Issue #207           HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES                April 12th, 2004

Hong Kong Digital is sponsored by Poker Industries. Please see the Hong Kong Digital home page for a special offer from Poker Industries to Hong Kong Digital readers.

The Flying Guillotine
(1974; Shaw Brothers)

Cantonese: Huet dik ji
Mandarin: Xie di zi
English: The Blood Dripper


RATING: 6/10


Ruthless Manchurian emperor Yung Cheng seeks to eliminate those whom he considers a threat to his power. He is aided in this by Ching official Xin Kang (Ku Feng), who invents a device allowing the user to kill a man from as far away as one hundred paces. Dubbed "The Flying Guillotine," the weapon is flung through the air and lands on the target, completely covering the victim's head. The assailant then pulls an attached chain, activating three blades that slice through the target's neck. The guillotine then sails back with the quarry's head secured inside. Pleased with his new weapon, the emperor orders that a dozen top imperial agents be trained in its use. After the instruction period is complete, Ma Teng (Chen Kuan-tai), Xu Shuangkun (Frankie Wai Wang), and Xie Tianfu (Wong Yue) emerge as the most promising of the squad. However, when the men are sent on various assassination missions, the gravity of their crimes sends Xie over the edge. Ma also begins to reconsider the validity of the emperor's plans and decides to escape. As a result of this betrayal, the other men in the unit are ordered to find and eliminate him.

Ku Feng Chen Kuan-tai Wong Yue

While one of the best known Shaw Brothers kung fu films amongst international audiences, Ho Meng-hua's THE FLYING GUILLOTINE actually has very little martial arts in it and is routine in most respects. Even the normally dependable Chen Kuan-tai fails to cut an impressive figure, despite the fact that the role offers him the sort of character traits and situations that play to his strengths as an actor. However, the wonderfully outlandish title weapon is irresistible, even if the film does not always make the best use of it. Given that the thing makes little sense from a scientific point of view, it is not surprising that the filmmakers obviously had trouble shooting scenes with the guillotines, relying heavily on quick cuts and disconnected cutaways of the thing in flight. The bizarre nature of the threat elicits an equally offbeat defensive tactic: at one point, Ma tries to defend against the "blood dripper" using a device that resembles a steel umbrella with a spear tip on the end!

FLYING GUILLOTINE PART II followed in 1978, with Cheng Kang and Hua Shan at the helm this time, and Ti Lung replacing Chen as Ma Teng. However, a year prior to this, Ho Meng-hua directed THE VENGEFUL BEAUTY, which also features flying guillotines and was released on DVD in the same batch as the 1974 film. In BEAUTY, Chen Ping plays a swordswoman seeking to avenge the murder of her husband by the guillotine squad (led this time by Lo Lieh). While normally invincible, Chen's character is two months pregnant and promised her husband that she would protect their baby at all costs. This adds an interesting twist to the various fights but those hoping for more guillotine action will be disappointed to learn that almost all of this footage has been recycled from the earlier film (Ku, Chen, and Wong Yue can even be spotted). BEAUTY remains a decent quickie, however, bolstered by Yueh Hua and Norman Tsui Siu-keung in supporting roles as Chen's allies.

Frankie Wai (L to R) Ku Feng, Chen Kuan-tai, Frankie Wai Ku Feng


Celestial offers another nicely restored presentation that compliments the film far more than the cropped, cut, and dubbed bootlegs floating around. The image could be a little crisper but it is never overly soft. Likewise, the low end of the audio is a bit brittle but adequate, as is the overall re-mix. A pair of photo galleries, video promo spots, and bios/filmographies can be found in the Special Features section.

This DVD is available at:

Images in this review courtesy of Intercontinental Video Ltd. To read captions, hover mouse over image.

Click here for more information about The Hong Kong Filmography

Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2004. All Rights Reserved.

DVD Specifications

  • Hong Kong Release
  • NTSC Release -- Region 3 Only
  • Intercontinental Video Ltd #1022264
  • Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Post-synced Mandarin Language Subtitles (Optional): English, Traditional Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian
  • 12 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (2.35:1)
  • 101 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Ontario: R
  • Quebec: 13+
  • Singapore: PG (cut)
  • Contains brutal violence and brief nudity


  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful