Bringing you the best of Grindhouse cinema (without the sticky floors).
This month’s triple feature: The Crippled Masters, The Street Fighter, and Master of the Flying Guillotine.
This month we take a look at some of the best exploitation that the Far East has to offer. First up is The Crippled Masters, a revenge saga from China, featuring real life cripples (one is missing arms, the other is missing legs) who learn Kung Fu and then team up to kick some major bad guy ass. Next up we have the OG Mofo, Sonny Chiba, in the movie that introduced him to American audiences, The Street Fighter. And the last film in our triple feature is truly a guilty pleasure- Master of the flying Guillotine.
So grab some take out and a couple tall Sapporos, the first feature is about to begin.
THE CRIPPLED MASTERS (1979)
This has to be the most exploitive Kung Fu film to ever come out of China.
Jimmy Wang Yu made a couple of cool films featuring a character known as “The One Armed Boxer”. In fact, our last film this month, MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE, features that character, but Jimmy Wang Yu was not a real cripple. In both of the One Armed Boxer movies, you can tell that Jimmy has his arm taped to his chest and is just letting his shirt sleeve hang down. But that’s not the case with THE CRIPPLED MASTERS. Both of the main actors in this film are honest to God cripples. One is missing a whole right arm and then just has a little deformed baby arm for his left, and the next guy has two very deformed stick legs that he keeps tucked in close to his body, and he basically gets around by walking on his hands.
This movie is very simplistic in its story structure. Both of our heroes work for the same master and end up pissing him off. Now it should be stated that their master is a really cranky guy because he has this really bad scar on his face and that makes it really hard for him to get laid. So as a result, he takes out his frustration on the guys who work for him. Now, Hero #1 has done something really bad and he has to be punished. So the master’s thugs work him over a little bit and then the second in command gives the order to chop off his arms as punishment. He is then thrown out of the gates and into the street. He then wanders around, tries to get served lunch but everyone makes fun of him and kicks him out of the restaurant, he then runs into this former master’s thugs and they beat him up some more. For some odd reason Hero #1 never bled to death and is then nursed back to health by a kindly coffin maker. Once healthy, he journey’s to the outskirts of town where he can start strengthening his body and then have revenge on the people that put him in this state.
Meanwhile, the second in command of the grumpy master is in big trouble for trying to climb up the corporate ladder. His punishment is to have acid poured all over his legs and he is then left for dead on the side of the road.
Now as luck would have it, Hero #1 comes across his former enemy (now a cripple) and decides to drag him back to a cave where he can torture him in peace. But the Zen like Kung Fu Master who lives in the cave will have none of that nonsense. He tells them that each one of them is a half of a man and that only by working together will they be able to defeat their former master. They then begin training in the art of Kung Fu and prepare for the day that they will face their enemies in a final showdown.
This was a hard title to track down. I remember seeing this on Kung Fu Theatre back in the day, but had never been able to track it down until now. I found it as part of a DVD box set called “Tough Guys of Kung Fu”. So if you are a fan of strange cinema, this one is worth checking out.
THE STREET FIGHTER (1974)
AKA: Sudden Attack: The Killing Fist (literal English title), Enter The Street Fighter
Viva Chiba! With a tag line that read “If you’ve got to fight, fight dirty”, THE STREET FIGHTER exploded into Grindhouse Theatres like a kick to the balls. The first film to ever receive an X rating solely for violence, THE STREET FIGHTER had many intense fight scenes including a scene in which Sonny Chiba tears off a man’s penis with his bare hands (kind of gives new meaning to the word “Hand Job”).
A direct response to the world wide success of “ENTER THE DRAGON”, Japan’s Toei Company was hoping to make Sonny Chiba the next Bruce Lee. Although he never achieved the popularity of Bruce Lee, Chiba is one bad mother fucker. This is a seventies style bloodbath filled with crushed skulls, ripped out throats and more anti hero swagger than you can shake a stick at. And to top it all off, it has one of the coolest seventies soundtracks ever!
In it, Chiba plays Terry Tsurugi, the baddest of the bad, who for a price will do your dirty work for you. When a wealthy business man dies, the Yakuza hire Terry to kidnap the business man’s daughter, and only heir. But the Yakuza want their cake and eat it too, so they decide to save Terry’s fee by having him killed after he completes their job. Big mistake! Terry switches sides and begins guarding the girl and then starts moving on up the Yakuza food chain, killing everyone in his way.
Like Sonny Chiba himself, this movie is lean and mean and it gets down and dirty with the action sequences. Quentin Tarantino is a big Sonny Chiba fan and he put STREET FIGHTER references in TRUE ROMANCE and later gave Sonny Chiba a role in KILL BILL Vol .1.
THE STREET FIGHTER spawned three sequels (THE RETURN OF STREET FIGHTER, STREET FIGHTERS LAST REVENGE, and SISTER STREET FIGHTER), all are available on DVD, but I recommend the box set “The Street Fighter Saga”.
THE STREET FIGHTER series is a “Must Have” for any lovers of Grindhouse Cinema.
MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE(1975)
AKA: One Armed Boxer II, The One Armed Boxer vs. The Flying Guillotine
One of the classics of Martial Arts Cinema, MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE is the far superior follow up to Jimmy Wang Yu’s “ONE ARMED BOXER”. In it, a blind assassin (the master of the flying guillotine) goes in search of the man who killed his two protégés. All he knows is that the man he is looking for has one arm. So along with his weapon (a metal hat attached to a long chain, the Flying Guillotine of the title), our blind and evil assassin hits the road for a little revenge.
During his travels he hears about a Martial Arts competition and decides to crash it, hoping his one armed nemesis has entered. It just so happens that the One Armed Boxer is in attendance, but as a spectator. When the blind assassin shows up and beheads another one armed man by accident, the One Armed Boxer knows he’s in trouble and beats feet out of there.
Teaming up with the students of his Kung Fu School, the One Armed Boxer lays a series of elaborate traps to try and gain the upper had against the Master of the Flying Guillotine. It all culminates in a kick ass battle in a coffin shop- Priceless!
This film is another favorite of Quentin Tarantino. He used various snatches of the film’s score in KILL BILL’s House of Blue Leaves sequence. It has also been said that Gogo Yubari’s unique weapon was inspired by the Flying Guillotine.
This wasn’t the only film featuring the Flying Guillotine. A year earlier, the Shaw Brothers released a film entitled “FLYING GUILLOTINE” and Jimmy Wang Yu thought it was a great idea, so he took it, improved upon it, and made it his own. The Shaw Brothers would feature this unique weapon in two more films (THE FLYING GUILLOTINE 2 and THE VENGEFUL BEAUTY), but neither of them would achieve the success of Jimmy Wang Yu’s “MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE”.
This film is available in a couple different versions, including a two disc Anniversary edition.
That’s it for this month. Thanks for visiting the Grindhouse. Next month we have midgets and incredible 73 inch breasts, as we take a look at Secret Agents- Grindhouse style! See you then.