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Five Deadly Venoms (Widescreen)

Sheng Chiang , Philip Kwok , Cheh Chang    VHS Tape
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)

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One of the loopiest kung-fu movies ever made, a garish masterpiece of martial kitsch by the hard-boiled master of the genre, Chang Cheh. The five muscle-bound paragons of the title have fighting skills so hyperdeveloped that they border upon the occult, each modeled on the behavior of a different venomous beast: centipede, snake, lizard, toad, and scorpion. This "poison clan" is embroiled in a complex plot to lay claim to an ill-gotten fortune, but the story line feels like an afterthought. The nonstop wall-crawling action sequences, which match up the cast members in every conceivable combination, are the be all and end all here. This is late, decadent Chang Cheh, without the poise and sweep of earlier epics like Blood Brothers and Vengeance (the noble David Chiang-Ti Lung team ups that inspired John Woo), but it's great fun on its own terms. The painted masks worn by the Venoms, which make them look like berserk extras in a wrestling film, are based upon the belligerent warrior face paint of Chinese opera. --David Chute

Customer Reviews

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic of classics Dec 6 2002
I gave the film 5 stars for its legacy, rather than DVD quality or strength of story. Putting this film in a historical perspective, this film would not have become the classic that it is, if it had not been aired on Saturday afternoon Kung-Fu theaters across the country in the early to mid 80's. This film is spoken of with the same reverence that is afforded to "Enter The Dragon". There are better Shaw Brothers films (Super Ninjas is probably the best), but this one started the next Kung-Fu film craze.
The DVD quality is fair. The story is quite good, although a bit slow at points, but with a rousing conclusion.
Fans of Shaw Brothers films will be happy to know that Celestial Films HK has purchased the entire Shaw Brothers film library, and is currently in the process of remastering the entire library for re-release in theaters, TV airings, and yes...DVDs.
So DVD fans may want to hold off a little while. Maybe Amazon.com will keep an eye on this situation, as I'm sure there will be a run on these DVDs when they are eventually released.
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Like so many others on Amazon.com, I used to watch weekend Kung Fu theatre programs on TV. Many movies I remember fondly (Kid With The Golden Arm and Shaolin Master Killer [aka 36th Chamber of Shaolin] come to mind) but one in particular stands out: Five Deadly Venoms. I caught it one rainy Saturday afternoon as a teenager and it has stayed with me ever since.
Set in "old" China and featuring a suspenseful plot (a mystery, no less), garish (yet not overly lavish) costumes/set design, and some great old school combat/camera work, this may not even be the best film from either the legendary Shaw Brothers or famed director Chang Cheh himself but there's just something about the pacing of the story which is in no hurry to go anywhere too soon. AND THAT'S A GOOD THING. It is creepy and the tension builds...perhaps not remarkable qualities for a vintage Kung Fu flick but this picture makes the most of it.
Another thing about the movie deserves praise: the absolutely fantastic score! It is austere AND comical, spare, seductive, and sinister without being cheesy. Extraordinary music! - even if it IS "borrowed" from other movies as some say....so be it. To me, the score is what really puts you in the world of 5DV.
PLEASE READ: I own both the DVD and the VHS video (the Steeplechase/Martial Arts Video versions) and they are flippin' LOUSY, with the DVD having a marginally better picture/bad sound and the video having much clearer sound/a horrible picture tracking problem. I could be wrong, but in their mastering of the DVD, it seems that Steeplechase/ M.A.V. simply took a bad widescreen edition VHS tape of the movie and did a poor transfer (although I HAVE seen worse) via the ol' mirror in a shoebox technology. Ha! Typical!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Shaw Bros. Classic Jan. 17 2004
By A Customer
This movie to me is one of the greatest kung fu flicks ever made with a creative plot, amazing fight scenes and memorable characters.
The story begins when Yan Tieh's(Chiang Sheng) teacher tells him the history of the "Poison Clan" and their five main techniques(Centipede, Snake, Scorpion, Lizard and Toad). His teacher then sends him on a mission to uncover the true identities of his former pupils, see which ones are using there kung fu for evil and warn a retired colleague that his 'Poison Clan fortune" is under threat from the former pupils. After barely starting his investigation, the colleague is murdered and his treasure stolen by the Centipede and Snake. This leads to the capture of the Centipede by the Lizard and Toad and the false torture and conviction of the Toad by the corrupt judge. Ending with one of the greatest fight scenes ever filmed,"The Five Deadly Venoms" gives an excellent demonstration of story, action and training sequences.
