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   Now in our eleventh calendar year
    PCR #561  (Vol. 11, No. 52)  This edition is for the week of December 20--26, 2010.

"True Grit"  by Mike Smith
A Very Fanboy Christmas 2010  by ED Tucker
Deck The Halls With The Off The Wall!  by Terence Nuzum
Five Deadly Venoms  by Jason Fetters
You're Gonna Need A Bigger Sleigh .... Challenging! .... In The Beginning .... Famous Firsts .... January 1967 .... My Own Top 10 .... I'd Like To Thank The Academy .... Breaking Up Is Hard To Do .... Mike's Record Shelf by Mike Smith

Five Deadly Venoms

Back in the 70's when the Kung Fu Boom hit the U.S. Shores, Five Deadly Venoms was released and has since become a cult classic. This 1978 release from Shaw Brothers is classic kung fu fun all the way. Yah Tieh is sent by his master of the Poison Clan to seek out five ex pupils who are using their kung fu training for evil means. Yah must seek out these dangerous men who are only identifiable by their five distinct animal styles.

The five venoms are number 1 through 5 and each possesses a unique kung fu skill. Number 1 uses the Centipede style to execute lightening fast strikes. Number 2 is the snake who uses hand strikes combined with grappling moves to crush opponents. Number 3 has the scorpion's fast kicking that sends adversaries flying. Number 4 walks on walls thanks to the lizard style. Finally, Number 5 lacks the punches and kicks that his fellow kung fu members have, but he is extremely hard to hurt due to his toad training.

As in most 70's kung fu movies, once the basic plot is established then it is all action. However, despite the cult status of Five Deadly Venoms, there is a lot of time spent on the young Yah Tieh trying to figure out who is a Poison Clan member. The mystery is OK for awhile until the pacing really drags in the middle. Different people are brought before a judge who sometimes uses torture in his attempt to bring the Poison Clan to justice. One of the most interesting torture scenes is when Number 5 aka the Toad gets his ears damaged by Number 2 the Snake, causing the Toad to lose his ability to endure pain. Once the Toad's weakness is exploited he is dragged away to a prison cell. The Toad is very stoic in front of the Judge as he shouts that he will never confess, thereby forcing the judge to put The Toad inside an Iron Maiden. Outside of the U.K. I had no idea that the Iron Maiden even existed in Hong Kong. Unless the British decided to bring one over.

The ending makes up for the tediousness of the middle that dragged on and on, as the final battle between Yah Tieh and the police team up to battle all the venoms at the same time. It is entertaining to watch how Yah Tieh, who has a little bit of training in all five styles, employs strategy with the student helping, to combat each animal style. There are the typical flashbacks to little bits of wisdom from his old master that contain key elements to defeating a particular venom that work fine here. Sometimes the flashbacks in other 70's kung fu movies can occur in the middle of a fight and the flashback can last 20-minutes or longer as in the dreadful early Jackie Chan flick, The Snake Fist Fighter.

Five Deadly Venoms is old school kung fu that is the perfect movie to watch on a Saturday afternoon with popcorn, a Coke or beer or Chinese tea for the pretentious, and is just a lot of fun. Remember to turn off your brain, if you are over-analytical and prepare to see how each of the venoms is taken down. It can be also fun to imagine yourself in the movie and what techniques and tricks, you would use.

Have a Merry Christmas in 2010 and a kicking New Year in 2011!

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars.

To comment on this or any other PCR article, please visit The Message Board. "The Asian Aperture" is ©2010 by Jason Fetters. Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.