Crippled Avengers


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.”


Have mercy Mr Tao. No need to sic your wrought iron hand-clad power-mad son on him. After all, he’s just a poor hawker.

Do the sons of the Tian Nan Tiger goons now bear the sins of the fathers?

Apparently yes.

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.


– Great, a kung fu master supposed to avenge us has been driven mad!

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)

Five Deadly Venoms

The_Five_venomsThe enigmatic Poison Clan kept all their secrets hidden behind an iron gate. There, in the confines of a dusty, cobwebbed crypt, five fighters honed their unique kung fu styles: Centipede, Snake, Scorpion, Lizard, and Toad.

These Five Deadly Venoms all graduated from the clan. And now it’s time for a wacky class reunion?


They all abruptly left, and all changed their names. One even wears a mask regardless of the social occasion. That’s Scorpion, even if the mask resembles a crayfish that’d be wall decor for a crappy fish and chips shop.

And teacher needs to track them down so their powers aren’t used for evil instead of good. (He should’ve thought about that before teaching possible n’er do wells such deadly techniques in the first place.) In fact, there are rumors (soon confirmed) that two of the five pupils are seeking to shake down the clan for its riches.

And time is not on the teacher’s side, as he’s ailing.

Yang Tieh (Chiang Sheng) is the young bright-eyed kung fu disciple who’s caring for the aging instructor. And he has to fulfill the old man’s last wishes and protect him from harm:

Five_deadly_venomsYOU MUST PROMISE ME.



If it were easy, there’d be no Shaw Brothers production ass-kicking; the kind we’ve grown to depend on like a gym rat does a protein shake.

Luckily, Yang Tieh has a few leads in town to help his cause, two cops Ho and Ma, one of whom is a boozer, has a painted-on beard and is corrupt.

They and the chief magistrate, who has headgear that looks like a fly swatter, are all kept busy trying to find out who murdered the local Yuan family and why.

There’s lots of police procedural stuff, but if you hang in long enough, there’s top-drawer multi-style ass-kicking, and there’s an incredible, what can only be described as a binaural striking death. Speaking of sounds, Ol Dirty Bastard / Wu Tang sampled some of the overdubbed dialogue for their song, “Snakes.” (“Number 2 practiced the snake style. He was known as ‘snake spirit'”). There are lots of acrobatic moves in Five Deadly Venoms (AKA Five Venoms) and you can see how these inspired the nascent break-dance / hip hop scene in the Five Boroughs of New York.

*** (out of 5)