The "godfather of the kung-fu film", Chang Cheh, hit upon a winning formula when he combined three Taiwanese Opera artists with a muscular Chinese and a Korean kicker. Their first "official" film as stars, THE FIVE VENOMS was a hit, so the director/co-writer decided to launch a series with the same actors in different roles. Supporting this beloved sequel was real-life kung-fu champion Chen Kuan-tai, who Chang Cheh had already made a star. He plays a martial arts master (driven insane by his wife's death and his son's dismemberment), who replaces his child's missing hands with metal versions, then proceeds to blind, deafen, render retarded, and chop off the feet of anyone who even mildly annoys him. The abused bystanders band together and brilliantly train to take their revenge. The result is a totally unbelievable, but totally awesome, super heroic delight.
Chan Kuan-tai, Lu Feng, Kuo Chue, Lo Meng, Sun Chien, Pan Ping-chang
One of Hong Kong's top directors reunited with its biggest comedy star after several previous hits (ROYAL SCOUNDREL, JUSTICE, MY FOOT) – only this time their subject was the gods themselves. Internationally proclaimed comic genius Stephen Chow plays petty, arrogant god Dragon Fighter Lo Han, who is changed into "Monk Chai" and ordered to alter the fates of three bad people on Earth, lest he be retransmigationized. Unfortunately for him (but to any viewer's delight), the trio he finds are a prostitute (played by the radiant, remarkably talented Maggie Cheung Man-yuk), a beggar (played by award-winning actor Anthony Wong), and a cold-blooded killer. Chow and To wring honest pathos and many laughs from this wonderful scenario, ably supported by the star's welcome sidekick Ng Man-tat and vaunted action director Ching Siu-tung (the director of A CHINESE GHOST STORY and the producer of THE HEROIC TRIO).
Stephen Chiau, Maggie Cheung, Ng Man-tat, Anthony Wong
When super director Chang Cheh found new talent and blood with "The Five Venoms" actors, most of which were trained in the highly acrobatic Chinese opera and well versed with exotic martial arts weapons, this created a new spark for his use of bizarre weapons in his films. The Flag Of Iron is one of 20 movies that he directed featuring the utterly flabbergasting and physically exhausting action bits created by these five dudes. You have the good guys from the righteous clan versus the bad guys from the villainous clan and it's so filled with "don't-blink-or-you-will-miss-something" gags, you will need to watch it over and over again so you can see the things you missed.
Kuo Chui , Chang Sheng , Wang Li , Lu Feng , Lung Tien-chiang
Kuo Ching-chung (Ling Yun), an office worker, his wife, Chen Mei-chuan (Terry Liu) and his sister, Carrie (Chiang San), are passengers on a ferry bound for an outlying island of Hong Kong. On board the same boat are a group of young hooligans who form the so-called 'speed gang' of motorcyclists. One of them called Michael makes advances to Carrie, but is stopped by his brother Johnny, the ringleader. On the island, the trio goes joy-riding on a car, while Carrie's boyfriend Huang Szu-wei (Danny Lee) goes fishing. The 'speed gang' harasses them by driving their motorbikes around their car at breakneck speed. In the evening the gangs take part in a motorcycle race organized by Johnny. The winners are given the company of girls from the 'speed gang'. Kuo and Huang plan to take Chen Mei-chuan and Carrie back to town to avoid being molested, but the gangs stop them by playing different tricks including the deflating of their car tyres. In an ensuing scuffle, Chen Mei-chuan is assaulted and Carrie is killed. Jumping on a motorbike, Huang races it against the hooligans, knocking them down, but is killed by a stone hurled at his head. Michael again tries to rape Chen Mei-chuan in a forest, but is overpowered by her husband who arrives in the nick of time. He is then tied up and took to Kuo's house. The teddy boys led by Johnny subsequently arrive to storm it and succeed in breaking into it after a series of attempts. However, they meet with stubborn resistance from Kuo and his wife. Fortunately, the Marine Police arrive just in time to arrest the teddy boys.
A benevolent and kind Emperor, Chien Lung (Anthony Lau) sometimes goes incognito to mix with the common folk to understand the wants and needs of his followers. To achieve that goal, Chien Lung turns to gambling and meets high-kicking Li Pao (Wai Ying-hung), who tears her way through casino goons like a true kung-fu princess! The Emperor gets arrested and is nearly beheaded… but there is the fact that he is the Emperor!
