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From Under A Rock: The Master of the Flying Guillotine

May 23, 2018 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
The Master of the Flying Guillotine
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From Under A Rock: The Master of the Flying Guillotine  

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All I needed to pick this movie was a genre I never check out, and a unique weapon to show Aaron.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Aaron chose Rashomon. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the proverbial rock to show him The Master of the Flying Guillotine.

The Master of the Flying Guillotine
Released: April 24th, 1976
Directed by: Jimmy Wang
Written by: Jimmy Wang Yu
Starring:
Jimmy Wang Yu as the One-armed Boxer
Kam Kong as Fung Sheng Wu Chi
Doris Lung as Wu’s daughter
Sham Chin-bo as Nai Men, the Thai boxer

Michael Ornelas: This isn’t just a martial arts movie…this is a flying guillotine martial arts movie out Taiwan. It’s kind of bonkers.

Aaron Hubbard: I found it less bonkers, but definitely a good example of the era in which is was made, title and all.
Guillotine
The Flying Guillotine
Michael: First and foremost, can we just talk about this weapon? The idea is sick (in a good way), but impractical. They shot around the logistics and just had the darn thing work regardless of how unlikely that would actually be, and it made for a really memorable movie weapon that has been overlooked through the years.

Aaron: Mythbusters actually tested this weapon, which may or may not have actually been used. Turns out, the thing is lethally effective… as an assassination tool. It’s not all that different from throwing a rope, just with bloodier after effects. Not good for getting in a fair fight, but if you want to sneak up on somebody to kill them, it totally works. So… yeah, it makes sense that the martial arts genre would go nuts with an idea like this.

Michael: Interesting…I feel like the beekeeper helmet-looking portion of the weapon complete with the blades wouldn’t actually fold up into that little sleeve, but if Mythbusters tested it, who am I to argue?
Indian
“Whoosh”, or: Low-Budget 1970s Charm
Aaron: Something that took a lot of adjusting for me was all of the sound effects for the combat in this movie. Most of the fight choreography is really solid, some of it genuinely impressive considering the protagonist only fights with one arm (though it’s often poorly hidden in his shirt). But all the “Whoosh”-ing, Western-style pistol shots, and other assorted sound effects is the kind of thing that I would do to parody this genre. The best way for me to describe it as that it’s as ridiculously put together as Black Dynamite, except made in the era that Black Dynamite was riffing on. Definitely sticks out.

Michael: It had a certain charm to it. I can’t imagine this movie without it. In a way, it kind of goes so far as to define the genre (stylistically) for me. It’s unique, and so stylized that you’d never come across it in any other kind of movie. I also loved the cheapness/fakeness of the visual practical effects (like the decapitations). It takes me out of the movie in the sense that I can tell it’s obviously a movie, but it endears me more to the project because it reminds me that these are all made by people just doing their best and it gave me a sense of childlike wonder, if that isn’t crazy.

Aaron: I don’t think so. It’s certainly an interesting phenomenon for someone my age. I grew up with Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which are decidedly this same genre. But they have the production values, the artistry and, for want of a better word, “sophistication” that those films lack. So it’s a bit like seeing the evolution of the genre in reverse, like going back and watching the 1966 Batman movie after watching the Christopher Nolan take. I wouldn’t trade either version for the other.
Fire
Sequel? I Hardly Even Know Her!
Michael: One really interesting thing about this movie for me is the One Armed Boxer element. He’s the main character, even though the movie starts on Fung Sheng Wu Chi, who has received the news that two of his disciples have been killed and he must avenge them. I didn’t know this was a sequel the first time I saw it, and he felt like the protagonist in a revenge film, but he turns out to be the villain. I thought that was a cool choice, as it flipped my expectations on their head (before cutting them off).

Aaron: It was certainly interesting for me, since I have not seen The One Armed Man either, although I do feel obligated to check it out now. This is actually something that’s cropped up a few times in this genre; I’ve been trying to suss out the proper order for Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master series for a while, and it’s impossible to tell the order just based on titles.

Michael: Drunken Master is the first one, and the only one I’ve seen. It’s actually really good and it’s crazy to see how awesome Chan is at martial arts in a movie made overseas instead of the normal 80s/90s ones he was in here, which are a totally different vibe.

Ratings:
Aaron: This was dumb fun. There’s no acting or production values to speak of, or even much of a plot. But as ninety minutes of pretty cool martial stunts work (complete with whooshes) and insanely goofy weapons (complete with gunshot sounds), this is pretty fun. It’s at least a thousand times better than Iron Fist, at any rate.

C-

Michael: It’s mindless, and it’s not too long. But it’s not really impressive cinema. If you’re looking for some martial arts fun, I recommend it, but if you want to be engaged by an enthralling story, this probably isn’t for you. There are a couple really cool fight scenes though (one on wooden posts over a bed of knives as well as another one with the prototype to Street Fighter’s Dhalsim character).

C+

Aaron: Perhaps it’s more enthralling when you see it in the proper order.

Michael: Maybe. It’s a brisk piece of fun regardless.

What’s your favorite film that you know isn’t very good?

Next week:

Aaron: Well, next week, you’re in for a treat. From Alfred Hitchcock, starring James Stewart, and brought to you in gorgeous Techni-Color…
Vertigo
Michael: Yes. I need to see this and it’s crazy I haven’t yet, as it’s constantly considered an all-time great.

Aaron: This is one I’ve been dying to revisit.

What is the best neo-noir mystery of all-time?

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6.0
The final score: review Average
The 411
This isn't a movie we can really recommend, but we wouldn't dissuade anyone from watching it either. It's a 1970's wuxia film from Taiwan, where the premise is building up to "The One Armed Man vs. The Master of the Flying Guillotine". If that sounds like a fun way to spend an hour and a half to you, you're probably correct. If it's not striking your fancy, nothing about the actual film will change your mind. A definite thumbs in the middle for this one.
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