Monday, October 24, 2011

Movie Poster: The Guillotines

The flying guillotine is simultaneously the coolest and most absurd weapon in movie history.  It is essentially a bladed hat attached to a length of chain.  Its wielder throws it at the intended target.  As It then lands on the targets head, the bottom half telescopes down around the neck.  The blades that line the lip of the bottom half then close around the neck like a bladed iris diaphragm.  One yank of the chain by the operator, and the target is cleanly decapitated.  As grisly as that may sound, the visual is absolutely hilarious when accompanied by unbelievable FX.  Did I mention that when it is flying through the air, the flying guillotine sounds like a bullet ricocheting of a rock in an old western?     Little touches like that made Jimmy Wang Yu’s chop-socky gem Master of the Flying Guillotine a joy to be behold. 

A remake of Master of the Flying Guillotine is indeed an intriguing prospect, though it will surely be weighed down with excessive CGI (Especially when considering how low tech the weapon in question is).  Producer Peter Chan certainly thinks so, which is why he has weathered one setback after another to bring The Guillotines to the screen.  What started out as a mere remake has morphed into something considerably bigger.  

The Guillotines focuses on the fabled Guillotines.  They are an elite group of warriors, each highly proficient with the weapon their squad is named after.  Under the rule of Emperor Yong Zheng, they tirelessly served the Manchurian-ruled Qing Dynasty as assassins.   However, Emperor Qian Long means to usher in a new age, as he is quite taken with the weapons and technology of the western world.  Still, he continues using the Guillotines as something of death squad, ensuring that his reign goes unchallenged.  

The Guillotines are charged with apprehending the infamous Wolf and his Shepherd Gang.  Their mission ends in failure, resulting in the capture of their leader.  Seizing the opportunity, Emperor Qian dispatches Agent Du to dispose of both the Wolf and the Guillotine Squad.  The demise of the Guillotines will allow firearms to proliferate under the rule of Emperor Qian.  

The premise of the film makes it sound like a deconstructionist chop-socky.  Shaw Brothers by way of Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch.  Amidst a changing landscape and evolving technology, a group of warriors find themselves without use or purpose in the new regime.  Forced to either adapt or die, they face the onslaught head on.  In the right hands that could be one hell of a movie.

The new poster for The Guillotines does not reveal whether or not the film is indeed a self-conscious deconstructionist work.  However, it does provide a glimpse of the title weapon, as reimagined by director Andrew Lau and company.  It looks like a cross between the eight diagram pole and Indiana Jones bullwhip.  Judging by the color scheme, which emphasizes dark red, there will be ample amounts of CG blood.  The armor design suggests that the Guillotine Squad will be Medieval Hong Kong’s answer to the Knights of the Round Table.  Altogether, the poster recalls that of the first Blade film.  A deconstructionist martial arts film done in the style of the Daywalkers inaugural film would truly be a thing of beauty.


  1. Good stuff, Scott! Although I think this is more a remake of the Shaw's THE FLYING GUILLOTINE (1975) which Wang Yu ripped off for his poverty row version. It seemed ever since Shaw sued him in the early 70s, he was content with ripping off their hits like BOXER FROM SHANTUNG and CC's Shaolin series as well as Cheh's own OAS films. Did you see Shaw's own rip off of FLYING GUILLOTINE called DRAGON MISSILE (1976)? What was even funnier about that one was that Ho Meng Hua directed it so it was like he was ripping himself off, too.

  2. Thanks! I never saw DRAGON MISSLE, mostly because I always found FLYING GUILLOTINE (1975) to be very boring. I may have tocheck it out now, per your recommendation.

  3. I reviewed both FLYING GUILLOTINE 1 and 2 as well as DRAGON MISSILE (1976) and the trashy FG semi sequel THE VENGEFUL BEAUTY (1978) if you're interested in getting a gander at what they look like. There's also some photos from old magazines and lobby sets accompanying the write ups.

    The first two official FG movies are coming out here next month I think from Dragon Dynasty. There was a cool poster for the new movie some time back that showed a long line of people with their heads removed. I think I made a note of it in the Assorted Bits and Pieces section last year, maybe?