Five Deadly Venoms

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Five Deadly Venoms
Hong Kong theatrical release poster
MandarinWŭ Dú
CantoneseNg5 Duk6
Directed byChang Cheh
Written byNi Kuang
Chang Cheh
Produced byRunme Shaw
CinematographyCho Wai Kei
Kung Mu To
Edited byChiang Hsing Lung
Music byFrankie Chan
Distributed byShaw Brothers Studio
Release date
  • 12 August 1978 (1978-08-12)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryHong Kong
Box officeHK$1,814,610

Five Deadly Venoms ('五毒' – Cantonese: Ng5 Duk6), also known as Five Venoms, is a cult 1978 Hong Kong martial arts film directed by Chang Cheh, starring the Venom Mob, with martial arts choreography by Leung Ting, and produced by the Shaw Brothers Studio, about five kung-fu fighters with unique animal styles: the Centipede, the Snake, the Scorpion, the Lizard, and the Toad (the Five Poisonous Creatures of Chinese folklore, from which the film takes its title). The film was listed at number 11 on Entertainment Weekly's Top 50 Cult Films list.[1]


The dying master of the powerful Poison Clan dispatches his last pupil, Yang Tieh, on a crucial mission. Worried that the skills he has taught are being used to evil ends, he orders Yang to trace a retired colleague, Yun, and warn him that the fortune he amassed from the clan's activities is under threat from five of his former pupils, each an expert in his own lethal combat style. Yang must discover the whereabouts and true identities of these masked warriors, and decide which, if any, he can trust to join him in his mission.

The five pupils are the Centipede, Snake, Scorpion, Lizard, and Toad. Centipede and Snake were the master's first and second pupils and they knew each other. Lizard and Toad were the fourth and fifth pupils respectively and they knew each other, but Scorpion, the third pupil, was unknown to the other four members. Before he dies, the master teaches Yang all the weaknesses of the five styles to give him a fighting chance.

The Centipede and the Snake come to the Yun family house to steal money. They murder the entire family when Yun refuses to divulge the location of his fortune. A witness sees the Centipede at the house. Later, the Scorpion investigates the scene and retrieves a hidden map. The Lizard, working as a policeman, recruits the Toad to help arrest the Centipede. After the Centipede is arrested and charged with murder, the Scorpion tells the Snake to frame the Toad for the murders.

The corrupt judge sends the Lizard away on government business. The Snake pays an officer to make the witness commit perjury. The Toad is framed by the witness, who tells the judge that he saw the Toad at the scene of the crime. The Toad refuses to confess, and his kung fu initially makes him invulnerable to their torture. The Snake devises a torture device to counteract it. When this fails, the unseen Scorpion secretly cripples the Toad with darts to his weak spot (his ears). Subjected to further torture, the Toad passes out, and his signature is forged on a confession.

The Centipede is acquitted of the murder charges and goes free. The officer suffocates the Toad and hangs him in the cell to make it look as if he'd committed suicide. Afterwards the Centipede and the Snake kill the witness and the corrupt officer, but the murders are both seen by two of the other policemen, who go to the restaurant and tell the Lizard what happened to the Toad, the witness, and the officer whilst he was gone. The Lizard's supervisor, Chief Constable Ma, tries to encourage him to forget the issue, but the Lizard refuses. Yang identifies the Lizard, teams with him, and together they practice techniques to defeat the others. As Yang and the Lizard prepare to confront the Centipede and the Snake, the Chief Constable arrives seeking to join them.

However, during the fight, he reveals himself as the Scorpion and admits that he intends to kill everyone and claim the Yun fortune all for himself before jumping into the battle. The Scorpion manages to fatally injure the Snake and bribe the Centipede into helping him but, Yang and the Lizard manage to defeat the Centipede while the Snake helps kill the Scorpion before he, too, dies. Once the fighting ends and the dust settles, Yang and the Lizard retrieve the Scorpion's map from his corpse and vow to use the fortune for good to restore the reputation of the Poison Clan.


  • Chiang Sheng as Yang Tieh, last student of the Venom House. His style is a mix of the other five and incomplete as a result. In order to succeed in his mission he must ally with one of the other students to defeat the rest.
  • Sun Chien as Gao Ji, the Scorpion/Chief Constable Ma. He is also known as number 3. His style uses deadly kicks said to be able to paralyze or even kill a victim in a single strike. He also possesses a powerful grip and utilizes hidden darts. He's the third student to die.
  • Kuo Chui as Meng Tianxia, the Lizard/Constable He Yu. He is also known as number four. His style focuses primarily on climbing, which he uses to walk up and stand on walls allowing him remain out of harm's way whilst he attacks his opponents from bizarre angles. He joins Yang and is the only student to survive.
  • Lo Mang as Liang Shen, the Toad/Li Hao. He is also known as number five. His style makes him invulner to any type of external harm and makes him immensely strong. However, if his weak point (his ears) is attacked then he'll lose his invulnerability as a result. He's the first student to die.
  • Wei Pai as Qi Dong, the Snake/Hong Wentong. He is also known as number two. He apparently had money before he started training and starts to regret all the killing. His style focuses on accurate strikes to vulnerable spots and extreme flexibility. However, should he be attacked from two sides at once then he cannot defend effectively. He's the second student to die.
  • Lu Feng as Zhang Yiaotian, the Centipede/Tan Shan-kui. He is known as number one. His style focuses on speed which gives his punches and kicks the power to break vital bones after delivering a rapid swarm of hits. However, if he's attacked from both high and low at once he'll be left defenseless. He's the last student to die.
  • Wang Lung-wei as Justice Wang
  • Ku Feng as Bookkeeper Yuan
  • Dick Wei as the dying Head of the Venom House


Each of the Poison Clan is alternatively referred to as either their Venom style code name, or as their number in regard to the order of being taught by the master (except Yan, who refers to himself in one scene as "number 4", but the actor may have misspoke). Among fans, he is known as "Hybrid Venom", as his training contains a little bit of each of the five styles, but it is incomplete, and he must align with one of the Venoms to stand a chance against any of the others.

