Director Chang Cheh reunites the Five Venoms in his second biggest cult hit in the West. It's Lo Meng's most memorable performances whose showdown with fellow Venom Kuo Chue is artistically violent while being graphically artsy.
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A dying teacher instructs his final student to check on the activities of five former pupils, each of whom he taught a unique and special style of kung-fu: Centipede, Snake, Scorpion, Lizard, and Toad (hence the title). His final student, who knows a little of each style, must team up with one of the other good students to destroy the evil ones, if there are any. Greed and treachery ensue as the student discovers that some of the students are indeed evil, but which one can he trust enough to team up with?Written by
Ken McCary <email@example.com>
Ranked #11 in Entertainment Weekly's "Top 50 Cult Films of All-Time." See more »
When the teacher's final student introduces himself to the Lizard, he refers to himself as number four when he is actually number 6. This surely is a goof with the dubbing. See more »
Chi Tung, Snake:
I came from a wealthy family. I joined the clan because I wanted to learn a special kung-fu, be a real expert, but in fact I just became a killer. Killing, that's all I know; death - every day another; but when Liang Shen died, for the first time I felt it prick my conscience - then to hide that one, we've killed again, first Men Hua and then Lin Kuang.
You've just asked me "When will it end?"
Let me tell you: Once an evil deed is done, then it never ends. it goes on, and it will go on ...
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This is definitely one of the best kung fu movies ever, and may be one of the best movies ever... It's got a great plot that functions like a puzzle, with lots of intrigue and suspense. This film is full of cat and mouse games and deceptions, with people hiding their identities and their natures. The characters in this film live and breath much more than your average kung fu movie characters. They are all interesting and compelling and the movie does a good job at giving them scenes to show their personality's and desires.
The fight scenes play out like little stories and many of them are very original and exciting. It has cool training sequences and martial arts skills that are so awesome they enter the realm of fantasy. There are 5 members of the poison clan each one with his own style that mimics the special skill of a venomous animal. The styles of each of these characters are fun to watch and you can see the techniques they use in training applied during the film... When this happens, The director uses quick cutting back to the training scene to draw a parallel. These cuts are accompanied by music changes and sound effects and the whole thing really works nicely.
One thing about this movie that is very original is the way it treats death. The director Chang Cheh was obviously very concerned that the film not trivialize death. This makes some of the scenes in the movie much more effective. We actually care when people are killed in this film. This is because the camera lingers on the horror of death even when the bad guys are killed. Some of the sequences in this movie are truly gut wrenching. When characters go in search of vengeance you really feel their anger and pain.
At the same time, this is also a fun movie. It has all the typical things you expect from a traditional kung fu film. There is bad dubbing, The characters are willing to fight at the drop of a hat. Some of the sound effects are hilarious and at times the behavior of the characters is incredibly unrealistic... all this just adds to the greatness of the film.
And lets not forget that this director was a visual stylist much more gifted than most of his contemporaries. If you watch this movie closely you will notice that the technical prowess on display is virtuostic. Everything goes by so fast (because of the quick cutting style and the rapid camera movements of the genre) that it is easy to overlook how beautiful the movie really is. The lighting and composition are spectacular at times. The camera work and movement is extremely sophisticated along with very interesting fast paced editing... In the scenes that portray suspense and intrigue for example, imagine Hitchcock moving at about twice the speed. Chang Cheh was truly a master craftsman and artist who knew his genre and was able to produce important material while working within it's confines. He doesn't rattle the boat of the kung fu genre film, but in a subtle way his skills permeate every scene and every shot and they add greatly to the quality of the work. He is an important filmmaker who continues to influence many people.
This is the real package A kung fu movie that delivers on every level. It's art, it's trash, it's emotionally moving, and it's fun, it has a true sense of morality, but doesn't allow that morality to get in the way of delivering good action. I recommend it to everybody whether you are a fan of this genre or not.
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