As every exploitation movie nerd knows, a film shot in the Philippines is a guarantee of explosions, helicopters and uncomfortably dangerous looking stunts. And when it’s not only filmed in the Philippines but also produced by a Filipino, you’ll know that the good times will be increased tenfold – that is assuming you have a questionable taste in movies like myself. Last week, I picked up The One Armed Executioner for a couple of bucks at a local newsagency. I’m not sure what it was doing there amongst other oddities like F/X and Cleopatra Wong, but surely it was a sign from the movie gods…


Philippines, 1983, Bobby A. Suarez

With a gimmick taken straight from the Hong Kong filmmaking manual, The One Armed Executioner is surprisingly consistent in its delivery of entertainment. The One Armed Executioner follows the story of Ortega (Franco Guerrero), an agent of Interpol. After his wife is brutally murdered and his arm is severed, Ortega tumbles into a downward spiral of self-destruction. It’s not till he is dragged out of this slump by the power of martial arts training that he can exact his revenge on his wife’s killers.

Ortega’s dramatic realisation that he has been reduced to a one armed executioner

While it won’t exactly blow your tits off, The One Armed Executioner contains solid stunt-work, appropriately silly characters, a sprinkling of violence and copious laughs. The film opens beautifully with a little person being, quite hysterically and using a phone booth, murdered. From this point on, we know what we’re in for – comedy gold delivered with the straightest of faces. The performances are delivered with the finest unintentional comic timing. Best of all is Ortega’s sometimes sidekick who somehow manages to remain entirely emotionless and monotonous through every line of dialogue. We also have Ortega’s doomed wife, Ann, played by Jody Kay, whose career highlights includes a role as “Woman #1” in The Love Boat. Kay, looking incredibly out of place amongst the Filipino actors, may as well have “I WILL NOT SURVIVE THIS FILM” tattooed across her forehead. The goofy villains who enjoy lounging around poolsides are also a welcome addition.

The One Armed Executioner features one of the best cackling villain scenes ever

This is the most emotional Ortega’s sidekick gets

Like most Filipino action films, The One Armed Executioner manages to create the illusion of a budget with stunts and explosions presented without the typical safety requirements of a Hollywood picture. The One Armed Executioner features a handful of exciting, albeit kind of funny scenes, especially one which occurs on the runway a cruddy looking airport. In this scene, this happens:

While the above video is hilarious and features an acceptable wig squib, some of the violence is sadly weakened by censorship. The DVD features extended scenes that restores the removed gore, but unfortunately this stuff isn’t put back into the film. The ending sorely suffers from censorship – it entirely removes the antagonist’s death, which includes a bullet to the dick. Fuck you, censorship! Luckily the action does its best to make up for the watering down of violence giving us some memorable moments. Even the film’s lengthy training montage was oddly watchable.

This guy was definitely my favourite lackey

Pre-losing an arm, Ortega uses his mad skills to blow up a plane

For those that dig Filipino action, or even for those wanting to have a taste of what the Philippines has to offer, I can heartily recommend The One Armed Executioner. In Australia, we’ve been blessed with a great DVD release from the ever reliable Monster Pictures. The DVD features an excellent print and the aforementioned extended scenes.

R.I.P. Bobby A. Suarez, and thanks for the good time!