Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Spinning Hat of Death

Your interesting bit of information from the day, as far as I’m concerned, regards the object referred to in the title of the film Master of the Flying Guillotine. As fantastic as it might sound that anyone successfully removed anyone else’s head with what is essentially a rather unsafe hat attached to a bit of chord, the flying guillotine was not invented by the makers of the film.

It may have actually existed, though how it would have worked remains even more unclear. Wikipedia speculates that the device could have actually killed using poison rather than with razor-sharp blades that lop of the heads their hat-like base has come to rest upon. I’m hoping this is not true, if only so the device can keep its amazingly cool name — so good, in fact, that it even beats out the Chinese name, which translates to “blood dripper.”

Though the flying guillotine is most famous for having appeared in the the 1975 Shaw Bros. film, it appears in others as well. Master of the Flying Guillotine — which is alternately known by the even better title The One-Armed Boxer vs. the Flying Guillotine is worth seeing even if you can’t stand martial arts movies. And it’s amazingly generative. Aside from homages in obvious works like Kill Bill, the film has resulted in some strange pop cultural connections. As point out by this blog — which charts various sources from which video game developer Capcom “borrowed” character designs for its Street Fighter series — the film’s Indian martial artist yogi would seem to be an obvious inspiration for the Street Fighter II character Dhalsim, also a Indian yogi prone to physical combat and able to extend his limbs to superhuman lengths.

Why anyone thinks yoga masters would can stretch their arms and legs to such lengths is beyond me. And the notion that they would do so for the purposes of hand-to-hand combat makes even less sense, but then again until today the idea of the flying guillotine seemed preposterous too.

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