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The Venom Mob is a group of actors from the Shaw Brothers Studio, popular creators of martial arts films in the 1970s and 1980s. Most were friends since childhood and attended the Peking Opera School in Taiwan before meeting director Chang Cheh and moving on to the Shaw Brothers studio in Hong Kong.
They appeared in numerous Shaw films at younger ages but did not become a group in high demand until Five Deadly Venoms. They were the main choreographers in all of their films, highly skilled Chinese weapon experts, excellent actors (for a martial arts film), and excellent acrobats. Most famous of them being Kuo Chui who always played the hero in their films.
As with most groups, time saw their talents being pulled in different directions, not to mention in-fighting for starring roles and production credits.
Pick Your Poison
This is the main 5 (though there are six, Chiang Sheng is actually the 5th Venom, not Wei Pai who only did 3 or 4 films with the others).
|Hero||Kuo Chui||#4 Lizard||The hero, usually the last man standing save perhaps 1 or 2 films. An acrobat and stuntman recruited by Liu Chia-Liang in Taiwan (after appearing in Wang Yu's Master Of The Flying Guillotine fighting Liu Chia-Yung) for Chang's 1975 film Marco Polo. This was followed by cameos in The Fantastic Magic Baby, The Boxer Rebellion, New Shaolin Boxer and The Magnificent Wanderers. The rest, as they say, is history. His directorial debut was Ruthless Tactics in 1983. He did have one villain role and that was in "The Chinatown kid" Where he played a crime boss.|
|Villain||Lu Feng||#1 Centipede||Weapons expert and usually the villain, received very few heroic roles. Chu Lu Feng was also recruited in Taiwan and began is small bit parts in films such as The 7 Man Army, Shaolin Avengers, New Shaolin Boxer and The Chinatown Kid. He was one of the titular Naval Commandos before cementing his reputation as a villain in Heaven And Hell as well as Shaolin Temple the following year.|
|Hero||Chiang Sheng||The Student||Most acrobatic and provided much comic relief. Usually a supporting hero with Kuo Chui. His on screen debut was a comedic flashback with Lu Feng in the opening act of Shaolin Avengers followed by a pair of villainous bit parts in The Brave Archer and The Chinatown Kid. Official debut films were Naval Commandos and Shaolin Temple filmed back to back. Was also Chang Cheh's assistant director on several films. These 3 formed an ensemble that would remain together after departing from the Shaw Studio in films such as Ruthless Tactics (aka Ninja In The Deadly Trap) and Fight Among The Supers. Sadly, Chiang Sheng died in 1991 of a heart attack after a divorce and alcohol abuse.|
|Hero/Villain||Sun Chien||#3 Scorpion||Best kicker of the group. Could be good or evil in Venom films depending on his role in the story, most fans find it hard to determine if he is good or evil until the end of the movie. Sun Chien was a native Taiwanese recruited by Chang Cheh for Chinatown Kid to play opposite Fu Sheng. He practiced Tae Kwan-Do in the military and as a result many sources report him as Korean, but this is not true. He merely studied a Korean martial-art. Sun Chien also worked for directors Sun Chung (Human Lanterns), Chu Yuan (Spirit Of The Sword), and Liu Chia-Liang (The Lady Is The Boss) among others.|
|Hero/Villain||Lo Mang||#5 Toad||Considered the strongest with the best physique of the group, but usually also the first to get killed when the enemy finds his weak spots. He did survive in two of the films (Crippled Avengers and Invincible Shaolin). Mainly a supporting hero with Kuo Chui, but a villain two or three times. Was an accountant at Chang Cheh Film Co. in Taiwan who studied Mantis for years before landing bit roles in Shaolin Temple and The Brave Archer. This led to a trio of modern day parts showcasing his physique in The Chinatown Kid, Heaven And Hell, as well as Deadly Strike (aka "Soul Brothers Of Kung-Fu") for Shaw's satellite company Eternal Films. Afterwards, he returned to the Brave Archer series in an expanded role as 'The Iron Palm' before starring as "The Toad #5" in Five Venoms one of his signature roles. (The other being Kid With The Golden Arm the following year.)|
|Hero/Villain||Wei Pai||#2 Snake||Did not star in many films with the previous five. Wei made his debut during a flashback sequence in Brave Archer Part 2 filmed prior to Five Venoms. Also appeared in Invincible Shaolin, Ten Tigers Of Kwangtung (which was shelved for a year due to Fu Sheng's injuries, hence the 1980 release date) and The Kid With The Golden Arm. Wei did not possess the same fighting skills as the rest of the cast and preferred drama. He defected to Golden Harvest and starred in Chang Cheh protégé John Woo's Last Hurrah for Chivalry the following year.|
2nd Tier Venoms
Those listed (males) usually were the supporting villains with Lu Feng, if Lu Feng had a rare hero role the lead villain was usually either Wang Lung-Wei or Wang Li. Lung Tung-Sheng was usually a questionable character in a film who ended up siding with the hero's in the end. Females listed were usually "eye-candy" and got little fighting time in Venom films.
- Wang Lung Wei- The villain in several early Venom films. Made his debut in Chang Cheh's Shaolin Martial-Arts filmed in Taiwan during 1974.
