Thursday, January 6, 2011

5 Deadly Venoms (1978)

Kung-Fu movies are a thing many of us remember from our childhood. In the same way we remember Godzilla we remember these martial arts action flicks. They'd regularly play on TV and would always feature grainy transfers and awful dubbing. They were something to laugh at just as much as we'd love the action. For most of us they were only an anomaly. In 1978 Shaw Bros. studio brought 5 Deadly Venoms to the world. Action packed, humorous and well made, it would become one of the most revered martial arts movies ever made.

As the master of the Venom House is dying he sends his last student on a crucial mission to track down the five senior members and reclaim the treasure that has been gained using the master's teachings for evil. The master instructs his pupil to use his skills and team up with any of the senior members who have not turned to wrong doing to stop them and give the treasure to charity to clear the House's name.

Each member is trained in a specific lethal style. The oldest is The Centipede, having hands and feet so fast it makes him appear to have 1,000 legs. The next is The Snake, who's left and right hands operate as the head and tail of a snake, working together in deadly unison. The Scorpion follows suit, his hand like the pincers and his feet the stinging tail with the ability to paralyze his enemies. The final two seniors are The Gecko who learned how to use his weight against gravity and crawl at will on walls. Speed and position are his biggest assets and The Toad who is strong and has only one weak point. He can withstand attacks of all kind and bend hardened materials.

The main plot of the film follows the junior student, Yan Tieh, as he poses as a beggar in town and witnesses various events including a family being murdered, corruption and backstabbing among the key characters of the story. The story intertwines with our six members of the Venom House and concludes in a five-way battle which is possibly one of the best choreographed fight scenes I've ever seen.

Chang Cheh was well versed in the art of kung-fu film making by the time Five Deadly Venoms was made, and his skill in the director's chair is evident. Performances are tight, all comedy is right on time and well placed and cinematography is great. The set pieces are beautiful as well, and make for interesting fight scenes.

I'll admit I just started getting into these movies after finding them entertaining as a kid (for completely different reasons) within the last year or so, but I'm already finding that they are very well made and entertaining movies. I can see why Cheh is heralded as the "Godfather of Hong Kong Cinema" and why Five Deadly Venoms is considered to be one his best works and one of the best kung-fu movie ever made.


No comments: