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Wuj}wl (1976)
One-armed Boxer vs. the Flying Guillotine

Reviewed by: Masterofoneinchpunch
Date: 12/26/2006
Summary: Iconic Cult Classic

Few films enjoy the moniker of a “cult classic.” Few films have a one-armed hero, a blind antagonist who wields a Flying Guillotine, steal German techno music for the soundtrack, a martial arts tournament in the middle of the film, and have been inspirational to Quentin Tarantino and video games. Master of the Flying Guillotine (aka One-armed Boxer vs. The Flying Guillotine) is one of several old-school martial art films to take on an iconic stature amongst Asian film fanatics, amongst them include Five Deadly Venoms, Fist of Fury and Drunken Master. This movie is one of my favorite Taiwanese films – produced by First Films.

It is 1730 during the reign of Emperor Yung Cheng of the Manchu Dynasty and is in the case of all films about this oppressive era the protagonists are supporters of the Ming Dynasty. The awesome antagonist is a blind (disguised) Buddhist named Fung Sheng Wu Chi played with demonic fury by Kam Kong (Half a Loaf of Kung Fu). He wears Buddhist garb, has his own lifted musical theme of “Super 16" by the German group Neu! (they also use “Super” by Neu! in the opening theme and “Mitternacht”, “Morgensparziergang” and “Kometenmelodie 2" by Kraftwerk in the film), throws bombs that remind me of Tim from Monty Python and the Holy Grail and carries an ingenious weapon called the Flying Guillotine, it was used earlier in the movie The Flying Guillotine (1975). This weapon is a round circular disk with serrated edges on the outside and a retractable net with sharp knives that can be thrown by its user to go over the head of its opponent and with a jerk of the attached chain rip off the head. It is also be folded and fit in your pocket! With this weapon and his learned knowledge that his students Chow Lung and Chow Fu were killed by the One-Armed Boxer he goes off in search of his revenge.

The One-Armed Boxer (Jimmy Wang Yu reprising his most successful role as well as directing this film) is the sifu of a martial arts school where he shows his students how to fight, walk on empty baskets and to walk on ceilings (it is all in how you breathe). His students want to enter a martial arts tournament run by Wu Chang Sheng of the Eagle Claw school but he fears that government might find them out. He does agree to go watch the tournament though.

The tournament is one of the many highlights of the film. While the tournament film was nothing new (Enter the Dragon was done several years earlier), the approach of many styles and deadly fighting would go on to influence video games such as Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter. There are nine fights that range in quality but most are memorable. The first is Long Spear Chang Chia Yu (actually uses a three-section staff) versus Long Stick Ho Po Wei. This is a short but decent fight that is more memorable because the underrated Lau Kar Wing (also one of the stunt coordinators) plays Chia Yu and that it is more calm than the fights about the happen. However there is much more: there is a Mongolian who looks more like a silent movie star (with his dastardly false mustache) than a Mongolian. There is a double fatality. There are crotch kicks, eye pokes, pole-fighting, a one-armed fighter who accidently shows his other arm, a cheating Thai fighter and an Indian fighter who can stretch his limbs (like Dhalsim in Street Fighter) to attack his opponents. One of my favorite fights is the fifth fight between Eagle Claws Wu Shao Tieh (Doris Lung) and a Monkey Boxer Ma Wa Kung who is small, agile and carries the fight between the two (being comic relief he will not win but he will not die either).

But this tournament is just a diversion. The main plot will continue after the abrupt conclusion of the tournament. There are still several fights to go and two are unforgettable. The first memorable fight involves the One-Armed Boxer vs. the Thai fighter. Though Wang Yu would have trouble with plot, dialogue and making sense in many of his films he has always had an interesting knack on weaponry and situations. Here he uses a small metal house to trap the barefoot Thai fighter while the OAB’s students are piling wood and setting underneath the house ablaze making this a giant hotbox. This fight to the death is a bit difficult and is sometimes hard to watch but nonetheless a fantastic bout. Sometimes the hero must have some sadistic element in fighting his enemies. The last fight is an awesome inevitable confrontation between the protagonist and Fung Sheng. Here is where Fung Yu’s ingenuity at situational martial arts comes to blossom. I will not tempt to spoil this be explaining it (just in case you have not watched it). I will say that it is the perfect ending to this momentous martial arts film.

