Cha shou (1981)
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Chang Cheh is at his bloody and gruesomely violent best here in this kung fu mystery movie. The violence is piled on thick for this super stylized comic book adventure that was winding down his Venom cycle. Almost equals Chang's FIVE ELEMENT NINJAS (1982) in terms of the elaborately staged action sequences. The finale alone is worth buying the DVD. Absolutely one of the finest pieces of martial choreography ever put to film. No comedy to be found whatsoever which resulted in this film bombing in HK what with audiences at the time wanted their kung fu funny and not at all serious. What a crime as the Venoms pull out the stops for the showdown in the deathtrap laden Buddhist temple itself a warm up for the same years HOUSE OF TRAPS.
Kuo Chui plays a similar character to Lung Tien Sheng's role in the Venom film FLAG OF IRON (1980). You're not sure if you can trust him or not or what exactly his motivations are in the film. Is he a good guy, or bad guy? Chin Su Ho is the one friend of Chui's here and the only one who trusts him. Chin, who is a bit naive, is also smart and well versed in kung fu. He repeatedly tries to get Chui's character to reveal his intentions to him as his brothers constantly berate him for trusting the suspicious cook.
Chiang Sheng plays against type here taking his role as the leader of the martial men very seriously. In most of his films he plays a comedic foil to Kuo Chui but not here. He plays it straight all the way.
Lu Feng is again on display to look menacing which he does better than any kung fu screen villain. It doesn't take a Venom fan worth his salt to figure out Lu's role here, but it's fun just the same guessing who the three masked chief's are.
The gang has three chiefs. They wear gold masks and all the members wear masks as well. The entire gang use tridents as weapons which furthers their resemblance to devil-like creatures seen in many painting depicting Hell. These killers even drink the blood (mixed with wine) of the enemies they are paid to kill. The fact that the gang all look like devils makes for a striking contrast when they take up residence inside an old temple. They even utilize numerous Buddha statues as weapons turning them into spinning wheels by which they tie their victims and use them for target practice or eject them into the air as moving targets.
Throughout Chang Cheh's vast movie-making career he has indulged in many scenes of impalements akin to what is seen in Peking Opera. Here, it's on overdrive. Some poor souls are impaled up to 7 or 8 times before they expire. This film probably holds a record for the most impalements seen in a film. Also on hand are the usual secret weapons expected in the Venoms films. The trap-filled temple at the end has enough for two movies.
A highly recommended Shaw Brother's production that should be in any kung fu fans collection.
Although there are too many characters in this film, it does have a good sense of plot and mystery to it, as we build well towards a final confrontation where identities and loyalties are exposed for all to see. The plot is not as twisty and turny as it could have been, there is a good sense of the characters not all being what we think they are, and being part of a mystery rather than the normal black hat/white hat situation. At times perhaps it doesn't have as much action as you would like, but the intrigue over the gang's identity helps keep things interesting. The fights using the tridents are okay; mostly they produce acrobatics and baton-twirling rather than real tension in the fight sequences.
This is not the case in the final battle though; this is set in a temple, with dramatic entrances, plenty of violence, dramatic deaths, and some very good choreography in the action, which mixes the acrobatic skills but also has a brutality to it that adds value. The cast may seem full in some regards, but also the lack of a couple of the main crew makes it feel like there is a gap too. This hurts some of the actors who I did not know, since they do remind one that they would not be there if option 1 had stayed with the mob. Kwok is still very good though and leads the cast well, along with Sheng Chiang.
Overall Masked Avengers may be missing a few actors that we are accustomed to seeing, but generally it works well thanks to a good plot, solid action, and a particularly brutal final battle.
Works for me.
The story is actually a bit refreshing, and at least tries to be a little bit more original than usual, and I must say it kept me hooked for most parts throughout, and that's not bad for a Kung Fu-movie. However, it suffers from the same flaws as all venom movies; so many characters who look and act alike are thrown in our faces and they die like flies. There's no way you can keep track of who's who and who does what, just as usual. Chiang Sheng sums it up pretty perfectly when he dines with Lu Feng in the beginning: "I must introduce you to my men, but still with so many I can't introduce them all". That's exactly how I feel too. Lo Meng and Su Chien are absent from this movie, but it's actually forgettable since the "substitutes" make a really good job and the extras are just as good as ever. Lo Meng and Su Chien are, as we all know, usually killed of halfway in most movies anyway, so Masked Avengers doesn't really suffer from it.
