A long-unavailable cult favorite featuring a wide-variety of fighting styles and the marvelously bizarre flying guillotine, whose master is emphatically not the film's hero. 1730: Manchu Ching rulers have replaced the Ming government and trained martial arts assassins to ruthlessly suppress rebellion. One, blind Master Fung Sheng Wu Chin (Kam Kang), is known for his command of the much-feared "flying guillotine" — a basket-like contraption at the end of a chain, ringed with spikes and containing an interior set of decapitating blades. Master Fung's apprentices are killed by the legendary One-Armed Boxer (Jimmy Wang Yu), a Ming sympathizer, and Master Fung swears revenge. Meanwhile, the One-Armed Boxer has opened a martial arts school with his brother (Lung Fei), and agrees to accompany his students to a tournament, though not as a participant — he doesn't want to attract government scrutiny. The tournament is hosted by Master Wu (Hau Pai Cheng), whose daughter Shao Tieh (Sham Tsim Po) is competing, and attracts martial artists from all over China and abroad. The foreign contingent includes Win-Without-a-Knife Yakuma (Wang Lung Wei), a Japanese warrior who belies his name by killing with a hidden blade; the Indian Yogi Master (Lau Ka Wing), who can stretch his arms to abnormal lengths; and brutish Thai fighter Thai Nai Men (Chi Fu Chiang), who precedes his battles with a little traditional dance. Master Fung (wearing a slightly disconcerting swastika sash around his neck) disrupts the tournament, kills an innocent one-armed fighter with the guillotine, wounds Shao Tieh and murders her father. One-Armed Boxer must make his stand with the help of his brother, his loyal students and Shao Tieh, who wants to avenge her father's death. Barely released in the U.S. in a truncated version, this film nevertheless developed a strong cult following for its near-nonstop action, the bizarre array of fighters — from a goofy monkey boxer to the freaky Yogi Master — and, of course, the flying guillotine itself, which strikes to the accompaniment of a spectacular gunshot sound effect. The electronic score sounds more appropriate to a Spaghetti Western soundtrack than a period martial arts picture, and the story culminates in a smackdown in a coffin-maker's shop worthy of Sergio Leone. Restored to its full length by distributor Gregory Hatanaka, who tracked down the original negative hours before it was scrapped, this film is a must-see for martial arts enthusiasts.
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- Released: 1974
- Rating: NR
- Review: A long-unavailable cult favorite featuring a wide-variety of fighting styles and the marvelously bizarre flying guillotine, whose master is emphatically not the film's hero. 1730: Manchu Ching rulers have replaced the Ming government and trained martial ar… (more)