There are a couple of good Master of the Flying Guillotine R1 DVDs out there by Pathfinder. Pathfinder has a 2002 (Ultimate Edition) and 2004 (2-disc Anniversary Edition) release. The latest release is preferable because of the anamorphic video transfer, additional interviews with Jimmy Wang Yu and an insert booklet with a several goods articles including the history of the Flying Guillotine, the movie itself and one on Wang Yu. It is important to mention to extreme collectors that the commentaries are different on both disks. The first one has Wade Major and Andy Klein, the second adds Alex Luu to the mix. I was not particularly impressed by the second commentary. While they acknowledged their mistakes in the first one (such as calling this a Hong Kong film) they still did not add as much factual information as they could (name the music that was lifted instead of saying a German band) and they digressed a few too many times. While this film could use a better transfer (this is still a decent transfer and both Pathfinder versions seem to have the same quality, I just wish Criterion would pick this up; wishful bizarre thinking I know) it is great to see in a good-enough widescreen version with Mandarin dialogue.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 07/13/2005
Summary: The blind monk plans to kill all the one armed men...

The flying guillotine is the ultimate weapon that the monk wields to cut off the heads of his enemies while keeping his distance. He also has small bombs that he throws with decent but not total accuracy. He is stalking Tien Lung, the one armed boxer who killed his two disciples--and almost made it a triple header with Fung Cheh Wu-chi, the mad monk himself.

The One Armed Boxer is a self effacing, intelligent and resourceful kung fu master who saves the students in his school, rescues the heroine and defeats the foreign enemy. Every subsidiary bad guy is a foreigner--to show just how evil the Master of the FG really is, he uses most of most of the non-Chinese fighters to help him hunt Tien Lung.

They are quite a crew--the Indian yoga master (complete with turban)who has extendible arms, the Thai boxer enjoys hurting opponents, the Japanese who kills without a sword but uses a hidden knife.

There are two major set pieces--the martial arts tournament and the ultimate showdown in the coffin shop. The tournament takes up most of the middle third of the movie. It is interrupted after the completion of the first round--a good thing since every fight is to the death and there would be only one survivor. In one bout both combatants died.

If the viewer can accept the movie on its own terms--a workmanlike product of Hong Kong from 30 years ago--it is a rollicking good time.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 08/15/2003
Summary: Ok.........

I guess i had a high expectation of this movie since so many reviewers like this so much. But i didn't find anything special with this movie.

OK the villians are very good and different from other martial arts movie, but the action was slow. The one punch one kill by WAng Yu's character is just too easy a way to kill villians off. OK they did become inventive on how to tackle each villian but the action (watching the tourniment) was just slow and ahrd to watch. I believe that was when i started to press the fast forward button

Good enough to watch at least once but made no great impression on me


Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 07/12/2003
Summary: Trippy music

For those who asked about the music, it's mostly sampled from side two of Autobahn, Kraftwerk's classic album from 1975. The film itself is an absolute ripper. As Steve said, there are a few dead spots, but they pass quickly and are easily forgiven, considering the quality and quantity of great fu. Even though Jimmy Wang Yu never lets you forget he's the star, he did a damn fine job about surrounding himself with the best fu talent.

An absolute must see for any action or fu fan.

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: jackfu01
Date: 01/07/2003
Summary: One of Wang Yu's Best!

Continued from One Armed Boxer, the master of the two (fake) Lamas seeks revenge on Yu Tien Lung (Wang Yu) for killing his students and sets out to kill every one-armed man he comes across until he gets the right one. The fights are Wang Yu at his innovative best. Watch how he outwits the different fighters (of superior skill to his own) to set them up for his "one strike, one kill" iron-fist technique. Especially the fight with the blind, flying-guillotine master in the coffin shop at the end. He makes use of bouncing pebbles off the planks and coffin lids to distract the villain and spring booby-trap axes. A must-see for Wang Yu fans!

Reviewed by: magic-8
Date: 05/30/2002
Summary: Dated but Fun

Back in 1976, Jimmy Wang Yu was "the man" in Hong Kong films, making movies like "Master of the Flying Guillotine" for his rabid fans. Ten years earlier, in 1967, he starred in the seminal "The One Armed Swordsman," in a film career that would span 30 years. It seems that Jimmy couldn't get away from playing one-armed heroes. Wang Yu's films were smash hits when they first appeared on screen, but they are more like items from a time capsule today. The techniques in martial arts choreography and film editing have come a long way since then. It isn't hard to understand why his films were so successful in their day; good story lines, fluid pacing, and most of all, frenetic action.

