Sunday, April 24, 2022

A Lethal Injection: The Five Venoms (1978) Update Review [Shawscope Vol. 1 Box Set]

As with many of the other films in this Shawscope Vol 1 set, or the new Blu-Ray releases for Shaw Brothers films from any newer distribution company, I’ve spent quite a bit of time addressing the film on hand. The Five Venoms, also known as The Five Deadly Venoms as it was the first time I saw it, is one of those films. This is more or less an update to those pieces rather than a full review of the film. If you want more in-depth writing, feel free to visit my original review for Blood Brothers HEREor my piece about the role of nihilism and hope in the film for the official Shaw Brothers website HERE


For those perhaps stumbling upon this film for the first time due to the latest release from Arrow Video, then congrats. You’ve just leaped into one of the greatest classic martial arts films of all time. Yes, I stand by that statement and while many may argue that point, particularly due to the overall “lack” of action in this film (is it lacking when each sequence has so much storytelling and pathos to it?), I remain vigilant in that stance. 


The Five Venoms is an incredible piece of cinema. 


To be frank, I’m a little sad that Arrow Video decided to include it in this set rather than giving it a standalone release as they did with both The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter and Come Drink with Me. However, the film had already received a standalone release from Dragon Dynasty on Blu Ray previously. So perhaps that was taken into consideration. 


Nonetheless, this latest release remains a must-own for all martial arts fans. The film exists as a murder mystery at its core, but its combination of brotherly devotion, stark violence that borders on horror, gimmicky characters of varying degrees of heroism and villainy, and incredibly choreographed fight work makes it one of the best of the Shaw Brothers catalog as a well-rounded and layered watch. 


Not only is this film a quintessential cornerstone of the Shaw Brothers studio, thanks to launching the Venom Mob as a cinematic tour de force as a group, but this release is impressive. The restoration is gorgeous, as expected, and the film features a brand-new commentary from Simon Abrams who wrote on the liner notes for the set. The film is also partnered with Crippled Avengers (fittingly so since that film was also titled The Return of the Five Deadly Venoms in some areas of the world) and the disc has plenty to enjoy. 


Written By Matt Reifschneider

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