Jul 27, 2018
Welcome back to Film Buff Fridays!
You’d think with a movie review podcast called “One Movie Punch” that I would have gotten around to seeing at least one Shaw Brothers production since starting. I was pretty excited when I learned this film became available, and I’m glad I can sneak it in. Who knows, maybe the sequel next week? Only time will tell. Got a favorite Shaw Brothers production? Let me know at onemoviepunch.com.
Today’s movie is “Five Deadly Venoms” (1978), also known as “The Five Venoms”, the legendary Shaw Brothers production directed by Cheh Chang and written for the screen in collaboration with Kuang Ni. The film follows Yang Tieh (Sheng Chiang), tasked by his dying master to make sure his five top students have not used their skills for evil. Yang Tieh sets out to confront each of the Five Deadly Venoms, attempting to discover who he can trust and who must be defeated once and for all.
We’re headed back a decade to watch one of the premiere and most influential martial arts films of all time. The Hong Kong film scene remains a bustling industry, but the largest company among them all were the Shaw Brothers. If you saw a stop-motion martial-arts action film on daytime television, it was likely a Shaw Brothers production, which influenced the next wave of action films, directors like Quentin Tarantino, and a little known hip-hop group called... let me check my notes... the Wu-Tang Clan.
“Five Deadly Venoms”, despite its opening technique demonstration and simple premise, is a deceptively complex crime thriller, surrounding an attempt to extort the location of an old man’s wealth built by the use of the Poison Clan techniques. The clan members also don’t know each other’s identities, or at least not everyone’s identity, so we get to discover each member through their fighting style, or by their own revelation. And it all culminates into a melee at the end with shifting alliances and great fight choreography, at least for the time.
I say for the time, because the film also has all the limitations of the technology of the time, still unable to capture the speed of some martial artists, most notably Bruce Lee, and, in the case of this film, some painfully fake blood used liberally, especially from the mouth. I would love to see a remake of this film, using today’s fight choreography advancements, both in style and technology. It could even launch a new series of period kung-fu films, mining the archives of many Shaw Brothers productions.
“Five Deadly Venoms” (1978) is a legendary martial arts film, one of many directed by Cheh Chang and produced by the Shaw Brothers. Its influence is pervasive, driven by syndicated broadcasts with English dubbing and enjoyable fight choreography. Fans of martial arts films who haven’t delved into the Shaw Brothers library would find no better entry than right here.
Rotten Tomatoes: NR
One Movie Punch: 8.2/10
“Five Deadly Venoms” (1978) is rated R and is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.