Film: Master of the Flying Guillotine
This film is a 1975 Taiwanese / Hong Kong martial arts film starring Jimmy Wang Yu, who also wrote and directed the film. It is a sequel to Yu's 1971 film One Armed Boxer, and thus the film is also known as One-Armed Boxer 2 and The One Armed Boxer Vs. the Flying Guillotine.
The film concerns Yu's one-armed martial arts master being stalked by an Imperial assassin named Fung Sheng Wu Chi, the master of two fighters (the Tibetan Lamas) who were killed in the previous film. When the One-Armed Boxer is invited to attend a martial arts tournament, his efforts to lay low are unsuccessful when the assassin soon tracks him down with the help of his three subordinates competing in the tournament: a Thai boxer named Nai Men, an Indian named Yoga Tro La Seng, and a Japanese kobujutsu user nicknamed "'Wins-without-a-knife' Yakuma."
The title refers to the assassin's unique weapon, the so-called "Flying Guillotine" which resembles a hat with a bladed rim attached to a long chain. Upon enveloping one's head, the blades cleanly decapitate the unlucky victim
with a quick pull of the chain.
Master of the Flying Guillotine is considered a classic martial arts movie and has influenced many films of the genre that followed. It enjoyed a recent surge of popularity when Kill Bill
referenced the villain's leitmotif
, an excerpt of the song "Super 16" by Neu!
(2012) is a loose remake
Master of the Flying Guillotine provides examples of:
- Badass: Even without the dreaded Flying Guillotine, Fung Sheng Wu Chi is not a man you want to fuck with.
- Bald of Evil: Fung Sheng Wu Chi
- Beard of Evil: Fung Sheng Wu Chi
- Brownface: La Seng, the Indian, is played by a Chinese man. The effect they use to try and pull it off is hilariously awful.
- Combat Pragmatist: The One-Armed Boxer is a great martial artist, but he relies on an incredible amount of pre-planning to give him the edge in his duels against the various villains.
- Dawson Casting: As with many martial arts flicks, the old master is played by a much younger actor.
- Determinator: To avenge his students Fung Sheng Wu Chi will kill any one armed man he encounters.
- Disability Superpower: The best martial artists in China are apparently a one-armed man and an old blind man.
- Dual Tonfas: Yakuma's weapons. Of course, knifes are hidden in the ends of them.
- Fountain of Expies: Several characters actually went on to be Expys in other martial arts movies. Some of them got expied into Fighting Games making this a very influential film.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The villain is in fact a master of the flying guillotine
- Extendable Arms: La Seng, the Indian fighter. It's believed that Dhalism of Street Fighter fame is based on this character.
- Guilt by Coincidence: Fung Sheng Wu Chi knows that a one-armed man killed his disciples, so he'll kill every one-armed man he meets.
- Impossibly Cool Weapon: The Flying Guillotine itself.
- Kung-Foley: Quite a lot, being a Shaw Brothers film from the 70s. Most noticeable with the flying guillotine, which makes a gunshot sound whenever it's thrown.
- Leitmotif: Fung Sheng Wu Chi has a grinding, droning theme song taken from a song by the Krautrock band Neu! that is quite noticeable for a period martial arts film.
- Made of Iron: The Mongolian fighter's power is total immunity to attacks, until his eyes are poked out.
- Martial Pacifist: This was actually due to Jimmy Wang Yu being a poor martial artist in real life.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The One-Armed Boxer picks a particularly brutal way to defeat the Thai boxer. He locks him in a room where the floor slowly heats up, so that his bare feet are roasted. Unable to fight back, he gets beaten and cooked to death.
- Non Indicative Name: "Wins-without-a-knife" invariably pulls a knife on his opponents for the win. He uses the nickname as a disarming tactic, so they won't expect it.
- Oddly Common Rarity: There seems to be a lot of one-armed men walking around China.
- Off with His Head!: What the title weapon does to anyone it's used on.
- Popcultural Osmosis
- Public Domain Soundtrack: Most of the film's soundtrack is made up of Krautrock songs, by Neu!, Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk in particular. This later caused rights issues when it was released as a DVD, and in Japan its entire soundtrack had to be replaced with a new score.
- Retired Badass: Flying Guillotine comes out of retirement to avenge his students' deaths.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Flying Guillotine intends to kill every one-armed man in China until someone tells him that he got his man.
- Rule of Cool: The flying guillotine is obviously a fictitious weapon, but it's cool.
- ...kinda? There's no proof that it existed, but this is hardly the first film to come up with the idea and it dates back to some really old Chinese folklore, so it may not be as fictitious as it seems.
- Shout-Out: The bum who kills seven flies with one blow, then makes a belt about it and passes his feat off as killing seven people with one blow, is taken from the European fables of Jack the Giant Killer and The Brave Little Tailor.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: "Wins Without a Knife" Yakuma. Who said anything about a knife?
- Tournament Arc: A martial arts tournament is where all the characters meet. A bunch of different styles are showcased, a good number of fatalities occur, and once Fung Shen Wu Chi kills another one-armed fighter, then the guy running it, it's mostly forgotten about.
- Trying to Catch Me Fighting Dirty: "Wins Without a Knife" has the decency to look shifty after pulling out his (gasp!) knife.
- Underdogs Never Lose
- Yellowface: The cast of Hong Kong actors portray a variety of Asian ethnicities. The most obvious example is La Seng, the Indian fighter.