Among the most important icons in the martial genre are a quintet of actors called the Venom Mob, who first starred together in Five Deadly Venoms.
Among the most important icons in the martial arts genre are the Venom Mob, a quintet of actors who starred in Five Deadly Venoms. Based in Hong Kong, these five actors made well over a dozen movies together in the 1970s and the 1980s. Films that feature three or more of these actors are commonly referred to by martial arts fans as “Venom” movies.
At the height of the kung fu craze in 1978, the biggest studio in the industry – Shaw Brothers – released Five Deadly Venoms, which was helmed by its top director and a legend in his own right, Chang Cheh. The story of Five Deadly Venoms revolved around a kung fu expert sent by his master to track down five of his former students. The protagonist learns from his master that he taught deadly kung fu styles to five people, and now he worries that they’ll use their skills for evil. These five Venoms are the Scorpion, the Toad, the Centipede, the Lizard and the Snake. The student is told that to beat the ones that have gone bad, he’ll need to learn their identities and team up with at least of one of the Venoms. The Lizard and the Toad both turn out to be heroes who help him, while the rest are villains. In the end, the Toad is killed but the Lizard and the student are able to prevail against the three evil members.
Click the button below to start this article in quick view.
Five Deadly Venoms has evolved into a cult classic. Its now-legendary fight scenes have made it a favorite among kung fu fans and one of the most influential martial arts movies of all-time. Due to its popularity, the stars were regularly reunited for several more movies in the years that followed. Since they were so often seen together, the group became known as the Venom Mob. They consisted of Chiang Sheng, Lo Mang, Lu Feng, Sun Chien, and Phillip Kwok. One common point of confusion regarding the Venom Mob is Wei Pei, who played the Snake. Though he was one of the movie’s Venoms, he’s not part of the quintet. Here’s what you need about the five actors in Shaw Brothers’ Venom Mob.
“The Scorpion” in the Five Deadly Venoms was brought to life by Sun Chien, a Taekwondo master. The martial arts star is best known for his signature high kicks, which were a key element in his fighting style. His impressive kicking techniques helped the Venom Mob deliver some of their most exhilarating action sequences. As for how he would factor into the movies’ stories, Sun was a bit of a wild card. More often than not, he played heroes, but he also had his fair share of villainous roles, including his character in Five Deadly Venoms. There were also movies where his supposedly good-natured character would turn out to be a wicked traitor, which was the situation in both The Kid With the Golden Arm and The Rebel Intruders. Unfortunately, Sun’s characters – including the heroic ones – usually met with tragic ends and sometimes didn’t make it to the final fight.
Phillip Kwok (known as Kuo Chui to audiences in the East) was “The Lizard” in the Five Deadly Venoms. The Taiwanese actor was a well-trained martial artist and acrobat with a wide range of skills. In his movies, he was shown to be adept at hand-to-hand combat and acrobatic stunts like back and front flips. He fought with a variety of weapons, but used a staff more than most. Its worth noting that Kwok took center stage in most of the Venom movies. Many of the Venom actors would alternate between hero and villain roles, but Kwok would always play one of the good guys. While some of the Venoms wouldn’t make it to the end of the movie, Kwok’s character would generally be one of the last heroes standing. After the Hong Kong industry shifted away from kung fu movies, Kwok continued acting for quite some time and played Mad Dog in John Woo’s Hard Boiled, a movie where Kwok handled the martial arts choreography.
Chiang Sheng is counted as a member of the Venom Mob, despite not being one of the titular Venoms in the 1978 classic. Instead, he was the protagonist entrusted with defeating them. After the movie, Chiang was repeatedly cast in heroic roles alongside his Five Deadly Venoms co-stars. For the most part, Chiang would play mischievous, comedic characters. Like Kwok, Chiang incorporated a lot of acrobatic stunts in his fight scenes and performed many of his battles with dual swords. Since the two were street performers who worked together before becoming actors, they did a large portion of their stunts together. This sort of relationship was also adapted to the big screen in some of their films. Due to being lighter and thinner than the other Venoms, Chiang’s characters relied heavily on agility. After the Venom Mob stopped making movies in the mid-1980s, Chiang appeared in a few more films before his death in 1991 at the age of 40.
Five Deadly Venoms’ “The Centipede”, played by Lu Feng, was the final opponent for Chiang Sheng’s Yang Tieh and Phillip Kwok’s Lizard. That’s not too different from the other roles that Lu Feng had in the Venom movies. Though Lu did play heroes who teamed up with the other Venoms’ characters in movies like Invincible Shaolin and The Shaolin Daredevils (the only movie where all five Venoms were on the same side), he primarily played sinister, spear-wielding villains. As a spear expert in real life, it was the weapon of choice for many of Lu’s characters, including the ones he played in Flag of Iron, The Magnificent Ruffians, The Brave Archer 3, and more. Along with Kwok and Chiang, Lu Feng appeared in nearly all of the Venom Mob movies worked with them closely on their martial arts choreography. Later on, the three of them formed their own production company in their native country, Taiwan.
Lo Mang, who played “The Toad” in Five Deadly Venoms, was nicknamed “The Shaolin Hercules” because of his muscular physique. Because of his build, Lo was usually cast as incredibly strong characters who used their fists more than they did swords or spears. Lo also had a tendency to play hotheaded and arrogant martial artists. Similar to Sun Chien, Lo played a combination of heroes and villains, but was a protagonist in most of his appearances. Both he and Chien weren’t in as many Venom movies as the other three actors, but did have starring roles in more than ten Venom Mob films. Out of all the Venom Mob members, Lo had the longest and most prolific career after the group’s disbandment. Since leaving Shaw Brothers, Lo has done a great deal of work in both movies and TV in Hong Kong. In what his perhaps his biggest role is recent years is that of monkey style expert Master Law in the last three Ip Man movies with Donnie Yen.
More: Jackie Chan’s Version Of The Three Stooges (Three Dragons Explained)
The Greatest Showman: How The LGBTQ Community Rescued It From Mediocrity
About The Author