Five Element Ninjas is another classic from director Chang Cheh. As with all his films I find them entertaining, great martial arts, over the top costumes, and a straight forward story line. This is another great restoration by Celestial Pictures. I really have to give them a lot of credit for restoring these classics and making them available (albeit only for digital streaming, no DVD/Blu Ray yet) with the original Cantonese audio and good subtitling. Much like Miramax (the Weinstein Brothers) of the 90’s and early 00’s, it is nice to see a company restoring these movies and making them available to the West. These films are getting harder to acquire on DVD and more so on Video Tape, although I would no longer have a way of watching a video tape.
Now for some reason Chang Cheh chose to credit Ricky Cheng Tien-Chi, Lo Meng, Chen Pei-Hsi, Wong Li, and Zhu Ke during the film when they are first seen on the screen. I can only attempt to guess that this was an attempt for Chang Cheh to form a new super group of actors now that the Venom Mob was no more. Around this time Shaw Brothers had serious competition from other studios like Golden Harvest.
The “Venoms” were no more. After five years and more than a dozen films together, the only one of the original five who proved so successful for the director was the muscleman Lo Meng. But with just that one “venom” and his incredibly agile new star Cheng Tien-chi, he made this spectacular, internationally popular, favorite. Evil ninjas (who attack with, and from, fire, sun, wood, water, and the ground) brutally slaughter a noble Chinese kung-fu school’s students. The one survivor finds a teacher and four students who are ninjitsu experts. The five graduates take revenge. With this strong structure and exceptional kung-fu choreography (from the star and co-star Chu Ke), Chang Cheh produced platinum. This film was one of the director’s best of his superheroic, grand guignol period. By any name, it could be called, almost literally, “bloody good” entertainment!
– Written by Celestial Pictures
I have been checking as many movie databases as possible to properly find the cast who worked on this film. Although Hong Kong Movie Database had a good list of the members the parts they played didn’t always match and IMDB is hopeless when dealing with Eastern films. For example Chen Pei-Hsi who plays Senji is not credited in HKMDB and is in IMDB but they get her character wrong by listing it as a MR. Kang. Had the movie itself not credit her when she first appeared I would have never been able to find out who she was. Zhu Ke also goes by the name Chou Ku so that caused some confusion as well.
Five Element Ninjas is a fun action film, a riotous roller coaster ride of the bizarre. The story is a straight forward story about revenge and you will find no complexities, twists, or any attempt at originality but instead it uses flashy gimmicks as it’s selling point. This shouldn’t stop you from watching Five Element Ninjas, I certainly enjoyed watching it and I’m sure you will too.
Ricky Cheng Tien-Chi (The Shaolin Avengers, The Fearless Hyena, The Brave Archer Part III) as Xiao Tian Hao the only surviving member of his school. Fights with a spear
Lo Meng (The Brave Archer Series, Five Deadly Venoms, Ten Tigers of Kwantung, The Grandmaster) as Liang Zhi Sheng Xiao Tian Hao’s best friend fights with a Tia Chi sword.
Lung Tien-Hsiang (Ten Tigers of Kwantung, Sword Stained with Royal Blood, Return of the Bastard Swordsman ) as Lei Ben the first brother of the martial arts school, fights with a Tia Chi sword.
Chan Shen (The Fourteen Amazons, The Young Avenger, The Spiritual Boxer) as Chief Hong leader of the opposing school a.k.a. the bad guy.
Siao Yuk (Crippled Avengers, Ten Tigers of Kwantung, Brave Archer Series, Return of the Sentimental Swordsman) as He Fen a member of the school who fights with twin daggers.
Ho Wing-Cheung (The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter, Disciples of the 36th Chamber, Royal Tramp II) as Bao Tong a member of the school who uses a sabre
Cheung Yiu-Sing (Magnificent Warriors, The Peacock King, Swordsman) as Tan Zheng-Yong another student that fights with a sabre, although slightly longer than Bao Tong’s
Lee Yiu-Ging (Shaolin Intruders, Crazy Shaolin Disciples, The Young Vagabond) as Lin Mu fights with a Dadao (like a Falchion)
Wong Wa (Legend of the Fox, Sword Stained with Royal Blood, Masked Avengers, The Brave Archer and His Mate) as Lin Ren Xia one of the Spear wielding brothers
Chiu Gwok ( Masked Avengers, Sword Stained with Royal Blood) as Huang Han student that fights with the Guan Dao
Chen Pei-Hsi (Pure and the Evil) as Senji the ninja spy. This was the only Wuxia movie she was ever in.
Wong Li (One-armed Boxer vs. the Flying Guillotine, The Brave Archer, Bastard Swordsman) as Li Ying Wu, eldest student of Master Yang and helps Xiao Tian Hao to get revenge against the Element Ninjas.
Zhu Ke (Masked Avengers, Sword Stained with Royal Blood, The Brave Archer and His Mate) as Chen Jun Second Brother student of Master Yang
Here is my only big complaint about the movie. Now Chang Cheh is, as I have said, known for his ostentatious costumes. Sometimes they work but towards the early 80’s he started going really wild with the costumes and gimmicks to try to draw more crowds to the cinema. Here is a screen shot at the beginning of the movie.
Now look at this next picture
Now I’m not an expert in ancient Japanese clothing, but I’d say they didn’t have any gold threaded outfits and black nylon netted sleeves.
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