We talk a lot about the arthouse here at The Magic Lantern, but we have an unabashed love of the grindhouse as well, and this film is a stone classic in that regard. Master of the Flying Guillotine (1976) is one of those all time great, you have to see it to believe it genre film experiences. If you are of a certain age (forget pre-internet, we are talking pre-cable television here), you may have been lucky enough, as I was, to grow up in a market that had a veritable cornucopia of UHF choices. Among that rich vein of programming was Saturday afternoon Kung Fu Theater and it blew a hole in my pre-adolescent brain. It arrived at the critical juncture when I was graduating from Saturday morning cartoons (when they still had those) to Saturday afternoon schlock. But it was more to me than that. Yes, the films are often cheaply and quickly made, but I see this as a virtue for a number of reasons: First, the law of averages is definitely on our side here. When filmmakers in any genre are so prolific, the occasional masterpiece is all but guaranteed. Second, as often happens, necessity is the mother of invention and the majesty and wonder that some of these films achieve on a shoestring puts much more expensive productions to shame. And third, like any genre worth it’s salt, these films create a world and language all their own. Leave your biases and preconceived notions at the door and embrace the insane Foley work, questionable dubbing, and otherworldly acrobatics that await you in the world of Kung Fu cinema!
What you’ll find in this episode: Ericca fills out her Kung Fu bingo card, xenophobia among Asian cultures, rooting for the bad guy, and how genre films often reflect our anxieties, whether they mean to or not.
Links and Recommendations:
Check out Master of the Flying Guillotine on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of 13 Assassins.
Cole’s further viewing pick of The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter.
Mythbusters takes on the flying guillotine.
A nice interview with Dan Halstead, patron saint of Kung Fu cinema.