This film is one of the best that the Shaw Bros. have made in years. It is filled with great scenery, plot twists and fight scenes. Even though there isn't constant fighting, when a fight starts it lasts for several minutes. For example, the final fight is well over 10 minutes long.Along with the action,the introductory training sequence is spectacular and is enough to astound any non-comedy kung fu fan.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent flick. Excellent pace. July 10 2003
By Blurb
This one is a simple story that can get confusing, but has just the right stuff to keep the audience on track. Instead of a revenge theme like we so commonly see in the kung-fu flicks. Not that revenge themes are bad but it gives us a new taste to a different type of film.
Basically, a master has taught his pupils 5 deadly arts of Kung-fu all of which fit the the title 5 deadly venoms because the styles mimic animals that are poisonous. The centipede, snake, toad, lizard, scorpion. Hence the name "poison clan". The master teaches all of these to pupils at different times and is only explained by the master as a sort of flashback but more of a background builder. Each pupil mastered a specific style within the clan but do not know anything besides that style. However, they know their own style very well. Each style has it's own weaknesses but if one can know how to do them all they essetially complement each other and then one can have no weaknesses. The master is telling this story to his pupil Yan Tieh who actually has a small role in the film even though his role is rather important because it actually sets things in motion. The reason is the master has taught all of the tecniques to Yan but he doesnt know anyone technique very well and therefore he can be easily beaten by anyone of the 5 previous pupils. His mission is to check up on the 5 pupils to see if they are doing good deeds with their skills. As the story unfolds there are 2 who are obviously bad and are after a treasure and killing people left and right. Only they screw up and use their skills and leave death marks of special kung-fu on the people they killed. PLus to add to all the fun some innocent bystander witness thee murders.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars True Gung Fu classic
Well, grew up as a kid partaking in Sunday afternoon TV..... Chinese Kung Fu (Gung Fu) classics were my favs along with the 3 stooges. Read more
Published on May 22 2011 by skhooter
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourites
While I can't comment on the quality of these prints, this movie has been one of my all-time favorites. Read more
Published on July 10 2004 by G. Klimanis
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolute Greatness.
I went to Blockbuster last week, looking for a Kung Fu film. I rented 2, "Iron Monkey 2" (AKA Duel at Tiger Village) and of course "Five Deadly Venoms" I... Read more
Published on June 25 2004 by "capitalclick"
4.0 out of 5 stars The "classic"
If you haven't seen this, go and buy it. Case closed.
Published on June 5 2004 by Taddese Zicke
5.0 out of 5 stars The gresatest 5 person group
I can't believe some of the idiots talking trash about the movie, it's a classic. Like most people who look for these Venom movies I've watched hundreds of Chinese & Japanese... Read more
Published on June 4 2004 by M. Allen
5.0 out of 5 stars The BEST of its kind
If you can't appreciate this film...you are simply NOT a kung fu fan. This is a Five Star Classic. In my opinion, this was the first real super hero movie. Read more
Published on May 22 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as expected
The first half of this movie is pretty boring but the second half was worth sitting through the first half to see. It was really good. Read more
Published on May 22 2004 by Michael Meglasson
2.0 out of 5 stars Overrated
The action is ok, but not as much as these reviews would have you believe. I own this but it is probably the last movie I would pick to watch in my collection. Read more
Published on May 18 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars UNWATCHABLE
I bought this DVD based on the Amazon customer reviews and the Kill Bill connection. The 10 minutes intrigued me with it's potential supernatural elements but by the time it got... Read more
Published on May 11 2004 by Vince Pecoraro
5.0 out of 5 stars This is how it started!
This is a classic and any Kung Fu fan should already own it,This movie has great fights,a cool story,very intresting characters and your never bored it doent mater this film was... Read more
Published on April 25 2004 by Jason
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