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Issue #198 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES February 9th, 2004

The Five Venoms
(1978; Shaw Brothers)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Ng duk
Mandarin: Wu du
English: Five Venoms

U.S. Title: The 5 Deadly Venoms

One of Shaw Brothers' most memorable martial arts films, this intricate period mystery/thriller has developed a substantial cult following in western fan circles. Young martial arts student Yang De (Chiang Sheng) is instructed by his dying master (Dick Wei) to seek out the man's former students. Known respectively as "The Centipede," "The Snake," "The Scorpion," "The Lizard," and "The Toad," the men were top members of The Poison Clan and skilled in the techniques they were named after. However, each always wore a mask to keep their identities secret. The old teacher is worried that his pupils are using their talents for evil and wants Yang (who has learned a bit of each man's style) to locate them and investigate. Journeying to a small town, Yang meets several men whose martial talents suggest Poison Clan training but he is unable to determine this for certain. Meanwhile, Yuan (Ku Feng), an old friend of Yang's master, is accosted by The Centipede (Lu Feng) and The Snake (Wei Pai), who are intent on obtaining some clan money the elderly scholar has hidden away. Unable to find what they came for, the men brutally kill Yuan and his family. With the assistance of Li Ho (who is actually The Toad, played by Lo Mang), the authorities are able to arrest The Centipede but he is released by a corrupt magistrate. Li is framed for the crime and tortured. Upright police officer He (who is actually The Lizard and is played by Phillip Kwok Tsui) teams up with Yang to set things right but where does The Scorpion (Sun Chien) fit into all of this?

Those who dismiss kung fu films as being mindless and plotless have obviously not seen this one, which features a mystery as intricate and intriguing as what one finds in mainstream thrillers. Unlike many efforts of this sort, the story remains consistently interesting and is not simply padding between the fights. The various animal styles on display are wonderful, particularly during the surreal training sequences used to introduce each expert. Familiar Shaw villain Johnny Wang Lung-wei again plays a miscreant here but, interestingly enough, does not perform any martial arts at all!

Cover art courtesy Intercontinental.

Image courtesy Intercontinental.

Chiang Sheng (left), Phillip Kwok, and Sun Chien. Image courtesy Intercontinental.
Intercontinental #100246 (Hong Kong label)

Dolby Digital 5.1

Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks (both post-synced)

Optional Subtitles in English, Traditional Chinese, Malaysian, and Indonesian

12 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With Clips

Enhanced for 16:9 Displays

Letterboxed (2.35:1)

Coded for Region 3 Only

NTSC Format

97 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Contains moderate violence and torture

DVD menu courtesy Intercontinental.

Australia: M 15+
Nova Scotia: 14
Ontario: R
Singapore: PG [Passed With Cuts]
United Kingdom: 18
United States: R

The presentation far surpasses the bootleg American DVD, looking crisp, clean, and colorful. I listened to the Cantonese dub and, aside from being a bit thin, it had no serious problems. The re-mix adds some foley atmospherics but is generally not a distraction. English subtitle translation is only fair and synced to the Mandarin version, which occasionally causes subs to appear when no one is speaking on the Canto track. Viewers intimately familiar with the dubbed version may be disappointed to see The Lizard called "The Gecko" and the Poison Clan rechristened "Five Venoms House" (the oft-quoted line "Poison Clan rocks the world!" is now "The Five Venoms are out and the world is settled"). In a welcome change from the past few batches, the original trailer can be viewed, though it is a spot created for the international English market. Video promos, photo galleries, and bios/filmographies for Kwok, Sun, Chiang, Lo, Lu, and Chang are also included.

THE FIVE VENOMS is available at Poker Industries.

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