Venom Mob

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The Venom Mob is the colloquial title of 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, 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, talented actors, and excellent acrobats. Their films usually dealt with Chang Cheh's common themes of brotherhood, valor, and betrayal.

As with most groups, time saw their talents being pulled in different directions, not to mention in-fighting for starring roles and production credits.

Roster[edit]

This is a list of the main five (though there are six, Chiang Sheng is actually the fifth member of the Venoms, not Wei Pai, who only appeared in four films with the others).

Role Performer a.k.a. Background
Hero Kuo Chui #4 Lizard He usually played the lead hero and was the last man standing with the exception of four 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. His directorial debut was Ruthless Tactics in 1983. He did have one villainous role, that of the White Dragons crime boss in The Chinatown Kid (1977) opposite the late Hong Kong actor Alexander Fu Sheng.
Villain Lu Feng #1 Centipede A weapons expert and usually the villain, he 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 Boxers and The Chinatown Kid. He was one of the titular The Naval Commandos before cementing his reputation as a villain in both Heaven and Hell and Shaolin Temple. He is the only one of the actors to receive a credit as a "Fighting Instructor" on The Five Venoms.
Hero Chiang Sheng The Student Known for his acrobatic ability, he usually was cast as a comedic character who supported the hero 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 The Naval Commandos and Shaolin Temple filmed back to back. Was also Chang Cheh's assistant director on several films. These three formed an ensemble that would remain together after departing from Shaw in films such as Ruthless Tactics (a.k.a. Ninja in the Deadly Trap) and Fight Among the Supers. Chiang Sheng died in 1991 of a heart attack after a divorce and alcohol abuse.
Hero/Villain Sun Chien #3 Scorpion Primarily known for his kicking ability, he could be good or evil in Venom films depending on his role in the story. Sun Chien was a Taiwanese actor and Tae Kwon Do expert, recruited by Chang Cheh for Chinatown Kid to play opposite Fu Sheng. 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. He has been inaccurately identified as Korean by other sources.
Hero/Villain Lo Mang #5 Toad Known for his physique and physical strength, he usually was the first one to get killed. He did, however, survive in two 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 (a.k.a. "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 The 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. He did not possess the same fighting skills as the rest of the group and preferred drama to action. In addition to The Five Venoms, Wei Pai only starred in Chang Cheh's Invincible Shaolin, Ten Tigers Of Kwangtung (which was shelved for a year due to Fu Sheng's injuries, hence the 1980 release date), Kid With The Golden Arm and a flashback sequence in The Brave Archer Part 2. He defected to Golden Harvest and starred in Chang Cheh protégé John Woo's Last Hurrah for Chivalry the following year.

Second tier Venoms[edit]

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 heroes in the end. Females listed were usually "eye-candy" and got little fighting time in Venom films.

Venom Films[edit]

Films directed by Chang Cheh (or a Venom) that feature at least three Venoms in starring roles.

Original H.K. English Title Production Company Original H.K. Release Date Alternate English Titles
The Five Venoms Shaw Brothers 8/12/78 The 5 Deadly Venoms; Shaolin Deadly Poisons; Five Deadly Venoms
Invincible Shaolin Shaw Brothers 11/19/78 The Unbeatable Dragon
Crippled Avengers Shaw Brothers 12/21/78 Mortal Combat; Return of the Five Deadly Venoms; The Return of the 5 Deadly Venoms
Life Gamble Shaw Brothers 2/22/79 Life Combat
Shaolin Rescuers Shaw Brothers 3/24/79 Avenging Warriors of Shaolin
Shaolin Daredevils Shaw Brothers 6/29/79 The Daredevils
Magnificent Ruffians Shaw Brothers 9/20/79 The Destroyers
Kid with the Golden Arm Shaw Brothers 11/2/79 Kid With The Golden Arms
Heaven and Hell Shaw Brothers 1/19/80 Shaolin Hell Gate
2 Champions Of Shaolin Shaw Brothers 4/12/80 Two Champions of Death; 2 Champions of Death
Flag of Iron Shaw Brothers 8/14/80 Spearman; The Spearman of Death
The Rebel Intruders Shaw Brothers 9/10/80 Killer Army
Legend of the Fox Shaw Brothers 11/15/80
Ten Tigers of Kwangtung Shaw Brothers 12/20/80 10 Tigers of Kwangtung; Ten Tigers from Kwangtung
Sword Stained with Royal Blood Shaw Brothers 3/6/81
Masked Avengers Shaw Brothers 5/15/81
Ruthless Tactics Yu Feng Film Company 1981 Ninja in the Deadly Trap; Ninja's Deadly Trap
House of Traps Shaw Brothers 1/9/82
Ode to Gallantry Shaw Brothers 12/16/82

Venom-Related Films[edit]

Films directed by Chang Cheh that feature Venoms in supporting roles or fewer than three Venoms in starring roles.

Original H.K. English Title Production Company Original H.K. Release Date Alternate English Titles
Marco Polo Shaw Brothers 12/25/75 The Four Assassins
Shaolin Temple Shaw Brothers 12/22/76 Death Chamber, Death Chambers
The Naval Commandos Shaw Brothers 4/7/77
The Brave Archer Shaw Brothers 7/30/77 Kung-Fu Warlords
Chinatown Kid Shaw Brothers 12/2/77
The Brave Archer 2 Shaw Brothers 5/13/78 Kung-Fu Warlords Part II
The Brave Archer 3 Shaw Brothers 11/12/81 Blast of the Iron Palm
The Brave Archer and His Mate Shaw Brothers 2/25/82 The Brave Archer Part 4, Kung Fu Warlord 4
Five Elements Ninjas Shaw Brothers 4/21/82 Five Element Ninjas, Super Ninjas, Chinese Super Ninjas, Chinese Super Ninja
Attack of the Joyful Goddess Hong Kong Chang He Motion Picture Co., Ltd. 10/3/83 Attack of the Venoms, Five Venoms Attack
Death Ring Hong Kong Chang He Motion Picture Co., Ltd. 1983
The Nine Demons Hong Kong Chang He Motion Picture Co., Ltd. 1984 The 9 Venoms, Nine Venoms
Shanghai 13 Winners' Workshop Production Co., Ltd. 1984 The Shanghai Thirteen

See also[edit]