"Master of the Flying Guillotine" aka "One Armed Boxer 2" is primative filmmaking by today's standards, but it has a lot of brio for combining many exciting elements like a martial arts tournament, a group of unique martial artists from around the Asian world, including an Indian with the ability to stretch out his arms (a la Reed Richards from the Fantastic Four), and a crazy hell-bent blind monk out for revenge using a hand held flying guillotine. Against all of this is our hero Jimmy Wang Yu as the one armed boxer, who must fight in order to survive.

It is apparent that Jimmy isn't a martial artist. His moves are awkward and his mobility is limited, but his ambitious execution is filled with a keen sense of adventure. The sophisticated kung fu choreography of Yeun Woo Ping and Jackie Chan was only a couple of years away. Supposedly, "Master of the Flying Guillotine" is Hong Kong film fanboy Quentin Tarantino's favorite movie. Man, he must be strange. I don't know where they bit the music from, but it is highly listenable distortion. "Master of the Flying Guillotine" is more a curio now than exciting entertainment, but the roots of modern day action are there for all to see in this dated but fun movie.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Ryoga
Date: 12/25/2001

This came on a the television on a local channel I receive here. An old blind master just heres that his two students have been killed by the one arm man Jimmy Wang Yu. Many fights begin in a tournament including a Japanese fighter, Thai Boxer and even an Indian martial artist who can extend his arms like Dhalsim does in the Street Fighter games. Pretty strange film with some punk rockish music in the intro but still enjoyable.

Reviewed by: maledictus
Date: 02/10/2001
Summary: What great fun!

This is the second part of Wang Yu's ONE-ARMED BOXER-series (the first part oddly isn't found in the database here yet) and the best of the pack.
To get this straight at first, the plot makes no sense whatsoever and every non-Chinese person is definitly a treacherous honorless bastard that'll bite it in the end. So it's rascistic, dumb and darn violent as well (for an Old-School-movie that is), but WHO CARES?
Okay, so here's the "plot": Wang Yu, having lost an arm in the first part (chopped off by an evil Japanese and his multi-cultural gang of killers) has opened a fighting school and trained such fascinating skills as defiying gravity. An old blind Manchu-soldier, master of the Flying Guillotine (still one of my favourite weapons, also to be shortly seen in action in HEROIC TRIO) wants to take vengeance for his pupils killed by Wang Yu (oddly, those dudes were presented as Thai-boxers in the first...) and runs through the country beheading every one-armed to cross his path. There's also a big martial-arts contest (presenting a wide-variety of truly odd personas like the aforementioned Yoga-master) and a Japanese Samurai (surpisingly not having vampire-teeth this time, pretty subtle for Wang Yu), all providing Wang Yu with tons of fodder to bash, but mainly it's about the blind Manchu and Wang Yu battling each other, which results in a great showdown in a bird-house.
Sounds great, huh? This movie certainly isn't a very intellectual ride, will make you feel absolutely worthless if you're not Chinese (at least i did) but great fun, so go see it with some friends, beer and a few more chop-socky-movies!

Reviewed by: hellboy
Date: 09/03/2000
Summary: Hi-"f**kin'"-yaa!

This sequel to One-Armed Boxer is even more action packed than its predecessor! It's packed to the gills with gravity-defying kung-fu action! The gimmicky characters fill up a lot of storyline but that's what makes this movie so worth watching! A blind monk (the title character)and a yoga master who can extend his limbs at will are just a few of the kookie characters that populate this universe. The music, particularly the master of the flying guillotine's theme, has a cool italian western flair to it. A good "midnight" movie. 9/10

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

A story of vengeance and honor -- told with glorious action andbloodletting. Part of the highly successful "One Armed Boxer" martial arts series that took the genre to new heights.

[Reviewed by Rim Films Catalog]

Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

Blind, and with only one arm and a flying guillotine to protect him (a hatlike frisbee that locks onto your head and rips it off), an embittered kung-fu master seeks vengeance for the death his two students; but he has an ulterior motive -- to wipe out all threats to the shaky (and evil) Ching Dynasty. This has a great, pounding soundtrack in car-radio sound, plus a terrific final show down -- which sort of compensates for the dull sections.


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 6