The Flying Guillotine (1975)

Directed by
Solid action
Reviewed by Simon on 2024-02-18

The Yongzheng emperor is a bit of a dick, managing the country's affairs poorly and executing any advisors who dare to speak out. Worried that this might tarnish his image he commands Ku Feng to put together a secret death squad, and Ku Feng obliges by inventing a remote assassination weapon - The Flying Guillotine.

The Flying Guillotine has captured the imagination of film-makers and audiences alike, appearing in any number of films after its debut here, despite objectively being a rather silly and impractical weapon. I guess everybody knows somebody they secretly fantasize about being able to decapitate from a safe(-ish) distance.

The real meat of the movie is the jealous rivalry between Chen Kuan-Tai and Frankie Wei-Hung (rather one-sided, admittedly), which escalates to accusations of treachery and fleeing as a fugitive. After one of the most efficient courtships in history Chen Kuan-Tai finds his family in peril as his former colleagues are sent to bring him back, with execution of their entire families as the price for failure.

As the saying goes, "Live by the secret flying death squad, die by the secret flying death squad", and the film becomes a sort of reverse-slasher as the squad converge on their quarry.

Hsu Erh-Niu delivers the action, a good bet when you want something a little more creative, though in most scenes it quite quickly devolves into standard a bash-em-up with Chen throwing shapes. A finale shot on the same cliff tops as Duel To The Death makes you wonder why more people didn't shoot there... I guess it's hard.

You can never go too far wrong with Chen Kuan-Tai in the lead role, and though the story is a little perfunctory it's got a good hook, and Ho Meng-Hua executes it efficiently. Production values are pretty good but it's lacking a certain polish that keeps it from being a bona fide classic though - influential as it undeniably was.