The Five Deadly Venoms (1978)

After three days of “war is hell”, there now follows a few days of “beating shit out of people Hong Kong-style is cool”… it may not quite be a step down from the sublime to the ridiculous, but it’s not far off. Just as it was finally time to wipe The Human Condition from my ever-expanding backlog of unwatched films, it’s now time to do the same with those mostly cheap Hong Kong actioners I was collecting late last year. We begin, therefore, with the tale of five Juggalos… I’m sorry, I didn’t really want to say that, but those preposterous masks (even more preposterous than the hair and sideburns) really make it hard not to invoke Insane Clown Posse (“fuckin’ makeup, how does that work?”). Anyway, the titular venoms are five graduates of a kung fu school of ill repute; the master of the school is dying and sends his last student—a young man who frankly doesn’t seem to contribute much to the action until the end—into the world to seek them out; fortunately all of them have conveniently descended upon a town where their master’s old friend resides in search of the treasure he’s been guarding. The problem is the funky masks, on account of which the venoms themselves don’t know what each other looks like, so that’s another obstacle for them all to overcome on top of deciding which of themselves each man can trust.This is listed in that 1001 Films You Must See Before You Die book, or at least I presume it hasn’t been dropped from later editions, and as such I found it an interesting inclusion; always wondered what it was that set this apart from other examples of the genre that made it an all-round must see. And, to be honest, I’m still wondering. It’s all right, the fights are good enough albeit not numerous, but I can’t really work out how it merits a place in that book when, say, Heroes of the East or The Prodigal Son don’t. [Edit 19/9/13: the film got booted from the 2013 edition of 1001 Films. Disappointed that a better film of this sort doesn’t seem to have replaced it, though.]

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