Ahhh,Channel 5,WNEW-TV,on Saturday afternoons at the outset of the eighties.Before I could consciously go out and throw the football around with the fellas,or terrorize the neighborhood with my inimitable brand of mischief back then,I had to find out what movie the New York-based independent station had scheduled.If it was John Liu or similarly pedestrian kung-fare,I'd be outside getting my play on.A Chang Cheh feature meant it'd be two hours before anybody saw me.If they showed tonight's review,Chang Cheh's wildly popular cult classic that introduced four martial actors(who would forever be referred to as "The Venom Mob" afterwards)to Asian superstardom,then you'd most likely find all of our asses glued to my mother's parlour furniture for the next two hours.Cheh worked with his actors in stables,the first group being comprised of David Chiang,Ti Lung,Fu Sheng,Chen Kuan Tai,and Chi Kuan Chun,who all paired up in every variation possible to deliver fists and kicks to the audience.His second stable consisted of Kuo Chui,usually the hero,Lu Feng,usually the complete bastard,Lo Mang,the muscleman,Chiang "Cutie Pie" Sheng(don't look at me,I didn't nickname him),the most acrobatic,and Sun Chien,the leg-fighter,who had all been students of Peking Opera before becoming extras and stuntmen in Cheh's first stable films.With Venoms,the director introduced his new stars in a standard tale of greed and corruption with a superheroic angle that really struck the right chord with moviegoers,as the string of movies they made together will surely attest to.This movie appealed to kung fu enthusiasts and practitioners as well as douchebags like Quentin Tarantino,who probably couldn't punch a hole through tissue paper.Making a proper fist is probably beyond that guy's abilities.You know,just like making a movie that isn't entirely derivative of ten other earlier films is to him.Bang,bang.Onward! Waiter,there's an old kung fu master in my egg drop soup... The master instructor of the five poison styles of kung fu is not long for this earth.He gathers his final pupil,The Hybrid Venom(Chiang Sheng),to the big black pot of Chinese moofoo he's steaming himself in like a martial pot sticker,and runs down a list of his most famous five students and their styles.Number one,is the Centipede(Lu Feng),whose hand and leg strikes are so lightning quick,it seems as though he possesses a hundred of each.Number two,is the Snake(Wei Pei),whose hands combine to strike as the head and tail of the serpent,making him equally potent when fighting on his back.The hands of the Scorpion(Sun Chien)closely resemble the scorpion's pincers,grabbing and locking,while his legs represent the tail and stinger of the potent arachnid.Number four,the Lizard(Kuo Chui),has mastered the technique so thoroughly that he is capable of walking on walls and ceilings mimicking the microscopic sticky foot hairs of certain reptiles.The fifth is the Toad(Lo Mang),whose iron skin technique makes him nearly impervious to edged weapon attacks,and whose hulkish strength allows him to bend solid metal.What kind of metal?Aluminum?Titanium?Not important.The teacher sends Hybrid out into the real world to hunt down the Poison Clan,to see what they're up to,and to make sure they aren't using their vast martial skills for evil.Sure enough,a few of them are using their vast martial skills for evil.Centipede and Snake pay one of the teacher's wealthy old associates(Ku Feng)a late night visit,and beat him,his whole family,and all of his servants to death,while searching for a hidden fortune.Hybrid assesses the crime scene while two cops(one is the Lizard)investigate the bruised bodies. This gecko(Kuo Chui) won't save you money on car insurance,he'll snuff your candle. Centipede is overtaken by Lizard with the help of Toad,and charged with the crimes,but Snake's riches quickly corrupt prison guards,eyewitnesses,and even the court's crooked judge(Wang Lung Wei).An eyewitness changes his testimony to implicate the Toad instead,and in court his iron skin is pierced through the ears by mysterious throwing knives during the melee.They chuck the innocent Toad into a makeshift Iron Maiden,and when no confession is produced,they forge his mark,then smother him in his cell with wet rice paper,all while his reptilian pal is sent away on another investigation,to avoid his intervention.Centipede then pierces the guard's brain with a metal skewer,and tears up the eyewitness' esophagus with a very long hook,for their collective troubles.Meanwhile,the Lizard and Hybrid have joined forces,hypothesizing how to take down the evil two clan members through practice while theorizing on Scorpion's possible identity.In the finale,the wall-walking duo combine to take on the criminal Snake and Centipede,when Lizard's cop partner reveals himself to be the Scorpion,not on any side,but certainly money-hungry enough for treachery aimed at all parties involved.Hybrid and Lizard defeat all three,sending them off to that big kung fu school in the sky and discovering the hidden riches in the process,vowing to use their skills and the money to fight corrupt judicial systems and crooked politicians in other provinces,to change public opinion of the Poison Clan once and for all.We could use guys like that around here,methinks. Snake(Wei Pei)'s sneaky Moe eye poke is countered by Toad(Lo Mang)'s powerful Moe eye poke block. Cheh,who died in 2002,went on to such genre fare as Ten Tigers of Kwangtung,Kid With the Golden Arm,and his most visually dazzling film of all,Chinese Super Ninjas, in 1983.Kuo Chui is still active in movies,having worked with John Woo in Hard Boiled(1992),as well as scoring roles in The Story of Ricky,American Shaolin, and most recently The Eye 2.Strongman Lo Mang,who worked with Cheh right up to Chinese Super Ninjas,went on to a successful career on HK television,before returning to film this year with Fire of Conscience and Ip Man 2.Wang Lung Wei,always the essential bad guy,in kung fu movies,moved on to direct,choreograph fights,and write,before retiring altogether recently.Sadly,Chiang Sheng,one of Cheh's favorites and a great fight choreographer/assistant director, was found dead of a heart attack in 1991,after moving with his wife to Taiwan and not being able to find worthwhile work,leading to a divorce and alcoholism.Kuo Chui has been cited as saying a broken heart is the real cause for his death.Four wops.Essential viewing here. Toad may be able to bend solid metal,but learns the hard way that Maiden rules.