just watched Master of the Flying Guillotine, I now consider Jimmy Wang Yu one of the most talented kung-fu stars in the genre's history.
The year is 1730, a period in China’s history known as the Ching Dynasty. The One-Armed Boxer (Jimmy Wang Yu) is both a kung-fu master and the respected instructor of a martial arts training school. A local chieftain (Pai Cheng Hau) is hosting a tournament to determine the area's best fighter, and the One-Armed Boxer has been invited to attend. Unbeknownst to our hero, however, a blind guillotine master (Kam Kang) is seeking revenge against him for killing two of his most promising disciples. Unable to track down his enemy, the Guillotine master decides to kill every one-armed man he comes across, which he does with the help of his new weapon, the flying guillotine, a contraption that, when thrown through the air, will cut off the head of anyone it lands on.
There are some incredible fight sequences in Master of the Flying Guillotine, many of which take place during the tournament, yet things really heat up whenever Jimmy Wang Yu (who also directed the film) is on-screen. One of the best battles occurs in a small shack, where his One-Armed Boxer faces off against the Thai Boxer (Chien-Po Tsen), a disciple of the guillotine master. This shack has a floor made entirely of sheet metal, and while the action is hot, it's not nearly as scolding as that floor gets when the One-Armed Boxer’s students light a fire underneath it, turning the whole place into a searing frying pan, taking what was already an impressive showdown and kicking the tension up a notch.
From what I can gather, Jimmy Wang Yu wasn't the most pleasant person to be around. Not QuiteHollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation paints him as an arrogant bigot (during the making of 1975's The Man From Hong Kong, he managed to piss off just about everybody, including co-star George Lazenby and director Brian Trenchard-Smith), and in 1981, he was charged with murder in Taiwan (charges that were eventually dropped due to a lack of evidence). But there's no denying his talent. An exciting, magnetic personality, I'm looking forward to delving into more of his films.