  • Number 1: Centipede - Wriggly and quick, this style is a nice blend of defensive and offensive posturing. The strikes are so fast that it is almost as if he has a hundred arms and legs. The weakness of this style as revealed by Yan Tieh (told by his master) is to attack both the opponent's upper and lower body in a simultaneous assault, since both portions are unable to exert the style's premised speed at the same time with each other.
  • Number 2: Snake - On one hand: the mouth, venomous fangs emulated in precise finger motor control, designated to aim for the target's vulnerable spots with pin-point accuracy. On the other: the stinging whip of a rattling tail. Masters of this ability can even fight extremely well while lying on their back from the floor. The weakness of this style as revealed by Yan Tieh (told by his master) is to stop the "head" and "tail" (the opponent's two arms) from combining, as neither the head nor tail can function well individually. This usually meant pinning the two limbs, at an angle, as far away from each other as possible.
  • Number 3: Scorpion - The Scorpion represents a double threat. Kicks from the Scorpion style are just like the stinging tail of the namesake. When delivered by a master, a single kick can paralyze or even kill, let alone the strong pincer-style attack of the arms to contend with. He also has deadly skill with darts. The weakness in this style is not clearly revealed, as Yan Tieh is cut off from his explanation, but one can assume (by watching the Scorpion in his bout with Yan Tieh and the Lizard) that it would be to stay out of reach of the Scorpion's damaging kicks and make him come to you.
  • Number 4: Lizard - An emphasis on speed and climbing, the Lizard style is best known for the ability to adhere and walk on walls, and can fight with ease from such positions, even maneuver in such a way that can rebound off such sources to both dodge assaults as well as strengthen his own attacks by way of free-falling motion. Presumably, its weakness was to deny the practitioner of any available surfaces that could be clung upon.
  • Number 5: Toad - The Toad is invulnerable to just about any form of damage, including blades and puncture. They are also extremely strong and can bend solid metal. The weakness of this style is that any master of the Toad style has a "weak spot" that, when punctured, drains the user's Toad style benefits (most notably the iron skin). The Toad's weak spot were his ears as shown in his fight with the Snake, when the Scorpion secretly struck his ears with his darts. Some thought the way to discover the weak spot in one's Toad style is to use an iron maiden. But when the Toad was first placed in the iron maiden, he was impervious to the needles. The iron maiden's needles only penetrated the Toad after the Scorpion and the Snake exploited his weak spot, the ears, with darts and a snake strike.

Cultural references[edit]

  • The film was referenced extensively in Juuken Sentai Gekiranger, in which the Five Venom Fists (五毒拳, Godokuken) are based directly upon the Five Deadly Venoms, each reflecting the fighting styles in the film. In turn, they were brought into Power Rangers: Jungle Fury as the Five Fingers of Poison.
  • The final track on 1993 2Pac album Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z... references to the movie.
  • In Kim's Convenience season 1, episode 7 ("Hapkido"), Mr Chin and Appa test each other's knowledge of kung fu movies. Mr Chin wins by citing Five Deadly Venoms, which Appa doesn't know; Gerald later confirms it as the "best kung fu movie ever".
  • This film is also referenced frequently in the works of the Wu-Tang Clan. Dialogue from the film is sampled in "Da Mystery Of Chessboxin'" from Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) and "Intro (Shaolin Finger Jab)" from The W. The movie is also sampled in songs appearing on solo albums by Wu-Tang Clan members: "Snakes" from Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version by Ol' Dirty Bastard, and "Born Chamber (Intro)" from No Said Date by Masta Killa.[2][3] An all-female hip hop group affiliated with the Wu-Tang Clan, formed in 1997, was known as Deadly Venoms (originally called Five Deadly Venoms before the departure of one of the five members).[4]
  • The 1999 album title and artwork by New York Metalcore act Merauder were inspired by the movie.
  • The 2009 EP Keywords for Robots by the band Wembley begins with a track called "Five Deadly Venoms".
  • In Kill Bill, the five assassins of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad are a reference to the Five Deadly Venoms.[5]
  • In the 2010 film True Legend, the foster brother of Su (The Drunken Master), Yuan, has mastered the 5 Venom Fists. His dead father was using it to kill innocent people and was killed by Su's father to stop him. In another scene, they show Yuan putting his arms into nests with the five venom-creating creatures, and they inject and give it to him through his skin. They portray it as the source of his Qi.
  • It is the name of a poison shop in World of Warcraft's capital city, Stormwind.
  • A few scenes use music from the soundtrack of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

DVD release[edit]

The film received a DVD release by the Weinstein Company's Asian label, Dragon Dynasty, on 18 August 2009.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Top 50 Cult Movies". 23 May 2003. Archived from the original on 31 March 2014. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  2. ^ Kirsch, Will (9 March 2017). "A history of Wu-Tang Clan's kung fu samples". The Johns Hopkins News-Letter. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  3. ^ Leckart, Steven (23 October 2007). "Wu-Tang Clan's RZA Breaks Down His Kung Fu Samples by Film and Song". Wired. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  4. ^ Smith, Shawnee (21 February 1998). "DVs Drop 'Bomb' Via Clan Label". Billboard. p. 25. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  5. ^ "The Quentin Tarantino Archives". 12 September 2008. Archived from the original on 3 October 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011.

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