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Great Movies - Five Deadly Venoms

Updated on July 13, 2016
Movie poster used for illustrative purposes under fair use policy for film criticism.
Movie poster used for illustrative purposes under fair use policy for film criticism. | Source

Another Venom Mob movie.

Five Deadly Venoms is a martial arts film directed by Chang Cheh. It was released in 1978. It was produced by the Shaw Brothers studio. It stars the 'Venom Mob' aka 'Five Deadly Venoms' aka 'The Five Venoms' or known simply as 'The Venoms'. The cast members are Chiang Sheng, Sun Chien, Kuo Chui, Lo Mang, Wei Pei & Lu Feng. The movie 'Five Deadly Venoms' is also known by many other names such as The Five Deadly Venoms, The Five Venoms, 5 Deadly Venoms, The 5 Deadly Venoms or by its original cantonese name 'Mm Dook'. This movie started a worldwide frenzy for martial arts movies and it affected a lot of people in the hip-hop community and around the world.

It changed the way martial arts movies were perceived by audiences in general. Till then, Martial Arts Movies were seen as 'B grade' movies but after this movie, there was no stopping martial arts movies at all. It was so famous, that later when the same stars came together to make Crippled Avengers aka Mortal Combat, even though it doesn't have any connection to Five Deadly Venoms, it was released under the renamed title 'Return of the 5 Deadly Venoms'. This is arguably the Best Venom Mob film.

Though 'Enter the Dragon' starring Bruce Lee was the starting point for the worldwide frenzy for martial arts movies, and other than 'The 36th Chamber of Shaolin', this is the one that intensified the martial arts craze around the world. While both 'Enter the Dragon' and 'The 36th Chamber of Shaolin', have interesting lead characters and are legendary for their own reasons, they only have one main character that the movie revolves around, whereas this movie has a bigger number of interesting characters. These three movies are considered as the three main movies in the Kung Fu canon so it's important that you watch all the three movies.

All the main characters in this movie have many characteristics in that they are interesting or diverting or dangerous or deceptive or all of that at the same time. As an audience member you are left wondering about who really are the right people to trust in this crazy world. It's a Martial Arts movie but it's also a Thriller and a Mystery and whichever way you want to watch it, it wouldn't disappoint you as this is one big Kung Fu, Action puzzle that will take its time, but it will never let you go once you start watching it. Kung Fu fans (as well as Hip-Hop fans) will find many memorable quotes in this one such as "Toad style is immensely strong and immune to nearly any weapon. When it's properly used, it's almost invincible". Though the characters only have broad characterizations, that itself is also one of the many reasons why this movie became so easily enjoyable, interesting, iconic and appropriately (pun intended) invincible.

Once you see its story, its animal based fighting techniques, its iconic characters and quite simply, its fights and especially its five way battle at the end, then you also will understand that it is easy to see why this movie became famous and is considered an important piece of Kung Fu history and is also regarded as a classic. A lot of Kung Fu fans think that this is arguably the Best Martial Arts Movie of All Time. Whether it is or it is not, that isn't that really important. However what is really quite important to know is that for a lot of old nostalgic fans and even for the new fans who are going to be won over by it, its story and characters, quite easily, Five Deadly Venoms is one of the Best Martial Arts Movies of All Time.

Trailer

The Five Deadly Venoms

Movie image used for illustrative purposes under fair use policy for film criticism.
Movie image used for illustrative purposes under fair use policy for film criticism. | Source

Bruce Lee. Everyone knows this one!

Shaolin fighting? You got it!

Background

When a movie becomes so instrumental in making stars out of everyone involved in it and then the same team makes close to 20 movies in the next 4 years with the same cast and crew, who played roles with almost the same characterizations, and still there is a big craze for all the characters and cast around the world so much so that anything these guys make together becomes a must watch movie and on top of that, they are known by their collective name which is taken from their first and best movie - that's when you know that you are now watching a great movie. The movie is Five Deadly Venoms and the actors who played the main roles became known as The Five Venoms aka The Venoms aka the Venom Mob. When director Chang Cheh decided to bring together some of the stuntmen he had seen and used in small parts in his earlier movies made in Taipei and make a new martial arts movie in Hong Kong, he had no idea what he was about to accomplish. This movie starring martial arts stuntmen who had not had much cinematic success before this, went on to create such a fascination for these guys among audiences around the world that despite being only a moderate hit at its time of release, it went on to become if not the all time best, then at least one of the all time best martial arts movies.