The fighting is outstanding, and simply flawlessly choreographed. The venom mob really got their fighting choreography together in the early 80's and the result of their hard work can be seen here. The end fight is epic with tons of lethal traps, outrageous deaths and slick editing.
A movie that you can watch a 100 times and not get tired of. Watch it immediately!
The film follows a group of highly trained martial artists dedicated to hunting down a gang of vicious masked killers for hire whose weapon of choice is the trident. After tracking the masked assassins to the town of Jingyang, the brave fighters find themselves attacked and killed one-by-one. Will they uncover the identities of the gang's three leaders (whose golden masks come with fancy coloured beards) and make them pay before it is too late? Of course they will
To be honest, there are just a few too many very similar characters to keep track of to make this a wholly satisfying martial arts classic, but with so much impressive kung fu, and lots of bright red blood (gory impalements and slashing aplenty), the film still qualifies as an essential slice of Shaw Brothers chop-socky madness.
After much mystery and murderous martial arts mayhem, the whole thing boils down to an absolutely stunning showdown between the baddies and the surviving good guys (who get a little help from an ex-leader of the gang turned hero, played by Philip Kwok), the fantastic finale taking place at the villains' booby trapped temple, which comes equipped with acid jets, arrow traps, and deadly spiked doors.
Cha Shou or Masked Avengers as I knew it was absolutely no exception, My personal favorite above all the other Venom gang films this one starts out with a pretty straight forward premise. The surviving members and friends of families assassinated by a guild of killers known only as 'The Mask' (because of their trademark Bronze mask) vow to hunt down and kill these assassins.The Mask are already prepared for these so called 'Avengers' and lay out trap after trap and battle after battle killing them up until a classic Kung-Fu show down not to be missed. Plus as a added plot point actor Philip Kwoks(Lizard of 5 Venoms fame)character 'the cook' of the hotel in which the heroes reside has a plan of vengeance his own.
If you are a fan of these classic films and especially a fan of the Venom Gang you have to see this film. Like it or hate it, it'll be a hell of ride your in for watching this film. So what are you waiting for? Go check it out.
This is the typically action-packed production which excels both in terms of plot and drama, and features some great and bloody bouts to boot. The emphasis is on trident fighting here, and things build to a wonderful brawl in a booby-trapped temple, featuring all manner of physics-defying mayhem and the like. Phillip Kwok is very good value as the mysterious waiter while Lu Feng remains at the top of his game. It's a pity that Sun Chien and Lo Meng are missing, but Wang Li does show up, and the film is so much fun that you don't miss the Venoms who aren't present.
Drinking the blood of their victims,a gang of mask wearing killers go into a village in the countryside and raid the place. Horrified by how ruthless the gang has gotten, Kao Yao decides to leave the gang,and soon sets his sights on destroying it. Gathering a group of fellow Kung-Fu fighters,Yao starts preparing to destroy his former gang,but soon discovers that one of his fellow warriors is secretly wearing a mask.
View on the film:
Working on "standing sets" co-writer/(with Kuang Ni) director Cheh Chang & cinematographer Hui-Chi Tsao run the film with an infectious energy of lightning fast whip-pans and shimmering green,gold and candle wax blood giving title a rich pulp atmosphere. Leaping into the fight scenes,Chang strikes a stylised balance of crossing side shots that keep a distance which allows the viewer to fully see each Kung- Fu move,with unique elements that have Kao Yao jump sky high,and leave the tridents spinning in mid-air for the next victim.
Sending them out into the village to unleash maximum damage,the screenplay by Chang and Ni give the movie an air of mystery,as the masks bring doubts into the warriors of their being a double agent,and the covering of faces also building anticipation to the final unmasking. Plate-spinning each member of the killers and the warriors,the writers wonderfully dig into the unease of there being a secret gang member in Yao's ranks,as the first avengers attack.