Sunday, December 5, 2010

Crippled Avengers [The Return of the 5 Deadly Venoms] (1978)

Director: Chang Cheh
Notable Cast: Chen Kuan-Tai, Philip Kwok, Lo Meng, Sun Chien, Chiang Sheng, Lu Feng, Johnny Wang

Released as The Return Of The 5 Deadly Venoms in the United States, this film has actually NO CONNECTION to the original The 5 Deadly Venoms. This makes sense when you realize that it's actually the film Crippled Avengers in gimmicky disguise. Luckily, if you are willing to overlook this little eye-rolling cash in, Crippled Avengers is a fun Shaw Brothers flick quite worthy of the buy even if it isn't the sequel it claims to be.

Four men find themselves the cruel joke of a superior martial artist's hatred in a small village. When his wife is killed and son crippled (they cut off his arms) his soul becomes twisted. He crafts iron arms for his son and trains him in a very deadly form of martial arts. He then terrorizes the people in the village by crippling them like he son was. When four men team together after being crippled (one is blind, one is deaf and dumb, one is legless, and one is brain damaged) they seek vengeance for his cruelty. They learn kung-fu from another teacher to overcome their handicaps to take on this horrid man. Now its a fight to the death over lost limbs.

Turns out it's not only the title that's a gimmick in Crippled Avengers. Like many Shaw Brother's films from this era, this one takes a fairly basic revenge tale, twists it a bit, and then lets it run and sees where it goes. Despite it's rather ludicrous concept and even more outrageous dialogue, Crippled Avengers comes out on top with thick charm and even more impressive choreographed lengthy fight sequences. Yeah, the plot is pretty basic and its random plot points (the man who loses his legs gets it because he accidentally bumps into the villain's iron armed son, no kidding) tend to bring out the quizzical eye brow a bit too much, but I'll be damned if this film isn't a shit load of fun.

With some pretty (unintentional) comedic moments concerning their hurdles in the narrative, at times the film wants to move in some different directions. The mentally ill character is supposed to bring a comedy element more often than not which never really work, at least not in this day and age, and the film tends to lack logic in its pacing as it movies briskly through the second act to get our heroes to the finale.

To counter balance some of its underdeveloped plots and off road tangents, Crippled Avengers does know that in the end people are there to watch its gimmicky kung fu action sequences. And it does just that. In mass. Three quarters of the film is dedicated to the choreography that ranges from weapon battles (staffs, swords, balls on swinging chains), to impressive acrobatics (ring leaping, duel person tag team), to non stop punch and parry kung fu in all of its flexing intensity. This is what truly makes Crippled Avengers a must see for kung fu fans because they sequences are insanely long. I was tired just watching the damn things, that's how long and intense they were. In all honesty, that's fucking awesome and it maximizes the Venom Mob choreography.

Crippled Avengers may not have been the sequel I wanted to my favorite kung-fu flick of all time, but it was an energetically effective and cheesy watch that sufficed all my martial arts needs. The story was often silly, but it justified the impressive and gimmicky choreography. Is there any more that one can ask for? It's easy to see why this is a fan favorite for those reasons. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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