Cult classic in Kung-Fu filmology, “the 5 Deadly Venoms” made waves at its release in 1978 – heralding the rise of an iconic group of martial arts actors with roles set in stone. Fighting film powerhouse “Shaw Studios” started a movement with this single masterpiece.
Where fighting action in film of the oriental kind is concerned, the many productions of the notorious Shaw Brothers Studio outproduced the rest back in the early to mid 80’s.
Once the proud proprietors of the largest movie studio in the world, named “Movietown,” Shaw Brothers brought Kung-Fu films to prominence and released a significant number of the era’s classics.
In the case of the 5 venoms, they’d ultimately lend fame to a singular group of skilled martial artists-turned actors known as the “Venom Mob.”
“The Lord is my shepherd. […] He gives me kung-fu in the face of my enemies. Amen”
― Stephen King, The Stand
Being named after your most memorable movie role must be an interesting experience. Such was the case of the Venom Mob, each of whom were named after their role in the 5 venoms.
They would go on to star in many additional Kung-Fu movies together, even taking their roles as heroes and villains from one plot line to the next.
On the side of the heroes stood Kuo Chui (the Lizard), Lo Mang (the Toad) and Chiang Sheng (the Student).
In defiant opposition stood Lu Feng (the Centipede), Sun Chien (the Scorpion) and Wei Pai (the Snake).
Together, they formed a lineup of exceedingly dangerous martial artists with superhuman abilities, and China’s unofficial answer to Lucha Libre wrestlers…
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who had practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
― Bruce Lee
Lizard’s acrobatic abilities took him far; he was almost always the last man standing in the films he starred in.
His wig and stubble, however, can’t have lasted much longer than the time it took to film a scene.
In the 5 Venoms, he could walk on walls and deftly blow out rows of candles. One of those abilities is a lot more impressive than the other.
The Toad was continuously cast for his impressive physique and brute strength. He certainly wasn’t cast for his elegant mask design.
Always among the first to fight, Toad is also typically the first to die, as is the case in 5 Venoms. It wasn’t pretty either, once his invincibility was shattered by a sneak attack from Scorpion…
Sleeping in an iron maiden wasn’t even necessary at that point, but his captors were the thorough sort.
The Student was particularly humorous in the 5 Venoms, what with his pathetic attempts at soothing his master…
Add to that his ridiculous efforts at ‘blending in’ as a filthy bum while searching for allies and you’ve got yourself a ripe vein of comedic gold.
Funny enough, comic relief proved to be his main purpose in most of his later film appearances. Unfortunately, his early death in real life wasn’t funny at all.
“I prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.”
― Jackie Chan
Centipede went on to become a chronic villain in film. In the 5 venoms, he was a chronic hand-flailer hellbent on destruction.
His brutally hilarious wrath was a glorious thing to behold. Just watch what he does to the dishes…
Destroying fine china in China has to be a crime, right? How fitting for his evil character.
He’s also noted in the credits as ‘fighting instructor’ and was reputedly a weapons expert. Neat.
Scorpion liked kicking. Scorpion liked kicking a lot.
In the 5 Venoms, he also appreciated sneak-attacking people with impossibly-thrown, scorpion-shaped knives of doom. Thus, there was ample backstabbing…
And substantial frontstabbing to boot.
The Snake was a skull piercing bastard. He gave a mean Heimlich though…
He got his just desserts, comeuppance and what-have-you in the end, but nothing can erase the wake of damage he’d left on fine pottery.
In real life, he took more to drama than martial arts acting. After such a gruesome death in the 5 Venoms, he can’t really be blamed for that.
These six actors became the famous Venom Mob’s tier-1 team and played quite a role in mapping out the Kung-Fu film genre. Not least, they knew they were cool…