Though it was only a small hit in China, in the U.S. it became a culturally and socially relevant movie in the sense that it gave a different set of 'non-western philosophy' based action heroes. Or maybe they were just that much fun to watch. The crowds loved them because they were cartoonish in a way but it was done in a very serious manner. Plus they were like comic book superheroes except that they fought with their fists and martial arts knowledge. Hence, these heroes were more realistic and accessible to the public. And also, these actors/stuntmen acted, fought and choreographed their own fight moves adding to the movies' realistic fights and awesome acrobatic moves. It affected music, posters, martial arts movies, anything and everything. The Venoms would never have to look back after this one movie.

This movie is instrumental in their stardom because it is here that you can find the beginning of their rise, their somewhat same characters that they played over the years, their most famous and iconic roles and the beginning of their movie star careers. Though officially they were known as the Five Venoms, sometimes they had six and sometimes less too. Officially, The Five Venoms are Sun Chien, Kuo Chui, Lu Feng, Lo Meng, and Chiang Sheng. Plus in Five Deadly Venoms they also had Wei Pai. Wei Pai would only later act in a few movies with these actors as he would later defect to Golden Harvest Studios. But still, in this one, they are all together and they are all in great form. After this movie, their lives would change too, and they became known collectively as the Five Venoms, or as the fans would like to call them, the Five Deadly Venoms.

Trailer 2

But who is the Scorpion?

Movie image used for illustrative purposes under fair use policy for film criticism.
Movie image used for illustrative purposes under fair use policy for film criticism. | Source
Movie image used for illustrative purposes under fair use policy for film criticism.
Movie image used for illustrative purposes under fair use policy for film criticism. | Source

Story

The dying Master of the Poison Clan instructs his final student Yan Tieh to find out what his old pupils are up to now. He taught 5 students and they are called Number 1, Number 2, Number 3, Number 4 and Number 5 respectively. They are also called The Centipede, The Snake, The Scorpion, The Lizard and The Toad based on their respective animal fighting styles. They studied under the Master and they trained with masks at all times so no one knows their real identities, not even the Master. Though there are some small clues as to some of them knowing each other, some training together, some being of the same age etc., in total there is no clue to figure out for certain who is really who and since they will be using new names after they finished their training, the job will be even more difficult.

The Master instructs his final student, aka Hybrid Venom, to find them as he is not sure if his techniques are being used for good or bad. He also wishes to redeem the clan's name and reputation as they were once a very bad and feared group of fighters. The reason for the Master asking this of the student is that an old friend of the Master holds the vast fortune of money that was made earlier by the Poison Clan so the master knows that some, if not all, of his students might try to attack and kill his old friend and steal the fortune. Hence, the Master wants him to find out his old students and see if they are now good or bad. He also asks that if they are bad, the pupil must find a way to kill them too. But the problem here is that the pupil has only learned a little bit of all these fighting styles so he will not be a match for any of them so he must find at least one of these fighters who are good and only with his or their help will he able to succeed. The Master gives him some information about their weakness as well so that he can try to stop them, but only with the help of one more student. So in this way, the story is set in motion and Yan Tieh heads off to find his unknown seniors and maybe future allies or enemies.

