Liu Ti Lung (Jimmy Wang Yu), the "one-armed boxer," heads a martial arts school where he tries to keep a low profile ("Don't attract attention from government officials," he warns his students). In the same village, a bigwig is hosting a large-scale martial arts tournament. Liu Ti Lung refuses to enter the tournament, but decides that his students could learn from watching the participants.
|A tournament participant readies for|
her first blow.
No plot summary could do justice to Master of the Flying Guillotine, one of the funkiest and most popular films to emerge from the kung fu craze of the 1970s. Released in 1976, the film just missed out on the kung fu fad in America. Over the years, though, American fans have elevated it from cult status to the point where it has been championed by filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino.
Part of the film's appeal comes from the tournament scenes, which pit fighters from different martial arts disciplines against each other. Indeed, Master of the Flying Guillotine is known as the protoype "tournament film," although it wasn't the first of its kind. In fact, director-star Jimmy Wang Yu actually borrowed the concept from his earlier One-Armed Boxer (aka The Chinese Professionals), which--although it didn't feature a tournament per se--boasted a plethora of martial artists from different counties and with different fighting styles.
|Fighters perched on poles...with|
blades protruding from the ground.
|Wang Yu narrowly avoids death|
by flying guillotine.
There are subplots aplenty in Master of the Flying Guillotine, but my favorite involves a female martial artist whose father (the tournament host) is murdered by Fu Sing Wu Chi. A Japanese teacher offers to take care of her and teach her karate. However, she rejects his offer, stating: "All I want to do now to take revenge on that blind man." The Japanese teacher's terse response: "Don't bother...you're not enough."
|Wang Yu plots his next move during|
the fight in the coffin shop.
For anyone interested in martial arts films, Master of the Flying Guillotine is required viewing. For those curious to explore the genre beyond the films of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, this funky, stylish picture is a great place to start.