Master of the Flying Guillotine

Master of the Flying Guillotine (1975)
Allumination Studios
Cast: Yu Wang, Kang Kam
Extras: Commentary Track, Trailers, Photo Gallery, Biographies

Pathfinder Pictures has recently released the Hong Kong martial arts film ’Master of the Flying Guillotine’ on DVD. It is the 1975 Yu Wang movie ’Du bi quan wang da po xue di zi’ which is also known as ’The One Armed Boxer Vs. the Flying Guillotine’ here in the US.

The One-Armed Boxer (Yu Wang) is a martial arts teacher who vehemently opposes the ruling Ching Dynasty. After killing two disciples of the Emperor’s hitman, flying guillotine expert Fung Sheng Wu Chi (Kang Kam), Fung sets out to kill the One-Armed Boxer for revenge. During a martial arts contest he tries to locate the infamous subvert and then tries to move in for the kill. But the Boxer is not entirely unprepared himself…

’Master of the Flying Guillotine’ is a very formulaic film with little to no plot, really, but a lot of martial arts. As a result of the martial arts contest that is featured in the film we get to see a large number of different styles making for a refreshing change. Still, the lack of depth to the story and the characters is holding back the film quite a bit as we hardly feel attached to any of the characters or their destinies.

Pathfinder presents ’Master of the Flying Guillotine’ in a 2.35:1 widescreen presentation that is not enhanced for 16×9 TV sets. The print shows quite bit of damage and could have used some restoration and color correction. Scratches, speckles, and tears are evident throughout and the film has no color consistency at all. Some shots are faded pastel colored, others show entirely miscolored hues and the next shot may look fairly natural. The transfer is quite soft and shows signs of edge-enhancement in a number of shots. The compression is also not without flaws and running at a fairly low bitrate the image often loses detail especially when in motion.

On the audio side, the DVD contains an English dub – which is one of those poor, distorted out-of-sync dubs that gave Hong Kong films their bad and cheesy reputation – as well as the original Chinese track. The tracks are mislabeled and selecting the English track will actually run the Chinsese one and vice versa. The Chinese track shows some technical limitations with a limited dynamic range and somewhat limited frequency response but for the most part it is at least free of distortion and manages to create a good complement to the film.
The DVD also contains a commentary track by film critics Wade Major and Andy Klein who manage to create a track that is engaging and full of background information – though not by the filmmakers themselves.

The release also contains a selection of trailers for the film, as well as a photo gallery with promo stills and poster art. Production credits and biographies for the two stars of the film are also supplied, though they are a bit incoherent and not nearly as well-researched as the information you would find on a Tai Seng release for example.

Overall the DVD is not a bad release, though the DVD’s menu music and the US credit sequence are grossly inappropriate for this release. The presentation quality could be improved upon but it’s not too bad, really. The film itself is a cool martial arts flick with some great moves and scenes. Check it out some time.