(aka 'Wu Du' or 'Five Deadly Venoms' or 'Ng duk' or 'The Five Deadly Venoms')

directed by Chang Cheh
Hong Kong 1978

Script: Chang Cheh and Ni Kuang
Cast:
Chiang Sheng: Yang De, final student
Phillip Kwok (Kuo Chui): The Lizard
Lu Feng: The Centipede
Sun Chien: The Scorpion
Lo Meng: The Toad
Wai Pai: The Snake
Dick Wei: Master of the Five Venoms
Johnny Wang Lung Wei -Judge
Ku Feng - Yuan

Please note: the Poison Clan is known as Five Venom’s House on the new Celestial DVD release.

The master of the Poison Clan (Dick Wei) is dying and his last wish is that his final student, Yang De (Chiang Sheng), go out and accomplish two tasks. He must find Clan member Yuan (Ku Feng) and warn him that the master’s former students may threaten the treasure of the Clan. Then try to find the five students and see if they are using their martial arts for evil. Yang must help them atone for the Clan's heinous deeds if they are good, but if they are evil, he must find a way to destroy them. The one problem is the students, known as "The Centipede," "The Snake," "The Scorpion," "The Lizard (“The Gecko” on the Celestial DVD)," and "The Toad," were top members of the Clan named for their deadly kung fu techniques. And unfortunately for Yang, he’s only been trained in a little of each form and is no match for them by himself. Since the students wore masks while training with the Clan, no one knows what they look like, which makes finding an ally among the trained killers a deadly proposition.

Chang Cheh started a semi-independent film company in Taiwan in late 1973 with the help of Ti Lung, David Chiang, and Shaw Brothers Studios known as >Chang’s Film Company. The company was initially a success, making such classics as Heroes Two (1974), Men From the Monastery (1974), and Shaolin Martial Arts(1974). Yet soon after the movie Marco Polo (1975), their films began performing progressively worse at the box-office until the failure of their big budget epics forced the closure of the studio. Chang soon returned to Hong Kong with six contracted Taiwanese stuntmen (Robert Tai, Lu Feng, Kou Chui, Yu Tai Peng, Sun Shao Pei, and Chiang Sheng) that he had seen some promise in. Chiang Sheng, Kuo Chui, and Lu Feng trained in Opera together in Taiwan and were weapons specialists in the movies. They fought so well together, in most films they were nearly always opponents in the final fight. Robert Tai and the others were martial arts directors and stuntmen working mostly behind the scenes. Chang Cheh slowly brought the group along in small roles in films like Naval Commandos (1977). They really began gel with the addition of southern mantis proponent Lo Meng, and kicker Sun Chien in the Fu Sheng starring vehicle Chinatown Kid (1977). Chang Cheh soon set out to add yet another team to those he had created previously for the studio with the feature Five Venoms.

Using color schemes straight out of Italian director Mario Bava’s work and music cues found in "Monty Python & The Holy Grail" and the TV movie “The Night Strangler” Five Venoms is one of Chang Cheh‘s most impressive directing efforts. The movie is perhaps the best mixture of a mystery/thriller combined with the kung fu genre ever made. As the film progresses, questions on top of questions materialize about the identities of the characters and their actions, until the truth unravels like an intricate puzzle. The film was based on a script by prolific writer Ni Kuang which was part of a loose narative of films and tales dealing with a group known as the Poison Clan. This group was a secret organization out to take over the martial world through stealth and cunning. The role of the Snake in the script was originally intended for a female (Lily Li-li was an early choice according to some interviews), but Chang Cheh changed the character to a male during filming. This gave relative unknown Wei Pai a chance to shine in one of only a handful of movies he would do with the team. Soon after, Wei would move to Golden Harvest with promises of becoming a star. Unfortunately, Golden Harvest had no clue how to use him and after a few films, he all but disappeared into television work. Martial arts director Robert Tai would work in this capacity on many of the earlier films until he left the Shaw Brothers in 1979 to move to Taiwan and start his own career as a movie director. With his departure, the opera players (Kwok, Lu, and Chiang) went on to choreograph action sequences in the rest of the films with typically impressive results.

The mentioning of the martial world in the film itself, makes Five Venoms one of the few kung fu movies to take place within a fantasy setting in the style of the wuxia (fantasy swordplay) films. This allowed for more fantastic fight scenes (climbing on walls and the like) and created the unique mixture of martial arts sub-genres (wuxia and kung fu), which along with high powered action scenes, would become the team’s trademark. Though nowhere near as fight-filled as their later efforts, the action in the film is certainly unique. Beginning with an impressive sequence identifying their martial arts styles and their animal names, the martial arts and the viewer’s knowledge of them, help to move the plot forward. Using just a simple palm thrust could reveal the identity of a character and adds another piece to the film’s unique design. Unlike many of the team’s later productions, Five Venoms relies more on wire work and hand to hand combat. As the “series” progressed, more high impact weapons work and Opera influenced chorography came to the fore.