All he knows is some information about their fighting styles which he will have to use to recognize these fighters as they will be hiding their true identities and will only use their skills in emergency situations. Number 1 aka The Centipede uses the Centipede style of fighting so he fights very fast with what seems like a thousand arms and legs and is good in both offense and defense. Number 2 aka The Snake uses the Snake style of fighting so he uses one hand as the mouth with venomous fangs and the other hand as the tail both of which he can use viciously and is also very good in fighting even when he is on the floor so he is very dangerous. Number 3 aka The Scorpion uses the Scorpion style of fighting so he uses his hands as violent pincers and his legs as a dangerous tail so he is a full-on attacking machine and hence is definitely extremely dangerous and probably the most problematic of the venoms. Number 4 aka The Lizard uses the Lizard style of fighting so he prefers to fight from walls as he is very fast and is agile so he can even walk on walls and fight very well even while hanging from there. Number 5 aka The Toad uses the Toad style of fighting so he uses his very tough skin to defeat any attacks on his body and is impervious to any metal. It is an extremely defensive position and so he will be the extremely resistant to any attacks, even the most dangerous ones. His only weakness is that he has a weak spot somewhere and if it's found then he can be killed but without it, he is almost invincible in combat. All these fighting styles have their own hidden weaknesses and the Master has instructed Yan Tieh on how to stop them but it will take a lot of effort to try and find their weaknesses, not to mention in finding them too.

It doesn't take much to figure out that the master's old friend gets killed when he is in town and nobody has any idea where the treasure is. It is obvious that maybe one of the five deadly venoms has taken the treasure or if not, then maybe some kind of a map of the treasure. So now the story becomes a mystery as to the identity of the killer and on top of the puzzle of who exactly are the Five Deadly Venoms, it also becomes a martial arts movie extravaganza with the prospect of maybe the venoms all fighting each other as we still don't know who is on whose side and who will betray whom. In this way, the movie is a Thriller, a Mystery, a Puzzle and on top of that A Great Martial Arts Movie. Who will Yan Tieh trust? Will they trust him back? Will they betray him? and more importantly, if they just won't show their identities, how will Yan Tieh find them? And if need be, how will he fight them and destroy them? These are the tantalising questions that keep the movie interesting and you will be hooked to find out how this movie ends...

Da Mystery of Chessboxin' (video)

Intro (Shaolin Finger Jab/Chamber Music)

Kung Fu Panda - Furious Five fights Tai Lung

Conclusion

With the tagline "Pick Your Poison", and memorably the line "Poison Clan Rocks The World" within its dialogue, this movie ended up sparking a martial arts craze around the world and though Enter The Dragon had unleashed the beginning of the craze, due to Bruce Lee's death around the time of his death, there really was no big name star making hit movies in the genre. But that changed when the Venom Mob got into its act and unleashed a fast, group-based attack style on the audience and they just couldn't get enough of it. So much so that later when the movie 'Crippled Avengers' was released, it was re-titled as Return of the Five Deadly Venoms aka Return of the 5 Deadly Venoms so that the fans would come to watch this one too.

Considering the fact these were a bunch of small time actors who were also talented stuntmen who became well known stars and created something like a franchise with the same talents alternatively playing heroes, villains and fight choreographers on their films and that when Chang Cheh stopped directing, one of them took up directing and then also they acted together, it must be said that this was one bunch of extremely talented martial artists. There is also some debate as to how many of their films can be considered as the films of Venom Mob because not all of them worked in all their films and not always together as well. But all that is just some trivial facts about the group, the only important fact is that when all these exciting talents came together, there would be fights, lots of it too and definitely some martial arts magic on the movie screen. Due to this reason, they became a group in high demand and the world just wanted more and more of the Five Deadly Venoms.

The film was listed at number 11 on Entertainment Weekly's Top 50 Cult Films list and the movie, its characters and their fighting styles have become famous and their influence can be seen in video games, rap songs, action movies etc. RZA is known to have used samples from this movie many times in his songs with the Wu-Tang Clan. For example, in the song "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'" from the Wu-Tang Clan album 'Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)', a sample from the movie's dialogue is used. The dialogue is "The toad style is immensely strong and immune to nearly any weapon. When it's properly used, it's almost invincible."

RZA's style of using dialogues from Kung Fu movies really set him apart from other hip hop artists and producers and really gave the Wu-Tang Clan a unique, gritty, dark sound which also helped define the rap super-group's creative direction. Another sample from the movie is in the song "Intro (Shaolin Finger Jab/Chamber Music)" from the Wu-Tang Clan album 'The W'. The dialogue used is "I must tell you that the Clan is a danger to the public... but still for many men just to hear of the name fills them with hate and loathing. But why? They've never harmed anyone. I'm afraid they did, in the past... There's something that I would like you to do. First I'll tell you about their styles, the poison clan techniques, the five main styles...".

