We've got another Yuletide around the corner,and as we've always celebrated it here at the Wop,all good(that'd be bad if you're keeping score at home) boys n' girls get shiny new genre reviews under their holiday toolbars,and all bad(you rotten little do-goodniks know who you are)kiddies wake up to find a barely coherent Gary Busey in your living rooms,ready to screen the entire Uwe Boll collection repeatedly with you and your loved ones until the new year.Things just haven't been the same since Santa put Rudolph out to pasture and lit the skies for his sled with the red nose of Michael Caine instead,resulting in a subsequent FWI(flying while intoxicated)conviction,forcing Don Woppo to dip his beak of futurism on the whole operation.If the tears of you loverly ingrates taste salty enough,your humble N might even feel compelled to dust off one or two seasonal genre entries in time for the big day.Get weepin',marys. Tonight,we'll revisit the Shaw Brothers,and more specifically,legendary director,Chang Cheh,with one of his later,post-Venom mob entries,a kitchen sink martial epic that has a little bit of something for everybody.For story and action,Element compares to Cheh's earlier Five Venoms like The Moussaieff Red Diamond to a late night twenty dollar fugazi on Home Shopping Network.The fight choreography is awe-inspiring,and if that wasn't enough,Cheh throws ample red grue and Asian bobblers into the mix for good measure.Buckle your seatbelts and bind your gung fu sashes,this is one kegel-snappin' fuck of a chopsocky cult classic... Lo Mang finds out the hard way where showing kindness to dames gets ya. Teacher Li challenges rival Sifu Kang to a martial arts tournament,where Kang's pupils get slapped up like pajama-wearing dames in a Jimmy Cagney movie from the forties.For the final round,Kang uses a Japanese samurai who defeats Li's champion,who is spurred on to snuff his own candle with his axe blade by the swordsman,bright Shaw Brothers blood follows as a result.Li then calls top student Shi Shang(Lo Mang)to meet the challenge,and he easily defeats the samurai with his bare hands.The defeated Jap sends off a letter to his pal,a ninjitsu master, through Kang,and poisons Li with a spiked ring before disemboweling himself in a hara-kiri rite.Li,incapacitated for three months due to his poisoning,sends five of his best students out to meet the ninja challenge,but all experts involved have never dealt with the trickery of these silent assassins before.The five element ninja represent gold,fire,water,wood,and earth,and each style dresses in color-coordinated gi's and uses their respective element to unfair advantage.The gold ninjas wear gold gi's,and use shiny gold shields that shoot darts from the edges to vanquish their blinded foes.The fire ninjas dress in red,using red smoke and gunpowder-born flames to disorient their opponents.The water ninjas,decked out in blue,breathe underwater with long bamboo reeds,and explode out of the water with ready spears.The wood ninjas in brown,disguise themselves as trees(!)using claws on their fists and tabi shoes to tear their foes to shreds.The tan-colored earth ninjas hide underground(!),stabbing unexpecting opponents with spears before exploding out of the ground,and retreating back into the earth just as quickly.Soon afterwards,Li is greeted by his five lifeless champions,covered in bloody sheets on his school's doorstep.The worst is yet to come. Chen Pei Hsi,the sexy she-ninja ruination of many a good Chinese martial practitioner,rocks her see thru "fuck me" fishnet bodysuit. The supreme ninja enlists the treachery of Sungi(Chen Pei Hsi),a female ninja,to infiltrate the closely-guarded school of Li,blueprinting the layout for her master while falsely gaining the trust of Shi Shang and Li's other students,with only Shao Tien Hao(Cheng Tien Chi)healthily skeptical of the sneaky bitch's motives.The ninjas descend on Li's school,slaughtering everyone in sight,jamming the door to Li's quarters with spikes while firing rockets inside,dooming the teacher to asphyxiation death to go along with the nifty poisoning he'd already gotten.Shi Shang gets shanked multiple times before being pinned to Li's gate standing up,as smoke billows all around him.Sungi,a typical girl afterall,has fallen in love with Shao,the one man who treated her like a wet foodstamp all along,and allows for his escape,earning her several months hard labor from the angry ninja leader.Meanwhile,Shao,faced with the awesome task of taking down the five element ninjas,begins training under Yan Yong Fe,a Chinese who's learned all the secrets of the Japanese assassin art and developed a counter-style(of course).Together with Yan's three other pupils Shao issues a challenge to the ninja leader for a fight to the bloody finish.He shanks Sungi in the labonza with her own sword,then,armed with a sort of Swiss Army Kung Fu weapon(knife whip,flag,staff,sharpened stilts,they're all in there,brothers),he and his new schoolmates arrive on ninja territory,making short work of all five elements,even drawing and quartering one unlucky bastard in the process.The ninja master,well,he's not so easy,fighting all four martial artists to a draw until Shao selflessly allows himself to get fatally Tabi-spike stomped in the chest,which gives him a long enough moment to handcuff the ninja's feet before he can explode back into the earth,and as his three brothers spear the living shit out of him,he pulls the master's legs off(!),as they're still embedded in his chest,spurting a glorious explosion of red stuff all over the screen.The three survivors kick the last ninja stone signpost to pieces. Who dressed you gold ninjas anyway,Liberace? Kung Fu movies had already turned off in a new direction with visionaries like Jackie Chan,Yuen Biao,Samo Hung,and the Liu brothers at the helm,but elder statesman Chang Cheh proves here he can stack his time-tried formula of chunk-blowing gore,innovative secret weaponry and traps,lengthy training sequences,dazzling costumes,(there's even bobbler action)and bloody revenge set against the familiar sprawling Shaw sets,complete with painted skies(!),against all comers one last glorious time,and as such Element stands as his last real over-the-top cinematic hurrah,and necessary viewing for all martial enthusiasts.It ain't too often you can cite a movie where one fighter stumbles over his own intestines during a match.There are several versions of this one available on disc at the time of this writing,with varying quality prints,some even direct from untracked VHS copies,some widescreened and cleaned up a bit.Whatever you find yourself with,check this movie out and see if it doesn't rise to the pugilist occasion for you.Four wops.Essential viewing. The ninja master(Wai-Man Chan)so tough,four guys have to pull him apart at the seams to stop him.