If there’s a weapon to be considered the strangest in the films of Shaw Brothers, the flying guillotine would be it. From 1975’s Flying Guillotine to the 1976 sequel Master of the Flying Guillotine (which is also a sequel to One-Armed Boxer), 1977’s Taiwan-made entry Fatal Flying Guillotine and this movie, 1978’s Flying Guillotine 2: Palace Carnage and Vengeful Courage, also made the same year, the deadly hat with a bladed rim attached to a long chain that envelopes human heads and tears them clean off just can’t be topped.
Original director Ho Meng Hua was busy working on The Mighty Peking Man, so this film was originally going to be made by Cheng Kang. But so many problems attacked this film, which took nearly two years from filming to release.
For example, actress Liu Wu Chi completely left the film industry and was replaced by Hsiao Yao. Then, Chen Kuan Tai broke away from Shaw Brothers, leaving the movie without its star. And then, Hsiao Yao also left acting. Was this movie cursed?
Maybe. After all, Cheng Kang left the movie and Hua Shan (The Super Infra-Man) had to finish it.
That’s why this movie is episodic and the editing feels chaotic. I have no idea how all the film shot was even placed together to make something this coherent. It works in spite of the pain that it was created in. Maybe it was forged in fire to be something better than it should be.
So what’s happening here? The Emperor (Ku Feng) wants to kill Ma Tang (Ti Lung), but first he must improve the flying guillotine so that Ma Tang — who figured out how to stop the deadly weapon before — can be dealt with. At the same time, a female hero named Na Lan (Shih Szu) is trying to steal those plans.
This is one of the most doom-filled Shaw Brothers movies I’ve seen — there are literally crosses with decapitated heads hanging from them — and the final scenes are filled with slow motion and a downbeat finale. That said, any movie with a chain swinging a death device is going to be awesome, no matter if it has way too many characters to keep track of.
The 88 Films blu ray release of Flying Guillotine 2 has a high definition 1080p presentation of the movie, along with commentary by Asian cinema experts Mike Leeder and Arne Venema, a trailer, a double-sided poster and a slipcase with new art by R.P. “Kung Fu Bob” O’Brien. You can order it from MVD.