When I first encountered kung fu movies, back in 1974, my favorites were The
Fearless Fighters, The Karate Killers, and The Seven Blows of the
Dragon (which was directed by Chang Cheh, but I didn't know who he was, at
the time), but then I took tae kwon do for two years. Then, my favorites became
The 36 Crazy Fists because of the buffoonery of the lead character's kung
fu instructor (played by Ku Feng), Heroes of the East (a/k/a Challenge
of the Ninja, a/k/a Drunk Shaolin Challenges Ninja) because nobody gets
killed in the entire picture even though there's piles of high quality fighting on
display, The Avenging Warriors of Shaolin (a/k/a Shaolin Rescuers)
because I loved the characters, and Superninjas because the buttload of fights
were excellent and the film was directed by the guy who directed The Avenging
Warriors of Shaolin.
That's right; I had finally figured out that all those Shaw Brothers movies I had been
seeing the same five actors (later known as "The Venoms" in fan parlance) in were
also produced and directed by the same team: Mona Fong and Chang Cheh. Seemingly,
these guys could do no wrong.
There are more than just a few people who, when they first encountered Chang
Cheh's late 1970's films, scratched their heads and said to themselves, "Hey, if
Bruce Lee is supposed to be the King of Kung Fu, why is it that this guy Chang
Cheh's movies have more interesting fighting -- and more of it! -- and are made
so much better?" Well, twenty years later, the Venoms films are referred to as
"Old School Kung Fu" or simply "The Good Old Days," while Bruce Lee is, well, errr,
Bruce Lee (to be kind). Frankly, I always found esoteric weapons-fighting more
interesting than hand-to-hand combat, so, for me, Chang Cheh (and his frequent
choreographer Liu Chia-liang [aka Lau Kar Leung) and his "Venoms" team delivered
terrific fights scene and after scene in each and every movie they appeared in.
Basically, what I had first seen in The Seven Blows of the Dragon came to
mature fruition in the Venoms films.
I have to admit to having a tremendous liking for the Venoms-period Chang Cheh
films -- including those with Fu Sheng (I guess I'm in the minority for liking Chang
Cheh's films more than those of Lau Kar Leung), so I'm dying to find out what his
"Baby Venoms" films are like. So far, I have seen
Hidden Hero, but if anyone has seen any of the
others, can describe what they are like, or has any leads concerning where to get
some on videotape or DVD, please contact me.
And just to make sure you don't get the wrong idea and think that I have a one-track
mind regarding Chang Cheh: other favorite martial arts directors/choreographers of mine are
King Hu, Liu Chia-liang, Yuen Woo-ping, (Corey) Yuen Kwai, Samo Hung (a/ka Sammo Hung a/k/a
Hung Kam-bo) -- and with reservations, Wong Jing, because he directed my favorite kung fu
movie, Kung Fu Cult Master, which I like just a wee tiny bit more than Superninjas
(because of Cheung Man in two roles as Jet Li's mother and the Queen of the Jinxes, and
because of Chingmy Yau as Jet's doofy warrior maid).