The Shaw Brothers bring another film to the 101 Action Movies list that brings all the variables we’ve come to expect from the classic kung fu movies, fights, betrayals, secrets, and more fights!
Cheh Chang directs the tale that has a convoluted and engaging plot as young Yang Tieh (Sheng Chiang) is summoned to his master’s death-bed. He is the last student of the Poison Clan, and has been given a smattering of teachings that were given to the five previous students. Each student was trained in a unique method, each with their own skills and faults, there is the Centipede (Feng Lu), the Snake (Pai Wei), the Scorpion (Chien Sun), the Lizard (Philip Kwok) and the Toad (Meng Lo).
Now, as death is growing near, the master is worried that perhaps some, if not all of his previous students have fallen to evil and charges Yang with tracking them down to learn their fates.
Unfortunately, he has no idea what any of them look like, and has to play a waiting game as they all converge on an old man with funds from the Poison Clan. Each of them wants it, and Yang has to figure out who they are, who he can trust, and who has fallen to the dark side.
The Centipede murders the old man before he can reveal the location of the hidden monies, and when he’s arrested, he arranges for the Toad to be accused as well, the witness to recant his report, and then have the Toad found guilty.
Toad is murdered before his friend, Lizard can return to help him, and he and Yang form an uneasy alliance to take down the remaining Venoms, as it seems none can now be trusted.
The fight sequences don’t present anything new to the viewer, but they are huge and involved, some of them clock in at over 5 minutes, and with Chang’s direction, and some fun sound editing, they’re actually a lot of fun.
What was troubling was the torturing of Toad to extract his confession, his placed in an iron maiden, and then put in a hot shirt (a super heated piece of back armor that is placed directly on the skin – GAH!!!).
The plot rolls along at a good pace, and is well-crafted, a little fuller in story than some of the other kung fu films that have found their way on the list at the moment.
The only thing the film is missing is a bit of a love interest, and personally I love a woman who can kick ass, so it would have been very cool if one of the Venoms had been a woman, oh well…
I’m quite liking my exposure to some of these films that I had never seen before, and am keen to hear some of your recommendations for other kung fu films I may not have heard of or seen.
What are some of your favorites?
Up next on the action movies list is one of my favorite superhero movies of all time!!!