MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE
DU BI QUAN WANG DA PO XUE DI ZI
Jimmy Wang Yu, Hong Kong/Taiwan, 1976, 35mm, 83′, English language version
+ short film:
Jan Soldat, Austria/Germany, 2022, DCP, 8’
Udo Kier dies his way through film history. He screams, falls, lies, is chopped up, shot or takes his own life. Again and again his empty gaze, again and again his rigid body. In 54 years of acting career Udo Kier played in more than 170 feature films, 120 series episodes and 50 short films. More than 70 times Udo Kier tried to give an expression to dying and death.
The year is 1730. After the rebellious One-Armed Boxer (Hong Kong superstar and the film’s director Jimmy Wang Yu) disposes of two would-be assassins, their master, a notorious mercenary employed by the oppressive Qing dynasty, swears revenge. Posing as a Buddhist monk and swinging a deadly flying guillotine, he will kill any one-armed man that crosses his path – because he is blind and doesn’t really know who to look for. A beloved wuxia cult classic and grindhouse masterpiece whose outlandish tournament of kung-fu masters with wacky skills influenced everything and everyone, from Tarantino’s Kill Bill to the video-game classics Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat.
“What wuxia fan can forget the first time they saw the red cap land on an unsuspecting victim’s head, drop a net, latch razor sharp blades around his neck and pop off said head like a Ken doll with the tug of a chain? Not many, and thus was born one of cinema’s most memorably bonkers weapons ever. Equal part ludicrous and glorious, writer-director-star Jimmy Wang Yu’s 1976 Master of the Flying Guillotine may be a late entry in Hong Kong’s martial arts glory years, but its shadow looms large nonetheless. For wuxia fans, Master of the Flying Guillotine is a good as it gets. An enormous hit upon release, it’s a cultural touchstone of sorts, hitting theaters just as relations between China and the U.S. were being normalized, and Hong Kong was staring down the barrel of social unrest and rampant police corruption. Mistrust of the powers that be was the norm, so Fung’s status as a Manchu Qing assassin, hunting down lingering Ming rebels like the Boxer may not be pure coincidence.”
– Elizabeth Kerr, The Hollywood Reporter