First Bonzai, now Image
Michael W. Jaworski | Fairfield, NJ USA | 07/24/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As I've written in other reviews, not as many as Morgoth though, I'm a huge Shaw Brothers fan and Chang Cheh completist. Chang and his godsons, the Venoms, bid a fond farewell in 1981 to their four year/nineteen film series with this period piece (Sung Dynasty) martial epic. It's complete with the ubiquitous Chang Cheh traits like brotherhood, chivalry, greed, corruption, honor, copious bloodletting & kung fu madness. I've read that it's a "complete" Venom film. Not really, it's missing Lo Mang, Wei Pai & Johnny Wang (who was working with Lau Kar-Leung at the time). However, it does have his core Venoms like Kuo Chui, Lu Feng, the late Chiang Sheng, Wang Li, Sun Chien (who unfortunately doesn't flash his Iron Feet here), along with Yu Tai-Ping, Ricky Cheng, Chu Ke, Chien Hsiao-Hao & "Spearman" Lung Tien-Sheng.
First the movie; the trailer states that it's based on a novel. I did not know that, but that would explain its prologue, extended dialogue scenes & a "period" plot concerning Prince Yang's quest for revenge against Lord Bao. This involves a revolt, stolen Imperial valuables which are secured in a building filled with lethal traps (the House of the title; one of the traps is a staircase where the stairs become blades) & spies (who are responsible for the martial mayhem.) Many cool venomous fight scenes are tucked inside the complicated plot which also involves two opposing knight-errants, the Black Fox (Kuo Chui) & Butterfly (Lu Feng), a group known as the Four Rats, a list & a hidden painting that reveals the prince's dark past. All this intrigue concludes in a ten minute finale which is absolutely jaw-dropping. The Venoms really outdid themselves with the choreography pitting Wang Li (with double hook swords) versus Chu Ke & Chiang Sheng and Lu Feng (using a spear & darts) versus Kuo Chui (using a short-handled broadsword) which takes place in a huge opulent room decorated with ornate vases/furniture and curtains (kinda like the finale in "Five Deadly Venoms"). Amazing stuff here.
Now for the DVD; the one I own was released by Bonzai Entertainment who also did a fantastic job with "The Weird Man" & "Ten Tigers of Kwantung", but they totally botched it with "The Magnificent Ruffians" a.k.a. "The Destroyers". I don't know what happened there. Anyway, Image Entertainment's DVD has a scratch-free picture, widescreen presentation, Mandarin & English soundtrack in DTS digital, and easy to read English subtitles. Given Image Entertainment's past efforts (who I've praised in other reviews) this DVD expectedly looks as good as the Bonzai version. However, for those of you looking for an English dub, it's here, but it was those inferior UK voices who also messed up the English dub for "Legendary Weapons of China." Just my opinion though."
Rare Treat For Venom's Fans!!!
David Brown III | gloucester, MA. USA | 08/12/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wonderful film. Indeed this DVD is released with english dubs included. Venom's fans are very lucky indeed. The plot may be straightforward but the choreographing is superb in this film. There is tangible tension between (at then) feuding venom actors Kuo Chui and Lu Feng. Wang Li (6th venom in my book) gives a stunning performance during the finally fighting. Enough cannnot be said of his use with that weapon. This film's bootleg copies down the years were basically unwatchable. Anyone defaming the remastered release of such a rare venoms treat isn't really much of a VENOM'S fan. A must have R1 release for Venom's fans. Here's a quick synopsis:
This rare film had circulated for decades as a bootleg (basically) unwatchable for english speaking fans. i've just veiwed the remastered version and i must say i was very pleased with every aspect of this film. the storyline, the acting, the plot, and especially the fighting. all are spot on solid. the fighting near the end is amazing, especially on Wang Li's and Lu Feng's parts.
One of the princes decides he's gonna revenge his father's premature death. so he builds the House Of Traps to accomplish this end. Lu Feng starts the story off with stealing a precious jade horse presenting it to said prince for proof of his loyalty. they decide to lock it up in the House Of Traps in case the emperor gets any smart ideas. after some appropriate storyline dynamics Kuo Chui shows up with the Pearl Crown to express his loyalty to the scheming prince. Lu Feng and he already exhibit some animosity with Kuo's copy cat offer to the prince. Kuo then heads out to further prove his loyalty.
Chien Hsiao-hou does a great job fighting and acting wise. Though he's in no way the lead actor in the film.
The film has an excellent cast: Wang Li (Lord Bao), Lu Feng (Butterfly Hua), Kuo Chui (Black Fox), Lung Tien-chiang / spearman of death guy (Shen Zhong Yuan), Sun Chien (Yan Chun Min), Chiang Sheng (The River Rat).
The pacing is just fine. there's plenty of action interjecting the dialogue throughout the entire film and the storyline is solid.
The fighting throughout is superb, especially between Kuo Chui and Lu Feng, also near the end between Wang Li and his two opponents Chiang Sheng and his partner. Wang Li does this great move with his weapon. as Wang is engaged with Chiang and co. he locks his two hooked swords together by the hooks and swings them at his adversary then unhooks them and continues his barrage on his two opponents. dosen't sound like much, but the seemless flow to this very well practiced choreographed scene is highly impressive. in fact, the choreographing throughout the film, especially near the end is incredibly well rehearsed. it flows very naturally and comes off extremely realistic as a result. near the end of the film I found myself endlessly rewinding fight scenes to see just how well orchestrated they actually were. we're talking lighting fast, real speed, choreographing here.
(an after thought) You kinda get the feeling Chang Cheh was somewhat in someway trying to accomodate Kuo Chui and Lu Feng during their confrontations so as to not incite (actual) resentment with favoring either's role (or character) with being the more proficient killer while filming House Of Traps for fear of either actor possibly walking angrily off the set, as they are very evenly matched here. i don't know, just passed through my mind while watchin the end fights, especially.
Oh, by the way, i'd definitely give this film a 8.5/10"
Lacking in too many areas
morgoth | omaha, NE | 07/03/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"House of Traps is somewhat fun. There's an allstar cast, and some sweet weapons fights. The problem is that the story is nothing special and the fights are too short. And, a bunch of cast members don't even get to show their stuff. Sun Chien doesn't get to throw a single punch or kick, which would be ok if it was an awesome movie like Human Lanters, but in House of Traps it made me really mad. And 3 of my favorite actors, Chu Ko, Chiang Sheng and Ricky Cheng Tien Chi, barely get any fight time at all. So if you want to see a few good short fights with Lu Feng, Kuo Choi and Chin Siu Ho, then you may want to take a look at this.