Monday, June 30, 2014

The Five Deadly Venoms (1978)

The Five Deadly VenomsFirst of all let me tell you how good is this Kung Fu classic. The story is good, about 5 Venoms who live a secret life and are trying to be found by the Poison Clan's master. I think we should all have this fun kung fu flick in our collection but! They have to come out with a better DVD. This DVD has no special features, no original language track, and the image quality has not been restored at all, they didn't even try! So unless you must have it, wait for a better print.

You can add me to the nostalgia group, having seen this movie as an 11 year old in 1981 on a Saturday afternoon matinee. I was quite thrilled to find the DVD a few days ago, having eschewed the then difficult to find VHS version. DVD quality is pretty poor, but they were of course hampered going from a disintegrating master. Ghosting and screen artifacts abound, but hey, that's really secondary to anyone who's been searching for this title for some time. While formulaic in the genre sense, [dying master tells pupil to avenge him / right a wrong using every ounce of technique] the story is carried out in a much more sublime whodunit, as a teasing mystery with spurts of action. The last of the Poison Clan practitioners [dying of course] commands young pupil to find the hidden money cache of an earlier teacher before his boundlessly corrupt former students do. Centipede, Snake, Scorpion, Lizard, and Toad already have a head start on our last pupil who hasn't mastered any one of the techniques mentioned, but is versed enough in all of them to be effective when combined w/ another. The story progresses as the rich teacher is found in turn by the various factions. Centipede and Snake have teamed up as have Toad and Lizard. The mysterious Scorpion does not make his true intentions known, skulking around in the darkness to pick up the pieces and sow dissent. Slowly through the film, the members become clear and eventually fight one another which are the highlights. Who will prevail, who will our young student pair with during the end game, and what of the Scorpion? All answered in due time, well, actually in long drawn out periods of slack but when it does start cooking it certainly does. My favorite: the fight between my preferred poison The Snake, and the Toad. Watching and listening to the sound effects as the Snake struck, probing for weak points while the Toad would flex and bounce him off 10 feet was fun then and now.. and surprisingly mirrors the battles based on this scenario I would have with my 8 year old sister. Hah hah. This is a definite cult classic, campy enough in later viewing that it doesn't take itself too seriously, but with enough action to satisfy new viewers too. Recommended.

Buy The Five Deadly Venoms (1978) Now

When it comes to martial arts films, most claim that Bruce Lee's "Enter the Dragon" is the best ever made. I gather because it was a Warner Brothers production with it's producer Fred Weintraub. I also gather it is because it has a "multi-cultural" cast instead of an all Chinese traditional cast. Well, if you believe that to be the case or not, others suggest that "The Five Deadly Venoms" is either the next best thing or the best in and of itself!

No need to go into the story as many are familiar with it. This is one of the few martials arts films that has a decent story, suspense, action and intrigue. A few years ago, I bought the DVD version and I was very disappointed. It looked like a 3rd generation dub of a bootleg VHS tape! I wrote the company and they sent me another film (on a VHS tape!) to make it up to me. From then on, I get very concerned whenever a martial arts film get's released, let alone on Blu-ray.

I read one (non-professional) review and they said it was as good as they have ever seen it and the convinced me to buy it. I made the right call! The picture far exceeded my expectations! It is true HD, crisp, clean, very detailed and looks as if you are watching them film the movie in person! This is no BS! I cannot believe that I could not find s decent copy on DVD, but BD hits a homerun right out of the gate!

From the moment the picture starts and they show the masks and smoke, you know that you are in for something special because you have NEVER seen this film look this good! The whole film just looks so much better, that I would hope that all martial arts films could look this way! It is in mono 2.0, but who cares? Surround would have been nice, but I'll take the high level picture quality over an after-the-fact surround sound.

The only reason I give this 4 stars instead of 5 is becuase there are no extras. I would have at least preferred a trailor. A behind the scenes featurette or an interview with the actors would have been nice. My only other non-Hollywood martial arts film is "The 36th Chamber of Shoalin" which was in 1080i, not 1080P, but that still looked great too. Even "Enter the Dragon" was not encoded right. It has "jaggies" and it must be 1080i converted of something.

If you know what this is about, get this without delay, the picture is nearly flawless!

Read Best Reviews of The Five Deadly Venoms (1978) Here

Like so many others on, 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 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! The soundtrack is muffled like when you play a non-Dolby encoded cassette tape back with the Dolby switch on. I can't speak for the Front Row Video, Inc. version they're selling on but don't hold your breath. Here's hoping that Celestial Pictures (who now owns the rights to many 1970s Hong Kong classics like this one) get their act together and release a spiffy new version of 5DV. Two essential things for a new release: Original film negatives for a better picture and, for Pete's sake, the original recorded elements for clear, non-muffled sound. Some subtitles would be nice, too. Note to Celestial Pix: Please do it justice, fellers!

The 5 stars given are for the film itself which is remains uniquely satisfying: classic, yet refreshing and timeless. The Five Deadly Venoms is still cool and I've tried to turn friends on to it, usually by forcing them to watch it with me so that I can "re-experience it" thru their eyes! It's hard to define how much unconsciously bigger this movie is than its own genre. But it is. In a way, it stands alone. :-]

Rent it if possible. If not, approach with caution or wait for the eventual "special edition". Good luck.

Want The Five Deadly Venoms (1978) Discount?

This DVD is a poor quality bootleg. A company called Celestial owns the worldwide copyright on ALL Shaw Brothers movies. Their digitally remastered DVD has been available for a couple of years, and puts this bootleg to shame. That catch is that you must purchase it from a Hong Kong based web site. Amazon is not allowed to sell it, so they have listed this bootleg. Find a Hong Kong based web site and purchase the official DVD!

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