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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 Fu Sheng Drama 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.
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).
|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 his 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
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.
- 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 Boxers and Chinatown Kid before his official debut in Shaolin Rescuers. Best known as Chief #3 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 Kid with the Golden Arm.
- Yang Hsiung - Better known as "Brass Head" in Kid with the Golden Arm. 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" in Flag of Iron. He also played the henchman known as "Leopard Boy," in Shaolin Rescuers as well as one of the seven Shaolin pupils in 2 Champions Of Shaolin.
- Cheng Tien-Chi - Another master of Peking opera, Cheng made his debut in The Brave Archer 3, followed by House of Traps and Ode to Gallantry, and would later take the lead roles in Five Elements Ninjas, The Weird Man and The Nine Demons.
- Chu Ko - Also debuted in The Brave Archer 3 and continued into the 1980s replacing Sun Chien, usually as an insidious villain. Would later achieve heroic status in the later films Five Element Ninjas and The Weird Man
- Lung Tien-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, Ode to Gallantry, 2 Champions Of Shaolin, as well as The Brave Archer and His Mate. Excels at playing spoiled brat roles.
- Yu Tai Ping – The lead henchman in earlier Venom films, would later switch sides during 1981's 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 Elements Ninjas 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 Shaolin Rescuers and one of the seven Shaolin pupils in 2 Champions Of Shaolin. Just like the Venoms' Sun Chien, he also uses tae kwon do and was known for his kicking ability.
- Shirley Yu - One of Shaw's leading ladies, appeared alongside the Venom Mob in Chang Cheh's Chinatown Kid, Life Gamble, and The Brave Archer 2.
- Pan Ping-Chang – Usually the lead female in Venom films. After a cameo appearance in Crippled Avengers, she went on to co-star as Swordswoman Leng in Kid with the Golden Arm, and portrayed Kuo's wife in Legend of the Fox.
- Chin Siu-Ho - First appeared in small role in The Rebel Intruders prior to making his official credited debut in 2 Champions Of Shaolin. Proceeded to co-star in Ten Tigers of Kwangtung, Legend of the Fox and Masked Avengers among others, in addition to films for other directors at Shaw after Chang Cheh's cohorts disbanded.
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|
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|