The Flying Guillotine (1975)
Reviewed by: Gaijin84 on 2005-10-07
Summary: Fun, but somewhat disappointing...
Featuring one of the most original and unique weapons in film, The Flying Guillotine is one of the best know Shaw Brothers films of the 70s. Starring the popular Chen Kuan Tai, it tells the story of Ma Tang (Chen) and the Flying Guillotines, a secret assassination squad started by the Manchu Emperor Yung Cheng (Kong Yeung) in order to wipe out his political opponents. After Ma Tang becomes one of the most proficient killers in the group, he starts to have a crisis of conscious about his role in these murders. Although he has sworn undying loyalty to the Emperor, he can't agree with the actions he is taking. After one of his close friends is himself murdered for not completing a task, Ma Tang decides to escape from the group. After he meets and marries a traveling singer, Yu Ping (Lau Ng Kei), he tries to make a new life with his family in the country. However, the Flying Guillotines manage to track him down and will not let him go easily.

Although I was really anticipating seeing this classic again (I think the first time I saw it I was only 8 or 9), I couldn't help but feel disappointed. The story is a little bland, even with the good acting of Chen Kuan Tai and Wai Wang. The character development of Chen's character was also well done, with an interesting element of him hating to kill his former friends, but knowing he could never live in peace until he rid them all. Wai Wang is exceptionally dastardly and uses everyone around him for his own means until he disposes of them with the flying guillotine. Although hand to hand combat is obviously going to be focused on, those scenes that do exist are relatively poorly choreographed and flat. Chen Kuan Tai was known as being a true martial artist with classic training, but you would never be able to tell from his scenes. It seemed that he was holding back most of the time and not fully expressing his character through the combat. Although she was only in Shaw Brothers movies for the duration of her original contract, Lau Ng Kei adds a great amount of grace and beauty to her role.

The Flying Guillotine is a fun movie for its campiness and classic exotic weapon, but an overall mediocre Shaw offering if you're looking for plot and exciting martial arts.
Reviewer Score: 6