{2jtab: Movie Review}

Five Deadly Venoms - Blu-ray Review


4 stars

It might be circumstance that Five Deadly Venoms, a martial arts classic from Shaw Brothers Studio, gets released the same week that Kung Fu Panda 2 is released.  Chances are, it isn’t though.  Considering the huge amount of influence this film from 1978 continues to have over people and artists and musicians alike, one wouldn’t be surprised if The Furious Five’s origins could be found inside Chang Che’s martial arts masterpiece.  After all, where do you think Tarantino’s Deadly Viper Assignation Squad in Kill Bill came from?

Yan Tieh (Chiang Sheng) is the final student of the Venom House’s Poison Clan.  Considered Hybrid Master, Yan knows each of the styles of the house, but is not as strong as the previous students of Venom House.  Each one of the previous students (Hint: there are five of them) has learned a certain style of fighting: Centipede (Lu Feng), Scorpion (Sun Chien), Toad (Lo Mang), Gecko (Kuo Chui), and Snake (Wei Pei).  Yet, their hearts are not entirely pure.  Concerned that his former students are plotting to rob him of his treasure, Yan’s dying master (Dick Wei) requests that Yan finds a friend and colleague to help guard against his treasure.  What evolves is a journey of that sees sides being switched and hearts being tested as each of the Five Deadly Venoms tries their hardest to gain Yan’s trust (in some manner) and find the hidden treasure.

With its tongue-in-cheek mythology set firmly in place, Five Deadly Venoms never takes itself or its martial arts mayhem too seriously.  Yes, the finale is a deadly mix of intoxicating Kung Fu and choreography, but it still has the humor that makes Five Deadly Venoms work as a Shaw Brothers era film and a marvelous and relevant piece of pop culture splatterhouse art.   Frenzied and nutty, the film straddles the bi-polar gate that swings between logic and lunacy and, at times, lets that fence open for all to enjoy its mad inventive fusion of style and slop.

Consistently ranked at the top of any Cult film listing, Five Deadly Venoms certainly delivers the right ingredients to remain a staple of over-the-top popcorn-friendly entertainment.  Pulpy and, at times, silly enough to always be enjoyable, Che’s film is never flat.  The film turns from its Kung Fu action roots and walks straight into an entangled whodunit type of mystery fairly quickly and then back into madcap action for a rousing finale.  This constant change of pace makes up for any of the film’s moments of lunacy and loopy characterization.  Yet, never have any of its flaws diminished the love and luster of its now 33-year-old history.

For lovers of cult films, owning this one is a no-brainer.


{2jtab: Film Details}

Five Deadly Venoms - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: R.
: Cheh Chang
Writer: Cheh Chang
Cast: Sheng Chiang; Philip Kwok; Feng Lu; Pai Wei; Chien Sun; Meng Lo
: Action
Pick Your Poison!
Memorable Movie Quote: "You've just asked me "When will it end?" Well let me tell you: Once an evil deed is done, then it never ends... it goes on and it goes on forever."
Beverly Wilshire Filmworks
Release Date:
No U.S. theatrical release.
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
May 17, 2011

Synopsis: A dying teacher instructs his final student to check on the activities of five former pupils, each of whom he taught a unique and special style of kung-fu to: The Centipede, Snake, Scorpion, Lizard, and Toad (hence the title). His final student, who knows a little of each style must team up with one of the other good students to destroy the evil ones if there are any. Greed and treachery ensue as the student discovers that some of the students are indeed evil. But which one can he trust enough to team up with?


{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Five Deadly Venoms - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Blu-ray Disc
4 stars
3 Stars
Blu-ray Experience
3.5 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - May 17, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.37:1
: English; English SDH; Spanish
Audio: Mandarin: Dolby Digital 2.0; English: Dolby Digital 2.0
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)

The AVC encoded 1080p presentation (in 2.37:1) of Five Deadly Venoms is certainly a revelation for those who grew up watching the film on cable.  Seriously, who knew that the color palette was this bright?!  Rejuvinating the intended look and sharpness of the film with bright reds and even brighter yellows, Dragon Dynasty (a division of The Weinstein Company) has certainly outdone themselves with this transfer.  The detail is pure and the blood – ketchupy red – flies off the screen with purpose.  The sound, presented here in Dolby Digital 2.0 (Mandaran or English dub), leaves a little to be desired as it is only in mono and some drop-outs are noticable.



  • Hong Kong Cinema Expert Bey Logan provides the film’s commentary.  He’s juiced-up on the flavors of Five Deadly Venoms and certainly seems to be having fun telling what he knows about the film.  Informative and entertaining, Logan’s commentary is not to be missed – especially with all the imaginative voice work he does in describing the film.

Special Features:

  • None

{2jtab: Trailer}