The Crippled Avengers
Distributed by Shaw Brothers Studio
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Remember when I reviewed the Five Deadly Venoms, one of my favorite kung fu movies? Well, I had learned that there was another movie featuring members of the Venom Mob released some time later by Shaw Brothers Studios. Also known as Return of the Five Deadly Venoms, The Crippled Avengers was released in 1978, the same year as Five Deadly Venoms. All of my friends, fans of Five Deadly Venoms, told me that I had to see The Crippled Avengers. But reading the summary on the back of the DVD didn't persuade me to buy it. I waited a long time, but finally purchased a used copy of the DVD to see what all of my kung fu movie fan friends were talking about.
The whole story begins with Black Tiger Dao Tien-Du (Chen Kuan-Tai) a well-respected leader in the community who comes home to find his wife murdered and his son mutilated. Dao Tien-Du vows to take revenge on those who killed his wife and cut off the arms of his son. He has a blacksmith construct new arms of iron for his son and trains him in the arts of kung fu. As the time passes Dao Tien-Du and the now grown Dao Chang (Lu Feng) have become bitter over the past, taking out their anger on all those who cross their paths. Once a respected man, Dao Tien-Du is now considered a vicious warlord and his son, a spoiled young man, quick to anger and seek vengeance on anyone he considers to have done him wrong.
One such individual is a young salesman who happens to be in the wrong eatery at the wrong time. For his insolence, Chen Shuen (Phillip Kwok Chun-Fung) is struck blind by Dao Chang. A rebellious young blacksmith named Wei Jia-Jie (Lo Meng) refuses to be intimidated by the warlords. They decide to show him who is boss by inviting him to their home, tricking him into drinking a potion and smashing him about the ears, turning Wei Jia-Jie into a deaf mute. Another young man, Hu Ah-Kue (Sun Chien), is punished for his insolence through amputation, Dao Tien-Du's thugs taking off both legs at the knees. A warrior named Wang Yi (Chiang Sheng) attempts to avenge the three, but is tortured and loses his mind.
Discovering that Wang Yi has been made insane through torture at the hands of Dao Tien-Du, Chen Shuen, Wei Jia-Jie and Hu Ah-Kue decide to return the young man to his master. Upon arriving at Master Li Jing Ying's (Cheng Miu) school and explaining what happened to the four crippled travelers, Master Ying decides that he must help the people who helped his student return home. He has legs fashioned from iron for Hu Ah-Kue and teaches him how to use these powerful new legs to strike a deadly blow at his enemies. He teaches Chen Shuen and Wei Jia-Jie to use their remaining senses to understand where their opponents are and gives them the fighting skills to take them down.
With their newly honed skills, the four return to the village to exact revenge on their tormenters. But will the teachings of Master Ying be enough to overcome the treachery of Dao Tien-Du?
First, I must discuss the things that annoyed me about The Crippled Avengers. For one thing, the amputations in the film looked so unreal, it was almost comical. The blood was too red, there was no hemorrhage, no signs of shock in the amputee and the amputees never passed out from the pain of immediate limb removal without the benefit of a knockout drug. And twisting a band around a man's skull causes him to become insane? Really? Prolonged torture might do that, but the man wouldn't become insane after a few minutes of tightening a leather strap around his head.
I find it absolutely plausible that a blind man and a deaf man could overcome their losses by using other senses to compensate. Yet, I find it rather farfetched for a man to have limbs forged from iron that can be light enough for the user to fight limberly and efficiently. How can Hu Ah-Kue jump and kick the way he does with two iron legs? (Amazing that these legs fit inside regular size trousers and boots, by the way.) I mean, those legs would probably be so heavy he would find it difficult to walk and without joints at the ankles, he would have quite the lumbering gait, yet we are supposed to believe he can throw flying kicks at his opponents? No way!
The storyline is kind of silly, too. A respected man becomes a vicious warlord who cripples his perceived enemies simply because his son was rendered armless by his real enemies? I can see the guy becoming bitter, but this guy becomes demonic.
Well, we've established that the storyline is shaky at best, farfetched at worst and the effects are just horrendous. So why did all of my martial arts loving friends recommend this film to me? For the same reason I will recommend it to you - the fight scenes. Each and every fight scene in The Crippled Avengers is absolutely amazing. They are superbly choreographed and show off each actor's acrobatic skills as well as their fighting prowess. We already knew that these guys had martial arts skill from what we saw in Five Deadly Venoms. This film shows off an acrobatic skill that would amaze many a circus performer. I especially marveled at the actor's abilities to jump and fight through metal rings, some as big as hula hoops and some as small as a Frisbee.
So, although I hated the storyline and found myself laughing at moments in the movie that should have been serious, I can still say that The Crippled Avengers is one of the Shaw Brothers greats simply because of the fight scenes. If you are looking for a great story, go somewhere else, but if you want to see some of the best looking, acrobatic fight choreography, then The Crippled Avengers is the movie for you.