Whenever director Chang Cheh teamed up with Five Venoms, film plots were probably decided by flipping a coin - which of the fab five will play the good or bad guys, who lives or dies and which ones will do the fight. The Daredevils was just another example of Shaw Brothers’ sure fire formula to success: Venoms + Chang Cheh = maniacal frenzy x infinity. Of note, the only venom to make it in Hollywood was Kuo Chue, who choreographed the French film Brotherhood Of The Wolf and Michelle Yeoh's The Touch.
Acclaimed director Ho Meng-hua tackles fantasy in The Human Goddess, a genre bending film that features a love story between an alluring female fairy, played by the real life sexy goddess Li Ching, who seeks love in the world of mortal men and finds it in a man who takes care of an orphanage. Ho was one of the first directors to give Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung their first breaks as extras in his early martial arts films.
On a continent which reveres its martial arts, the director's nickname is "Kung-fu Liang" - holder of a filmography unprecedented in its innovation of theme, ingeniousness of plot, and imagination of its astonishingly designed kung-fu. This production is clearly the culmination of his initial Shaw Brothers work - the film which he used as a showcase for his and his brothers' - Chia-yung and Gordon Lui - skills. In the premiere, groundbreaking book on the genre, Martial Arts Movies, author Ric Meyers called it "the quintessential martial arts movie" and perhaps the greatest kung-fu movie ever made. Showing prescience customary with this visionary, the plot revolved around early 20th century pugilists vainly attempting to find a kung-fu which could defeat the bullet... years before the same theme would be used in Once Upon A Time In China. It also features the rarely dramatized magician-spies of China, who would ultimately inspire the Japanese ninja. But most importantly, it is a beautifully made action comedy featuring international fan favorite Alexander Fu Sheng and supremely brilliant kung-fu.
Liu Chia-liang , Liu Chia-yung , Hui Ying-hung , Gordon Liu
Acclaimed actor Danny Lee, known for his role in John Woo's The Killer has his directing debut in One Way Only, a Hong Kong "Easy Rider", where the road and motorbikes are symbols of freedom against government oppression, which Jack Kerouac sees as a way of discovering oneself. Li plays a motorbike workshop owner that although injured during an illegal motorcycle race, continues to race regardless of the physical consequences and the law, because the road rules all.
Ling Yun plays a young musician hired by the manager of a popular band when the group's former drummer/leader Charlie, a guy with an ego bigger than his drums, quits to join a rival group. As the new drummer, Ling becomes an immediate hit. But there's trouble brewing. The former drummer is now very jealous of his replacement while the young drummer's mother is dead set against him having a music career.
Jimmy Wang Yu had become a star in 1965's TEMPLE OF THE RED LOTUS. He became a superstar in 1967's ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN and 1968's GOLDEN SWALLOW. But this was his first fully realized personal kung-fu vision. Jimmy Wang Yu wrote, directed and starred in this classic favorite as the Chinese kung-fu superman, years before Bruce Lee would become famous for the same themes. He plays the famous Lei Ming, a noble young martial arts student who doesn't know the meaning of giving up. He faces a treacherous, blood-thirsty Japanese karate expert, played, of all people, by Lo Lieh (who was to become The Shaws' first international star in THE KING BOXER just months later). Featuring unforgettable training sequences and many fights, this box office smash would lead to a career unparalleled in its eccentricity and excitement.
Wang Yu, Lo Lieh, Wang Ping, Chao Hsiung, Cheng Lei
Master of the "brotherhood" films, award winning director Chang Cheh has always had a good eye for martial art talent and in INVINCIBLE SHAOLIN he re-introduces what was to become known as the THE FIVE VENOMS to the world of heroic bloodshed. Chang intelligently weaves a mythical tale of treachery centered around the historic attempts of the Ching Dynasty trying to destroy the Shaolin Monasteries. It's a story of misunderstanding, revenge and doomed heroes who finally realize their error in judgment through the sanctity of their martial arts. The various fighting styles used are choreographed with such amazing precision and insanity, that it's hard to believe that all this psychotic stylish action was shot and made up as they went along. It's marvelous to behold.