This movie was a moderate hit in Hong Kong and prompted Chang Cheh to start a series of films with the same actors, though no sequel to this film ever materialized. Unfortunately, after the great Crippled Avengers (1978), the team slowly lost their place at the box-office to the emergence of kung fu comedy. In no uncertain terms the failure of these films eroded Chang Cheh’s creditability and led to his separation from the Shaw Brothers Studios just a few years later. But the influence of the film was further reaching than anyone could have known. For many western viewers, Five Venoms (or Five Deadly Venoms as it was known abroad) is THE Shaw Brothers film. It was a hit in every form of release in the U.S. and influenced everything from poster art to commercials in the west. Outside of 36th Chamber of Shaolin(1978), it is perhaps the most well known and unusual kung fu film Shaw Brothers Studios ever produced.

Linn Haynes

Posters

Theatrical Release: August 12th, 1978

Reviews         More Reviews          DVD Reviews

DVD Comparison:

Steeplechase - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Celestial - Region 3 - NTSC vs. Weinstein (Dragon Dynasty) - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Ole Kofoed of DVD-Basen for the Screen Caps!

Big thanks to Shaw Brothers expert Linn Haynes for the review.

1) Steeplechase - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT

2) Celestial - Region 3 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Weinstein (Dragon Dynasty) - Region 1 - NTSC - RIGHT

 

DVD Box Covers

    

 

Distribution

Steeplechase

Region 0 - NTSC

Celestial
Region 3 - NTSC
Weinstein (Dragon Dynasty)  - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:37:50 (4% PAL speedup) 1:36:42 (4% PAL speedup) 1:41:24 
Video

2.28:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.65 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

2.35:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 8.92 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

2.35:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.47 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s  

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Steeplechase

 

Bitrate:

 

Celestial

 

Bitrate:

Dragon Dynasty

 

Audio English Dub (Hi-Fi AC3 ?) 2.1

Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 and Cantonese DD 5.1

Mandarin (Dolby Digital 2.0), DUB: English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles None. English, Traditional Chinese, Malaysia, Indonesia or none. English, Spanish, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Steeplechase

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen letterboxed - 2.28:1

Edition Details:

DVD Release Date: October 10, 2000
Keep Case

Chapters 15
 

Release Information:
Studio: Celestial

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.35:1

Edition Details:
• Photo gallery.
• Poster.
• Filmographies & biographies of Cast and Director.
• Trailer.
• New trailers for Five Deadly Venoms and 4 other SB movies.

 

DVD Release Date: December, 2003
Keep Case in Card Box

Chapters 12

Release Information:
Studio: Weinstein (Dragon Dynasty)

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Edition Details:

• Commentary by Hong Kong Cinema Expert Bey Logan

DVD Release Date: August 18th, 2009

Keep Case inside cardboard case
Chapters: 16

Comments

This shouldn't be confused with 'The Return of the 5 Deadly Venoms' aka 'Can Que' or 'The Crippled Avenger ' reviewed HERE although it does have the same director and was also the same year.

 

ADDITION: Dragon Dynasty - (Weinstein) - August 2009: Well, the new Weinstein edition seems to be the one to get. It only has 2.0 audio but the picture quality is significantly improved. This starts with the Celestial logo and doesn't appear to have the text intros Linn was referring to below. It offers an exceptional commentary - I love listening to someone who really knows their sh*t. Bey Logan is such a man. The picture quality and commentary should be reason enough to indulge but it's also less than $15. Go for it!

Gary Tooze    

 

***

 

 

ON THE Steeplechase vs. the Celestial: Another excellent and highly recommended Shaw Brothers release from Celestial, the only minor "downs" is it's PAL sourced that results in some 'ghosting' (Not nearly as noticeable as the captures shows when viewing the movie) and there is only new remixed soundtracks, it sounds fine enough but it would be nice if Celestial would include the original soundtracks on their Shaw Brothers releases.

 - Ole Kofoed

 

The Celestial is missing text intros that appear in the other versions. It's also missing the very end shot where they walk out of the door (see last capture). Since this was present in an old camcorder bootleg, I'm guessing that the Celestial ending is the way it was in Hong Kong.

 - Linn Haynes

 


DVD Menus

(Steeplechase - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Celestial - Region 3 - NTSC - RIGHT)
 

 
 

 

Dragon Dynasty DVD Menus



Dragon Dynasty Subtitle Sample

 

 


 

Screen Captures

 

1) Steeplechase - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Celestial - Region 3 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Weinstein (Dragon Dynasty) - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Steeplechase - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Celestial - Region 3 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Weinstein (Dragon Dynasty) - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Steeplechase - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Celestial - Region 3 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Weinstein (Dragon Dynasty) - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Steeplechase - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Celestial - Region 3 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Weinstein (Dragon Dynasty) - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Steeplechase - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Celestial - Region 3 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Weinstein (Dragon Dynasty) - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Steeplechase - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Celestial - Region 3 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Weinstein (Dragon Dynasty) - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Steeplechase - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Celestial - Region 3 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Weinstein (Dragon Dynasty) - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

 

 


1) Steeplechase - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Celestial - Region 3 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Weinstein (Dragon Dynasty) - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

Last frame from each release

 


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Report Card:

 

Image:

Dragon Dynasty

Sound:

Dragon Dynasty

Extras: Dragon Dynasty

 

DVD Box Covers

    

 

Distribution

Steeplechase

Region 0 - NTSC

Celestial
Region 3 - NTSC
Weinstein (Dragon Dynasty)  - Region 1 - NTSC





 

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