Movies that are slightly off.
The Five Venoms
Pick Your Poison!
A kung-fu student is instructed by his dying teacher to track down five of the teacher's ex-students. Each of the five is equipped with a lethal martial arts skill, and the teacher fears this might be used for evil purposes. However, not only does the teacher not know the identity of the students (who all wore masks under his training), but some of the students also don't know each other!
I was hoping some time and kung fu training (ie binge watching) would give me a greater appreciation for this since last I saw it about a decade ago, but if anything it was even more disappointing given the talent involved. It's a bit mystifying to me how much of a pillar this is for some considering that about 75-85% of it is really dry, kind of dull Edgar Wallace/Agatha Christie style whodunnit surrounding a bunch of murders and an inheritance. In theory I should be into that, but it's shot pretty flat and contains scene after scene of characters vomiting exposition and making shifty eyes at each other as they try and suss out who the venoms even are…
"That's a cool-ass vest." - RZA
The packed screening with an enthusiastic audience, a perfect 35mm print and a Q&A with RZA afterward was probably the most ideal way to see my first Shaw Brothers movie, so perhaps I'm overrating it a little. But I was sufficiently drawn in by the characters and the fighting to forgive some of the slower or drier bits. It helps that all the characters delightful cartoons with fighting styles to match (Toad acts like he's invincible because, well, he is literally invincible) and the fights, while taking up less of the running time than I expected, are meaty and extremely fun. The most surprising element was the running theme of political corruption, but mostly I just enjoyed the colorful fights and fun, often shirtless characters.
"Poison Clan Rocks the world!"
Directed by The Godfather of Hong Kong Cinema, this isn't just his biggest cult hit but it also launched the careers of the Venom Mob. When you think classic 70s Shaw Brothers Kung Fu films, THIS is the movie you're thinking of.
Note: The Blu-ray (aka: The Five Deadly Venoms) looks incredible. Never thought a 70s Shaw Brothers film would look this good.
You're no match for my Toad Style Mofo.
My laptop has sadly died and I can't write on this tablet thingy. Better keep it short and sweet. A bit like this movie, well not the short, but definitely the sweet, especially in the costume and fighting departments.
I will be honest and admit I was completely confused by the plot. So many animal styles, so much deceit, backstabbing and scheming. Do I care, only slightly, but it all becomes clear by the credits and all's well that ends well. Aside for those characters murdered by kung-fu, which is practically everyone in the film.
My kind of entertainment!
Shaw brothers most famous film yet to be honest they certainly made better. The story here is a little slack but it does have some good fight scenes and the idea of each character mimicking real animals works well. I can see why it is a cult film and enjoyed it more as it went on but do wish some other Shaw brother film got as much attention.
The story here was very cool. The master tells his latest pupil to peep out what the five he trained previously are doing. Make sure their not using their elite skills to do evil. He tells the pupil what to look for in skills because their were basically all anonymous. As the tale unfolds you find out who everyone is and there are a lot of cool beat up scenes. Overall I'd say this was extremely strong in story and medium in action. I've preferred some of the other Shaw movies for action but this one has an awesome story attached.
An interesting story with great kung fu - an incredibly enjoyable film.
A deep trip into coded Shaw Bros language, but all the syntax has been shredded: Couple days later and I'm still trying to figure out what to do with this byzantine plot. As a straight mystery this fails, but it works much like a tilted, mirrored hallway in a funhouse--a trick to keep the audience slightly disoriented, never quite on solid ground. Combined with the extravagant sets, masks, and costumes (though wasn't Lo Mang wearing the exact same shit in "KID WITH THE GOLDEN ARM"?), the garbled plotting brings things closer to dream-logic--Hypnagogic Kung Fu, if you will.
The whole thing has the vibe and feeling of arcane ritual: an enigmatic, isolated tribalism that, unlike more "traditional" Kung Fu, can't…
It's Chinese Take-Out Agatha Christie with goofy grins, serious staring, shirtless Asian men being tortured, and those crazy weird sound effects when the kung-fu fighting gets it on ... sounds like a wet towel hitting a stone or a spatula whacking a kitchen counter. Adequate silliness.
It may have been influential, but it certainly ain't the best Shaw Bros film I've seen. The animal styles and fights that bookend the film are enjoyable, but the mystery plot that overtakes the film is too simple and drawn out.
Surprised to say that this silly thing that I expected to be a throwaway bit of entertainment before bed might just be my favorite Shaw Brothers film. Cheh Chang does a great job of tying an extraordinarily convoluted plot together so that it makes sense, and the styles of the different fighters are well-differentiated from each other. Really a treat if you're into this kind of 70s kung fu jam.
I've learned that there was a troup of Taiwanese action stars working in Hong Kong for the Shaw Brothers who knew each other since childhood and were known as The Venom Mob. Probably because of this film (although it's not their first). The Crippled Avangers, that I saw last night, is my favourite so far (there's three more on Netflix) but this one is pretty good also.
'The Five Venoms' is one of the biggest cult martial arts films of all time, a pillar of the Shaw Brothers canon... and a major disappointment. It may be directed by the legendary Chang Cheh, it may feature the infamous "Venom Mob" in the film that made their name, but this film offers little in the way of excitement to justify its towering reputation.
Certain reasonable assumptions can be made of Hong Kong martial arts films of this period. The films tend to be overlong, feature excessive confusing plot twists, have poor dialogue, and concentrate most of the action into the final reel. Very often, Shaw Brothers films overcome these problems by the sheer exuberance of the fighting and possibly…
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