Netflix Review: The Return of the 5 Deadly Venoms

A kung fu flick from  1978 produced in China by the Shaw Brothers.  My guess is that most people have stopped reading after that first sentence.  For everyone else, this movie is odd.  First, the title talks about five deadly venoms.  But there are only four protagonists throughout the film.  Second, the dialog is so hideous I seriously contemplated turning off this film after about two minutes.  But I couldn’t.

You see, I am a kung fu film geek. In high school I watched such cinematic masterpieces as Drunken Master, Iron Monkey and Hos, Thugs and Skrillah.  In fact, I even made my own shitty kung fu film in homage to the greats.  I loved wire fu and insane styles.  The crazier they got, the bigger my smile.

Well, The Return of the 5 Deadly Venoms is the granddaddy to these films.  This is before wire fu.  This is before good editing.  This is when the best special effect they had at their disposal was ketchup.  I don’t know if the fake blood in this movie is actually ketchup, but it sure as hell is not blood.

We are talking back in the day when you had to blow on video games to make them work.

Knowing all of this is what makes this film so amazing.  The fights have nothing that we are used to seeing today, but they are still absolutely amazing.  The choreography is breathtaking at times.  Watching the deaf mute, and the crazy one do synchronized flips in and out of tiny rings is something to behold.  Watching one dude take on 15 people at once, even though it is slow and obviously choreographed is like watching the birthing of kung fu films.

You can see guys waiting to take their turns to throw a punch in some fights.  Many times, the master in the middle is just going and praying to Jebus that everyone knows their timing.  And there are plenty of fight scenes in this movie.  If they aren’t fighting, they are training.  There is probably a good half hour of training scenes alone here.  The Shaw Brothers knew their audience.  Time for a cool fight.  Oh crap, they have been talking for five minutes, we better throw in a training scene.

This is a revenge flick.  Makes no bones about it.  The bad guys start the film out pissed (for good reason), and they take it out on our protagonists.  Said protagonists are all handicapped by the evil master and his son.  Then they must band together and be trained by a master who shows them how to hone their other senses so that they can still become masters themselves.  Finally, they go back to fight the evil master and his son.

There are a few other characters thrown in there in order to give them more people to fight, but otherwise that is the entire plot right there.  Now let’s do some training scenes and fight scenes.

My one gripe about this film is that I am pretty sure that there is only one woman in this entire film.  And she gets her legs cut off about one minute after we meet her.

Can I bring a sexy lady in while still keeping the random video game references going? Yes I can!

I can only recommend The Return of the 5 Deadly Venoms to the hardest of hardcore kung fu fans.  But if that is you, you will see a film that will show you where all of those crazy training scenes and fight scenes from your favorite kung fu film originated.

Have you seen The Return of the 5 Deadly Venoms?  What did you think of it?  Let us know in the comments below.

~Ryan Lynch