The Tian Nan Tigers aren’t an Asian corporate softball team. They’re the three evil villains we’re introduced to in Crippled Avengers (AKA, Mortal Combat and Return of the 5 Deadly Venoms).
They’re nasty sorts who “don’t fancy killing women and children,” but do it anyway. Just for sport.
They break into wealthy landowner Tao Tien-Tu’s mansion and lop off his wife’s legs at the knee, leaving her to die. They then sever his young son’s (Tao Sheng) arms at the elbow. When dad arrives, Tao Sheng assures him he never begged for his life: GOOD! All the makings of your standard revenge flick, perhaps?
Not so fast…
Fast forward ten years and the son’s been set up with prosthetic iron hands that shoot spring-loaded darts, after trying on several pairs for size (You know how it is. You can’t just get ’em off the rack like a suit. Bespoke iron hands are all the rage.)
Dad, as it happens, is a master of three Tiger Styles of Kung Fu: forest, winged and windmill. What these have to do with a giant predatory feline is unclear. No matter. He teaches the fruit of his loins these very effective and very deadly techniques.
Then, in some of the more wild exposition you’ll ever see (even in one with custom forged accessories that shoot projectiles), he explains that he “captured the sons of the Tian Nan Tigers and killed their fathers to avenge his wife’s death.”
Do the sons of the Tian Nan Tiger goons now bear the sins of the fathers?
Tao Tien-Tu urges his iron boy Tao Sheng to cripple all of them, which he does very quickly, like so:
Son the Hawker is blinded, Son the Blacksmith is made deaf/mute, and Son the Drifter’s legs are cut off at the knee. A white-clad avenging Kung Fu angel appears out of nowhere to intervene, however, for his efforts, he’s shackled and his head is shoved into a vice until he’s rendered slow-witted. (That’s your fourth disability, for those following along at home.)
The “idiot” eventually breaks free and reunites with his crippled brethren, and the unlikely foursome work together to exact revenge. This includes tracking down the avenging angel’s sensei, who instructs these guys in the ways of the sensory-deprivation/Paralympic martial arts.
Crippled Avengers is really nuts, even for a Shaw Brothers creation.
The “hoop fight” is an absolute cracker, one for the ages, and the kung fu here is completely off-the-charts. And that’s no surprise. After all, it’s directed by “The Godfather of Hong Kong cinema”, Chang Cheh.
There are many limbs a-lopped, and many eyes a-gouged but it’s strangely empowering. Highly recommended.
**** (out of 5)