Color, 1979, 106 mins.

Directed by Chang Cheh

Starring Chen Kuan Tai, Philip Kwok, Lo Meng, Sun Chien, Lu Feng

Format: DVD - Crash Cinema (MSRP $24.95)

Letterboxed (2.35:1)

A retitling of Can Que, better known to Saturday afternoon viewers as Crippled Avengers, Crippled Heroes, and Mortal Combat, this above average and occasionally outrageous marital arts extravaganza has nothing to do with The Five Deadly Venoms. However, it does feature the same director and much of the same cast, so fans should be quite happy all the same, and the bizarre storyline which has been captivating chopsocky fans for years continues to amaze even now.

Chen Kuan Tai (Shaolin Executioner) and marital arts stalwart Lo Meng (also in the astonishing Super Ninjas and the original Venoms) head the cast as two members of a four team squad of martial arts masters. Sound familar? Well, not quite; all of the men bear some kind of physical handicap which they have managed to parlay into a unique fighting skill. The standard revenge plot aside (Chen got his hands cut off as a child, natch), Return delivers some high voltage action and the usual "flaws," e.g., laughable dubbing and a hyperactive use of the zoom lens. Some of the gore and close contact battering is surprisingly rough, indicating that Crash's designation of this as the uncut print is most likely true.

The DVD presentation of Return of the 5 Deadly Venons, packaged and distributed by Crash Cinema, looks better than the earlier VHS release from the same company but will obviously never be demo material. The opening credits have been replaced by a simple title card for some reason, and some scratchs and scuffs appear throughout but never enough to mar enjoyment of the film. The scope framing looks too tight but is far more watchable than the blurry full frame versions familiar from TV showings, and the dubbed audio is, well, passable, given the source. The outrageous fight scenes really carry this film, and this DVD renders them about as well as could be expected. How can you not love a film with black metal hands that pop out and shoot deadly darts at their opponents? Not for all tastes, obviously, but if you want to venture beyond Bruce Lee, this is a good place to start.

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