Antidote: The remorseful elders of the Venoms House

Among the most delightful aspects of watching Shaw Brothers movies for me  is the desire to revisit a beloved film only to find someone or something new to enjoy. In the case of Five Venoms, my imagination travels far and wide when thinking about the Poison clan, especially when my attention focused upon the two elders of the Venoms house. 

In our many discussions about Lu Feng, Lady Cao Feng and I mused upon Centipede, and from there I wondered if Dick Wei's remorseful old master was the only teacher of the six students? To answer my own question: yes, this is perfectly logical as other Shaw Brothers instructors and Sifus knew many forms. In real world kung fu, one can look to the revered Hung Ga style with its five animals and five elements techniques for a variety of forms under one type of Kung Fu. Therefore, a single man can impart a variety of styles to different pupils.  

But still my blasted logic meter interrupts the flow, "Now wait a minute, you're telling me this one fellow knew Tae Kwon Do (Scorpion), Invincible Armor/Strength (Toad), and Wu Shu body lifting (Lizard and Yang De?)" 

Once again, I point to the real world especially in the case of the martial actor portraying the elder, Dick Wei. 

Off screen, Dick Wei mastered Tae Kwon Do and Kick Boxing. His experiences as an Army fight instructor specializing in unarmed combat make his master all the more worthy of training Scorpion, Toad, and Centipede. As Sun Chien also practices Tae Kwon Do, Scorpion is a natural student of the original master. Wei's strength lends some credence to his training of Toad, while his speed, relentless kicks, and punches could factor into Centipede style.  The Thousand Hands technique may have a basis in an actual form (there are almost sticky hands moves in some of the more sophisticated hand strikes and grapples Lu performs.  As I am not a student of kung fu, I can only speculate about this element.) 

Meanwhile, Snake's fang and tail style -as recently recalled by Lu Feng himself- was a made up variation on the actual Snake techniques.  

Then there is Ku Feng's Yuan. It was only recently (after dozens of viewings) that I noticed he was using Toad style to defend himself from Snake.  In the Five Venoms world,  retired boxer Yuan may or may not have had a hand in training in the animal styles too. As the younger peer of Wei's master, Yuan was aware of the Centipede and Snake's techniques, and as mentioned above, even counters Snake with a brief moment of Toad. The older man quickly breaks the blade of Snake's sword and deflects a serpentine hand strike through his inner power. Unfortunately, Yuan's kung fu regressed to the point where he could not protect himself from Centipede's multiple blows. This awareness of his friend's pupils makes me wonder just when Yuan retired from the House. Most likely before his senior began training Centipede, and yet the bookkeeper knows exactly who his murderers are. 

Interestingly, Centipede tracked down Yuan (most likely through torture.)  He and Scorpion learned their arts of manipulation very well, but while Scorpion's stings could be verbal, Centipede's methods were entirely physical. One blow from him could break bones and rupture organs. I could only imagine how many people suffered as "Number One" gathered intel on his master's comrade. 

If I were to discuss the students' personalities, one could track the progression of the Master's criminal doings from Centipede to Scorpion. Every student save Toad was also skilled in the art of deception; a must considering the criminal history of the Poison Clan. The deceits and wrong doings weighed heavily upon Sifu so you can probably surmise, he asked his most loyal students to make things right. 
As he trained Lizard and Toad, some regret was filtering in (to the point where Lizard recalls the Master's desire to be rid of Centipede and Snake.) By the time  Yang De comes in, the elders' need to atone for the sins of the Poison Clan is firmly in place. A shame he did not live long enough to see his last wish come true.

It is through the old Masters' empathy and regret and Yuan's neat little display of Toad style that the story of the Poison Clan calls forth these questions and the history of the House itself. 

Yours respectfully,

Lady J.


Reference cited:

Venoms5, "Cool Ass Cinema Presents: An Interview With Former Shaw Brothers Star & Director/ Action Choreographer, Lu Feng" Cool Ass Cinema, September 18th, 2016. 

Five Venoms is available on a variety of formats: Digital (iTunes * Amazon Prime) and DVD/blu ray

Legalese: All images copyright Celestial Pictures and their respective owners. No infringement is intended or presumed. We encourage you to seek out these films through official channels. *


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