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"Master of the Flying Guillotine"

Directed by Yu Wang.
Written by Yu Wang. 
Starring Kang Kam and Jimmy Yu Wang.
Release Year:  1975 
Review Date:  7/12/02 


When you are unemployed, you have the chance to check out press screenings of films that show at 10:30 in the morning.  So, my film critic friend Max and I went to a local art house theater today to check out the re-release of the 1975 classic “Master of the Flying Guillotine.”

As the name implies, this is one of those chop-socky Asian films that has a sizable cult following, and much like “Iron Monkey”, Quentin Tarantino got his hands on an old print of “MOTFG” and updated the sound, subtitles and music of the film.  What is here is great, great stuff.  The plot concerns a Ching assassin named Fung Sheng (Kang Kam) that loses two apprentices to a man known throughout the land as The One-Armed Boxer (Jimmy Yu Wang) somewhere in 1800s Asia.  Fung, who looks like he is 100 years old and is blind, sets out to find this One-Armed Boxer and avenge his disciples’ deaths.  This One-Armed Boxer is the head of a kung-fu school and is not looking for any more trouble, but by showing up at a local fight-to-the-death tournament, he exposes himself and Fung Sheng discovers him at the tournament.

While the plot is anything but complex, it provides an opportunity to showcase a hilarious set of fighters, led by Fung (who wields a flying guillotine, which is sort of like a hat with a set of lethal knives on the inside, taking the head of its victims clean off), the One-Armed Boxer, “Win Without a Knife” Yakuma, fighters that use the monkey style (think drunken), the tiger style, a crazy yoga instructor and a Thai boxer.  The sound effects are so over-the-top that the opening scene, when Fung jumps through the roof of a wooden hut, literally made me fall out of my chair laughing.

Man, I love old kung fu movie sound effects.  Every single punch, arm thrust, eye gouge, and foot stomp is so overexaggerated that it never gets old.  Neither, then, does the “Mortal Kombat”-styled tournament in the middle of the film, where fighters duke it out to the death and when one guy does bite it, the referee flashes this handfan in this motion that must be seen to be appreciated.  The film is about 75% fighting and 25% story, so the mix is perfect for someone that wants to sit back and just watch 90 minutes of ass-whooping.

This one’s not perfect, but it’s got a lot going for it.  Also, you check and see if this is going to open in your town; it will be showing in San Francisco soon for a limited two-week run in re-release, but you can always pick it up on video.

Rating:  $9.00 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09