This ultra-violent fighting game's title is a variation on the name for Chang Cheh's old school movie Crippled Avengers, which was called The Return of the 5 Deadly Venoms and Mortal Combat in the US.
The violence featured in the movie undoubtedly provided at least some inspiration for the game's "fatalities."
Like Chang Cheh's movies, the game also came under fire for the violent content. In fact, politicians thought the game so violent that they held special hearings about it, which eventually led to ratings being instilled on video game software. Even with the ratings, home versions were still heavily censored -- the Genesis/Mega Drive version had the blood, but users needed to input a special code to see it, and the Super Nintendo/Famicom version had the blood removed altogther.
Another Chang Cheh movie, the classic Five Deadly Venoms, provided the inspiration for the ninjas Reptile, Sub-Zero and Scorpion -- right down to their outfits (the outfit Lizard wears when he is out of "uniform" is very similar to what the ninjas wear).
One of the game's creators, John Tobias, has said in interviews that the classic Bruce Lee movie Enter the Dragon provided a lot of inspiration for the game.
Ho Sung Pak, who appeared in the climatic fight in Drunken Master 2, was a model for some of the game's characters like Liu Kang. Liu's backstory has him as a member of the White Lotus Society, who were Wong Fei-Hung's nemesis in Once Upon a Time in China. Some of Liu Kang's mannerisms and moves are derived from Bruce Lee.
The "role" of Johnny Cage was originally supposed to be played by martial arts star (at least he was at the time) Jean-Claude Van Damme, who got his start in HK/US co-productions such as Bloodsport (Cage's outfit in the game is very similar to what Van Damme wore in that movie). The game's original plot was to have revolved around Van Damme, who enters into the tournament featured in the game to prove that he is a "real" martial artist. After the departure of Van Damme from the game's production, the emphasis was placed on the evil Shang Tsung (played by Ho Sung Pak).
Robin Shou, who has appeared in about a dozen HK movies such as Tiger Cage, played Liu Kang in the US film version of the game (one of the only decent game-to-movie conversions) and its' less-than-successful sequel.
The character of Raiden (the "thunder god") was taken from "Lightning" in the HK-inspired US movie Big Trouble in Little China.
There are a few more HK film-inspired touches in the latest installment of the series, Deadly Alliance. Johnny Cage's backstory has him working on a movie with "Channy Jack" (Jackie Chan) before entering the latest tournament, and Kung Lao (pictured on the left) now uses the Shaolin style popularized by dozens of old-school movies. A new character, Bo Rhi Chao (pictured on the right), uses the Drunken Fist style, which Jackie Chan used in the Drunken Master films.
Michelle Yeoh's latest film Silver Hawk features a big black guy with robotic arms, an obvious lift from the character of Jax.
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