AKA: The Return of the 5 Deadly Venoms, Return of Five Deadly Venoms, Mortal Combat, Avengers Handicapped
Year of release: 1978
Genre: martial arts
Director: Chang Cheh
Action directors: Chang Sheng, Lu Feng, Robert Tai
Producers: Runme Shaw, Mona Fong
Writers: Chang Cheh, Ni Kuang
Editor: Chiang Hsing-Lung
Cinematography: Cho Wai-Kei
Music: Frankie Chan
Stars: Chen Kuan-Tai, Lu Feng, Phillip Kwok, Johnny Wang, Lo Meng, Chiang Sheng, Sun Chien, Dick Wei, Jamie Luk, Stewart Tam, Cheng Miu, Helen Poon, Yu Tai-Ping, Yeung Hung, Tony Tam
Not rated; contains IIB-level violence
Movie review index
One of the most influential kung fu films ever created, Chang Cheh's 1978 release Crippled Avengers (aka The Return of the 5 Deadly Venoms) has been recently re-released on region 1 DVD by Dragon Dynasty. So, grab a cold one and join us as we take another look at this classic, as well as give some info on the new DVD.
Crippled Avengers' antagonist is Tiger Dao Tian-Du (Chen Kuan-Tai), a man who was once heroic until his wife is killed and his son Dao Chang (Lu Feng) has his hands taken off by a rival clan. Turning to anger, Tiger and Chang unleash their vengeance on anyone who wrongs them, even in the smallest ways. Eventually, a quartet of men (Phillip Kwok, Lo Meng, Chiang Sheng, and Sun Chien) who have been maimed by Tiger band together and learn kung fu in order to try and get their revenge.
Besides the element of having its' heroes handicapped in some way, Crippled Avengers' story really isn't anything more than your usual kung fu revenge plot. But the exposition scenes are still a treat to sit through, due to the chemistry between the leads and the gravitas of their performances. It's a testament to the strength of Chang Cheh's direction that he manages to create such compelling characters with what otherwise could have produced standard cookie-cutter results.
Of course, though, Crippled Avengers is best known for its' fighting scenes, and those still hold up as a pinnacle of the genre, even after more than thirty years after its' initial release. There is some use of wirework and camera tricks, but for the most part, the fights are a wonderful display of athleticism from the participants. There's no stunt doubles, no gimmicky editing or camerawork, and most importantly, no goddamn computer effect wankery spooging over every shot. It's just simply martial artists at the top of their game putting on a show that has rarely been rivaled before or since.
Dragon Dynasty's new DVD release is unfortunately devoid of any extras besides a couple of trailers. The movie, which runs 103 minutes, seems to be the same print as the Hong Kong version put out by Celestial. The film is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen, with Dolby mono soundtracks in English and Mandarin, and generally looks and sounds very nice.
Screen captures from the DVD can be found here.
The DVD is available at Amazon.