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"It's true, it doesn't have quite the action and hand-to-hand of 'other classics' like, i.e., The Kid with The Golden Arm, but you have to own this title anyways, or you're just posing.
The movie is different from those 'other classics' in that it's hero is more of a 'real' person than the hero in those 'other classics'. He can't kick your head off, and he can't whip his ponytail through your torso (which _is_ a weak point of this movie, I'll grant you), but he loves his wife and son, he's a good, moral man who is deeply disturbed by the situation in which he finds himself.
This movie has extremely rapid plot development, and the viewer can feel how the young protagonist is swept up by the pace of developments - fueled by the impatience of the godlike Emperor. The Emperor summons you to his palace. Of course you go, dropping everything instantly, because this man can have your whole city burned if he had a bad bowel movement that morning.
Your new life is to live at the palace and study to master a new weapon. Should you manage to complete the ultra-demanding training, you will be the Emperor's Special Ops forces, used to kill traitors. It's a huge honor, involves major prestige to your whole family, and mondo cash.
During the blur of the intense training, you are awakened after even less sleep than usual, with a veritable parade of courtiers who convey the will of the Emperor: it's time to put that training to the test.
You hustle off in the middle of the night, and one of you kills the appointed target.
Later, at an interlude in the training, it becomes clear that the victim was a 'good guy'. It must have been a mistake, right? No way the Emperor could be wrong, right? It becomes clear that even such discussion amongst the troops reaches the ear of the Emperor, and paranoia mounts. Disobedience is instant death, the walls have ears, and there are jealousies and tensions as strong undercurrents threatening to destabilize an already tenuous position stressed by a power-mad Emperor.
Another mid-night mission, and the target is another 'good guy'. The fine, upstanding men recruited are morally at odds with the will of the Emperor, and cracks appear in their committment. The troops are divided along moral lines.
Now, one of the evil troopers receives a clandestine mission, and his target is one of the more vocal troops in opposition to the murder.
The pressure is intolerable, the situation explodes, and the hero breaks loose from the now hopelessly corrupt group.
He is hunted, but survives each encounter because he was the best of the group, and because he is helped by a woman who falls in love with him.
They mangage to avoid capture, but eventually are found, and the climactic battle ensues.I loved this movie, although the score occasionally makes you long for deafness.
Watch it for the history behind the sequel (which is not really a sequel): The Master of the Flying Guillotine, which has none of the plot development, intrigue, or drama, but has the lethal ponytails and blitzkreig action. Two pillars of the art."
A HIT DON'T MISS OUT.
lawrence w womack | okinawa japan/serving usa military | 04/07/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"FLYING GUILLOTINE IS UP THERE WITH THE BEST MARTIAL ARTS MOVIE OF ALL TIME. PREVIEW: THE EMPOR GET A GROUP OF MEN TO LEARN THE FLYING GUILLOTINE SYTLE TO ASSINATE TRAITOR IN LAND, WHEN A UP AND RISING FIGHTER DON'T AGREE WITH THE METHODS HE ABANDON THE TEMPLE AND IS ON THE RUN. I WAITING FOR THE FLYING GUILLOTINE VS THE ONE ARM BOXER. NOW IF THEY GET THAT. THAT MOVIE WILL REALLY ALMOST COMPLETE MY COLLECTION, I CAN HAVE KUNG-FU THEATER AT MY CRIB!"
Novel fabled kung fu classic
email@example.com | Verona, NJ USA | 05/28/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Chen Kwan Tai stars as an up and coming soldier trained in the skill of deploying the newly created "flying guillotine." The actual device is thrown in the air attached to a rope. The device lands on your head like a iron hat, a series of blades fall from the brim to the victim's neck. By pulling back on the device skillfully, the device decapitates its victim. The story of the origination and development of the device is extremely well executed and the story takes itself all so seriously. What sounds like a campy B-movie is actually a compelling drama. When Kwan Tai develops reservations about using the device against rebel factions, he is labeled a traitor, and he retreats to the farmland...until the baddies track him down in the final showdown (a la Harrison Ford's "Witness"). Now while the movie is captivating in the sheer concept of the guillotine and it is startlingly gruesome to see the first several beheadings, AFTER the first several beheadings, the story seems to have very little else place to go. Therefore in the middle reels, the story bogs down with Kwan Tai leading the simple life, etc. There is very little if any hand-to-hand fighting in this movie--- the weapon of choice here being the flying guillotine. Having said that, there really is no climactic inventive extended guillotine vs. guillotine final showdown. Brilliant novel concept, spotty action, so-so finale, legendary audacious classic kung fu flick."
Dr. Mohamed Kasker | South Africa | 10/07/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Don't be fooled by the caption on the DVD box - "special wide screen edition "because it's full screen.An excellent Shaw Brothers early 70 movie,still has alot of action and is still very entertaining.However I feel conned because it's not wide screen as stated.This dvd must be the worst ever transfer from vhs.Eventhough it's a great movie,please wait for a better copy."
OFF WITH IT'S HEAD!!!
firstname.lastname@example.org | 12/02/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is for the true fan of the the classic Kung Fu movies. The fighting is sparse and none too impressive. The overall story is good but lacks much of the action to compete with the other classics. The premise of decapitating your foe is interesting at first but loses its luster quickly. Having to wait until the end of the movie for the big fight scene isn't worth it."