"The One Armed Boxer" is to "The Master of the Flying Guillotine" what "Star Wars" was to "The Empire Strikes Back."
This is the film that catapulted Jimmy Wang Yu to superstar status, and for good reason. This film set the standards that you'll find in all of Wang Yu's films...superbly choreographed, arcade-style fights, exotic weaponry, colorful foreigners challenging the supremacy of Chinese boxing, and Jimmy's "aw-shucks" hero, an introspective but ultimately hardcore fighter that BARELY makes it out of his misadventures alive.
I saw "Master of the Flying Guillotine" first, and I still believe that this film is Wang Yu's greatest achievement. However, seeing "The One Armed Boxer" only increased my appreciation for "MFG" tenfold. In this film, we find out how the One Armed Boxer became One Armed, but we also learn how he became such a badass...attaining a level of kungfu (as well as cleverness) that would be put sorely to the test in "MFG."
The whole epic melodrama begins, incredibly enough, over some thugs stealing a poor man's pet bird. Wang Yu (at this point, a Two Armed Boxer) refuses to stand for such knavery, and he proceeds to challenge these scum to a fight. Of course he and his fellow students clean the floor with these clowns. Not suprisingly, the defeated thugs go crying to their sifu and fabricate a story that Jimmy insulted the sifu. The sifu then goes to Jimmy's school and challenges Jimmy's sifu to a fight. Once again, these troublemakers get beat up for their trouble.
Enraged over his defeat, the evil sifu hires a bunch of highly skilled foreign mercenaries who, unlike his incompetent students, can do the job right. This team of mercenaries are trademark Wang Yu villians...three Osaka karate experts, a Tae Kwan Do expert, a judo expert, two Thai kickboxers, two Tibetan lamas (I imagine these violent Tibetan lamas inspired "Shaolin vs. Lama"!), and a Yoga fakir who fights by bouncing on his head. (No, I'm not making this up.)
A bloody massacre ensues, and a half-dead, One Armed Wang Yu drags himself from the dojo. He is rescued by a kindly doctor and his daughter, who teach him the vital pressure points as well as a horribly painful technique that makes his One Arm the Unstoppable Killing Machine that we all know and love.
This flick is just wall to wall fistfights, with those occasional touches of utter brutality among the often graceful choreography. The head Osaka fighter is one Bad Mutha...you know he's Bad News when you see his fangs! The Tibetan lamas are no walk in the park, either. Their techniques include the dreaded Iron Palm and some weird inflation technique. But if you watched "MFG" carefully, you'll notice these two lamas are none other than the students of Evil Incarnate, The Master of the Flying Guillotine!! (the rest is history, as they say...)
Jimmy Wang Yu is one of the most under-rated masters of kungfu cinema...in terms of directing as well as acting and fighting. Of course I dig Jet Li, Jackie Chan, and the rest of the New Wavers, but there's nothing more satisfying than going back to Old School to see where Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam got it all from. Jimmy Wang Yu is a straight-up O.G., in every sense of the word.
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