There are other songs like "Lucci" by La The Darkman from the album 'Heist Of The Century' which uses the dialogue "I came from a wealthy family. I joined the clan because I wanted to learn a special kung fu. Be a real expert. But in actual fact I've just become a killer. Killing, that's all I know. Death, everyday... another..." and "Snakes" by Ol' Dirty Bastard from the album 'Return To The 36 Chambers' uses the dialogue "Now number two practiced the snake style. He was known as the snake's spirit. He had the speed of a snake...".

Even in video games you can find the movie's influence. For example, in World of Warcraft, there is a poison selling shop in Stormwind City and it is called "The Five Deadly Venoms". And even in t.v. shows and cartoons you can find its influence. For example, there is an episode in Batman: The Brave and the Bold where the villains are inspired by The Five Venoms and in Power Rangers Jungle Fury also you can find the Five Fingers of Poison which is likely inspired by The Five Venoms.

Plus even in movies we can find its influence. For example, Kung Fu Panda has the Furious Five which is a legendary group which consists of talking animals who have their own fighting styles. Po, the hero of the movie, is aided by the Furious Five in defeating the villain and in the DVD commentary you can hear that this was an intentional homage to the Five Deadly Venoms.

Though the martial arts techniques used in the movie are in the realm of fantasy, their agility is undeniable and hence it is really exciting to watch. If you have ever watched a Kung Fu movie from the middle on TV and still kept watching it till it ends, then you can understand that Kung Fu movies are great fun. Though there is a lot of bleeding, horrible deaths and brutal fights, and also 70's style acting, overall this is a really fun movie and you need to watch it on its own terms. Plus in a martial arts movie what you really came to watch are the fights and awesome moves and this one has got it all and especially a memorable five-way fight at the end. What's surprising here is that the movie succeeds firstly because of its suspense, its intrigue, its mystery, its surprises, its puzzles, its twists and turns and the fact that it takes its time for the action to start so when finally the fight scenes happen, there is such a build-up to it that the fights become epic because by now, in the audience's mind, the characters have also become epic. Hence, even just to see these characters and spend time with them becomes fun and this fact also adds to the movie's success. Now if you have ever watched one of those unknown movies on t.v. and still thought it was good fun, then this is the movie that you really need to watch. It has lots of actors/fighters and though they might be unknown to you till that moment, after that you will recognize these faces in any other movie, especially in a Venom Mob movie. And the moment you know that The Venoms are in there somewhere then oh yeah! you will definitely keep watching. For a lot of viewers and especially to Kung Fu movie fans, Five Deadly Venoms is the ultimate Shaw Brothers studio movie. It was the movie that really got the movie going audience to notice Kung Fu movies and especially, to start taking unknown Kung Fu movies seriously.

If you are a martial arts movie fan then you owe it to yourself to watch this movie as it a serious piece of Kung Fu history and if you are a general movie fan then also you should check out this movie as it is a Kung Fu classic movie and also a genuine piece of entertainment. Although the debate for the best martial arts movie will always be an arguable contest between Enter the Dragon, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin and Five Deadly Venoms, when it comes to one of the most influential, and definitely the most unique one of them all, there is no doubt that this is the one. Besides, the final five-way fight where you are not sure who is going to betray whom, who is going to side with whom and most importantly, who is going to win, is something unparalleled in movie history. How often do you see five great fighters ready to fight each other at the same time? That's why the final fight is considered an awesome climax and hence, this movie is considered a classic. The story, the characters, the dialogues, the fighting styles, everything about this movie has become legendary now. So yeah, "Poison Clan Rocks The World" definitely and so to put it simply, it deserves to be called as one of those great movies as it is easy for everyone to see that, without doubt and quite easily, Five Deadly Venoms is truly A Great Movie.

Thank you for reading Great Movies - Five Deadly Venoms. Hope you have enjoyed it and had a good time with this article. There is an opinion poll below regarding what you thought about my article on great movies, so please feel free to take them, comment and give your opinions. Hope to see you soon on another article about another one of those great movies. Have a good day and once again, thank you for reading Great Movies - Five Deadly Venoms.

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