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Film / Master of the Flying Guillotine

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Master of the Flying Guillotine 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. It is (also) loosely based of the film Flying Guillotine.

The film concerns Jimmy Wang Yu's one-armed martial arts master, Tien Lung, being stalked by an Imperial assassin named Fung Sheng Wu Chi (Kang Chin), 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 (Chien-Po Tsen), an Indian named Yoga Tro La Seng, and a Japanese kobujutsu user nicknamed "'Wins-without-a-knife' Yakuma." (Fei Lung)

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!.

Master of the Flying Guillotine provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Wu Shao Tieh. She gets in over her head when she challenges the Thai Boxer and needs to be rescued, but she handily wins her bout in the tournament.
  • Antagonist Title: The Master of the Flying Guillotine title refers to the villain.
  • Bald of Evil: Fung Sheng Wu Chi
  • Beard of Evil: Fung Sheng Wu Chi
  • Berserk Button: Tien Lung brushes off personal insults and threats with equanimity. Desecrate his school's shrine to General Kwan, and he will end you.
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: Fu Sheng has ridiculously long fake eyebrows.
  • Brownface: La Seng, the Indian, is played by a Chinese man. It's pretty obvious.
  • 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.
  • Creator Provincialism: This Taiwan/Hong Kong film portrays a multicultural tournament where the ethnically Chinese fighters are the best.
  • Curb Stomp Cushion: Wu Shao Tieh gets in a few good shots against the Thai Boxer early on, but that just makes him start taking the fight seriously, at which point it becomes clear that she's out of her league.
  • 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.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The villain is in fact a master of the flying guillotine
  • Extendable Arms: La Seng is an Indian man with the power to extend his arms to an absurd length.
  • 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.
  • Hell Is That Noise: All of the victims of the Flying Guillotine let out a very throaty scream a second before their heads get lopped off, because they know what is about to happen to them.
  • Impossibly Cool Weapon: The Flying Guillotine itself.
  • Kung-Foley: Quite a lot, being a wuxia 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.
  • 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.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Yakuma to Wu Shao Tieh. He does treat her wounds from the fight where her father was murdered, but immediately upon her awakening, he tells her to stop thinking about her father and start thinking about running away with him. Later, when he suspects she may be interested in the One-Armed Boxer (which there have been, at best, a few hints of), he gets violent.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: "Wins Without a Knife" Yakuma. Who said anything about a knife?
  • Take That!:
    • The villain of the film is a former Imperial assassin. Taiwan's long-time president Chang Kai-chek was a leader in the revolution that overthrew the Imperial regime.
    • The Japanese villain of the film is a particularly duplicitous fighter who claims to "win without a knife" but conceals knives in his tonfa. Taiwanese people of the period had a low opinion of Japan due to having been occupied by the nation from 1895 until after World War II.
  • 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.
  • Underdogs Never Lose
  • Values Dissonance: The Swastika that Fung Shen Wu Chi wears has nothing to do with Nazism. Instead, it's a Buddhist holy symbol, meant to add to his disguise as a "Buddhist Lama".
  • Yellowface: The cast of Hong Kong actors portray a variety of Asian ethnicities. The most obvious example is La Seng, the Indian fighter.