- Wang Li - Appeared in later Venom films replacing the absent Wei Pai, usually as a villain, and great with weapons. Wang Li was also recruited in Taiwan and appeared in bit parts in New Shaolin Boxer and The Chinatown Kid before his official debut in Shaolin Rescuers.Best known as the #3 Chief in Masked Avengers and a Wudang Master in 2 Champions of Shaolin
- Sun Shu-Pei - Usually a villain with minimal Kung-Fu skills but very conniving and sneaky. Only heroic role was as "Long Axe" in the Kid With The Golden Arms.
- Yang Hsuing - Better known as 'Brass Head' in Kid with the Golden Arms. Appeared throughout Chang Cheh's Venom cycle of films in various heroic and villainous roles.
- Lau Shi Kwong - The cowardly type, best known as the snitch Wong Fa in "Five Deadly Venoms" and as "The Dangerous Kid" (...not a kid, a swordsman!) in The Flag Of Iron. He also played the henchman known as "Leopard Boy," in Avenging Warriors of Shaolin.
- Cheng Tien-Chi - Another master of Peking Opera. Made his debut in Brave Archer Part 3 followed by House Of Traps and Ode To Gallantry and would later take the lead roles in Five Element Ninja, The Weird Man and The 9 Demons.
- Chu Ko - Also debut in Brave Archer Part 3 and continued into the 80s replacing Sun Chien, usually as an insidious villain. Would later achieve heroic status in later films Five Element Ninja and The Weird Man
- Lung Tung-Sheng - Best known as "The Spearman" from Flag of Iron, usually a misguided anti-hero.
- Wen Hsueh-Erh - Lead female in Sword Stained With Royal Blood and Ode To Gallantry, as well as Two Champions Of Shaolin. Usually plays the spoiled daughter role.
- Yu Tai Ping – The lead henchman in earlier Venom films, would later switch sides during 1981's The Flag Of Iron (literally) as his appearances afterwards were usually of the second-tier heroic nature in the films Masked Avengers and The Weird Man. He was one of the lead 'Super Ninjas' in Chang Cheh's gore-filled opus Five Element Ninja alongside Cheng Tien-Chi, Wang Li and Chu Ko.
- Tony Tam Jan Dung - A henchman and usually partnered with Yu Tai Ping, Yang Hsuing or Lau Shi Kwong and serves as under Lu Feng's character. He was usually seen as a character in background before becoming a top henchman in Crippled Avengers. He is best known as "Tiger Boy" in Avenging Warriors of Shaolin and one of the seven shaolin men in Two Champions of Shaolin. Just like the venom Sun Chien he also uses Tae Kwon Do and is the second kicker after him.
- Shirley Yu - Shaw's leading sexpot, appeared in The Chinatown Kid, Life Gamble, and The Brave Archer Part 2.
- Pan Ping-Chang – Usually the lead female in Venom films. Played Kuo's wife in Brave Archer 4 and the swordswoman in Kid With The Golden Arm.
- Chin Siu-Ho - First appeared in small bit roles in Rebel Intruders and 10 Tigers Of Kwangtung and made his official credited debut in Two Champions of Shaolin. Would also co-star in Legend of a Fox and Masked Avengers as well as films for other directors at Shaws after Chang Cheh's cohorts disbanded. He is still very much active in HK films today.
Original Hong Kong movie titles, followed by original Hong Kong release date (where available) and alias titles also known as.
- Shaolin Temple (22/12/76) aka Death Chamber
- Naval Commandos (7/4/77)
- Brave Archer (30/7/77) aka Kung-Fu Warlords
- Chinatown Kid (2/12/77)
- Brave Archer Part 2 (13/5/78) aka Kung-Fu Warlords Part II
- Five Deadly Venoms (12/8/78) aka 5 Deadly Venoms, aka Shaolin Deadly Poisons
- Invincible Shaolin (19/11/78) aka Unbeatable Dragon, aka Shaolin Bloodshed
- Crippled Avengers (21/12/78) aka Mortal Combat aka Return of the 5 Deadly Venoms
- Life Gamble (22/2/79)
- Shaolin Rescuers (24/3/79) aka Avenging Warriors Of Shaolin
- Shaolin Daredevils (29/6/79) aka The Magnificent Acrobats
- Magnificent Ruffians (20/9/79) aka The Destroyers
- Kid With The Golden Arm (2/11/79)
- Heaven and Hell (19/1/80) aka Shaolin Hell Gate
- 2 Champions Of Shaolin (12/4/80) aka Shaolin And Wu-Tong
- Flag Of Iron (14/8/80) aka Spearman Of Death
- Rebel Intruders (11/9/80) aka Killer Army, aka The Guerillas
- Legend Of A Fox (15/12/80)
- 10 Tigers Of Kwangtung (20/12/80)
- Masked Avengers (15/5/81)
- Sword Stained With Royal Blood (Shaw) (3/6/81)
- Brave Archer Part 3 (12/11/81) aka Blast Of The Iron Palm
- House Of Traps (9/1/82)
- Brave Archer And His Mate (15/2/82) aka Mysterious Island
- Ode to Gallantry (16/12/82)
- Ruthless Tactics (1983) aka Ninja In The Deadly Trap