Poison Clan Rocks the... city of Brotherly Love?
Yo Balboa! Time to step aside. A new heavyweight is coming to Philly this summer.
Yes, the Venom muscleman, Lo Mang, will be making his first trip to the States this August for a two-day event that has many a kung fu film enthusiast rejoicing.
Richard Hopkins of Phillywood Entertainment has announced that "Turbo" will be the recipient of a lifetime achievement award for his work in the cinema. A career that spans 30 years and includes working with some of the greats of the Hong Kong film industry - from Shaw Brother's Chang Cheh to John Woo.
LO MANG & CHANG CHEH
Lo Mang was born Lo Hin Lam in Hong Kong on July 23, 1956. At the age of 13 he began his martial arts training which he diligently continues to this day. A dedicated student of the Mantis style, he developed an incredible physique despite never working out with weights. He was introduced to the film industry by a mutual friend, who was the chauffeur for one of Shaw's leading directors - Chang Cheh. At first he worked in the accounting department but that quickly changed as Chang became impressed by Lo's physique and charisma; not to mention his martial arts background (which included other styles such as Choy Li-Fut and Tae Kwon Do). Lo later attended training courses created for actors wanting to work at the Changgong Film Co. before joining the Shaw studios.
Lo Mang (center) in Shaolin Temple (1976)
Chang decided to give Lo some bit parts in a few film projects but first wanted to give him a new stage name. Initially, he tried calling him "Lo Lea" (meaning "fierce" or "intense"). As time went on, Chang jokingly began to call him "Mang" (which can mean "foolish" or "clumsy") supposedly as he once tripped over the wire of an air conditioner. Hence, the name "Lo Mang" stuck.
Some of Lo's first cameos include "Shaolin Temple" (released in the U.S. as "Death Chambers") and "The Naval Commandos." However, it was 1977's "Chinatown Kid" that provided Lo with a larger role and led him (and fellow cast members) to a new project which would forever seal their place in martial arts film history.
LO MANG & THE VENOMS
August 12th, 1978. The film "The Five Deadly Venoms" premiered in Hong Kong theaters. A complex tale of intrigue and action, "The Five Deadly Venoms" not only became one of Chang's greatest triumphs but wound up being one of the most popular Shaw Brothers films ever.
The Six Deadly Venoms
(click to enlarge)
More importantly, it was this film that launched the careers of several actors who would now be known simply as The Venoms. Kuo Chui, Lu Feng, Chiang Sheng, Sun Chien, Lo Mang, (and to a lesser extent, Wei Pai) would forge a cinematic bond over the next two years and make another ten films together. "Crippled Avengers," "Invincible Shaolin," Kid w/ the Golden Arm," and "Magnificent Ruffians" were just some of the titles which helped secure the Venoms lore.
However, it was their initial film that has created many a fan worldwide - even Lo himself.
"Five Deadly Venoms. Definitely! ...It's the best constructed of all the ones I worked on," Lo stated in an April 2000 interview on what film was his favorite. "The characters are better developed and the villains are really bad!"
Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and while the Venom films continued into the early 80s, various members of the group would sometimes be absent. The Venom movies would come to an end in 1982 but this didn't stop Lo (or the other Venom actors for the matter ) as each continued on with their careers in film and television.
Lo would make two more films with Chang (his "movie sifu" as he called him) including the fan favorite, "Five Element Ninja." One of his final films on the Shaw lot would be 1985's "Crazy Shaolin Disciples" which featured Venom Kuo Chui and two Shaw legends; the late Lo Lieh (5 Fingers of Death) and Gordon Liu (Kill Bill).
The many faces of Lo Mang - click to enlarge
In the early 90's, Lo appeared in John Woo's "Hard Boiled" which teamed him back up with two members of the V-club (Kuo Chui and Wei Pai). In 1994, he appeared in Golden Harvest's gangland thriller, "Return To A Better Tomorrow." The later 90s saw Lo taking on a variety of roles in various genres: crime drama, action, horror. Comedy films though seem to be the direction Lo has taken of late, appearing in several comedies in the new millennium. All tolled, Lo has appeared in nearly seventy films and countless TV episodes. His most recent film to date is 2006's "49 Days."
Unlike cinema in other parts of the globe, films were a disposable medium in Hong Kong for many years. Lo's films at Shaw suffered a slow death over the years but were fortunately kept alive by thousands of dedicated fans who collected and traded old school kung fu flicks. The advent of the internet only further perpetuated the lore of the Venoms and the like.
Then in 2002, the Shaw Brothers' library underwent a revival as the Malaysian-based Celestial Pictures purchased over 700 Shaw classics and began the arduous task of remastering these films. As the months passed, remastered prints from the Shaw catalog became available on DVD; including many of the Venom films. This rebirth has sparked new interest in these movies and has attracted a whole new generation of collectors.
LO MANG & PHILADELPHIA
Kid with the Golden Arm (1979)
This event will be held at The International House on August 25-26, 2007. (For directions please use the link provided). Costs are $25 for advance tickets ($30 at the door). On Saturday, August 25th, Lo will hold a unique fight choreography clinic for a limited number of fans. The clinic is limited to about 40 people and spots will go quickly, so contact the event coordinator before space runs out. The cost of this clinic is $75 and the price includes admission to the expo the following day. On Saturday evening, there will be the awards banquet dinner. Again, seating is limited. Tickets for this banquet will be $120. The evening's host will be Ric Meyers of Inside Kung Fu magazine. An all inclusive ticket for the martial arts expo, fight clinic and banquet is only $160 (savings of $35).
Sunday, August 26th, the expo will take place from 10:00am-7:00pm. There will be a full itinerary of martial arts demonstrations all day long plus plenty of free giveaways and special gifts for those in attendance.
Actor and martial artist Bobby Samuels has been confirmed as an event guest. Other confirmed guest include: Kim Jin Pal (Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung's first Hapkido teacher and film star of the 70's), Taimak Guarriello (star of 1985's "The Last Dragon") and former heavyweight boxing contender Randall "Tex" Cobb. Other non-confirmed guests may include: actor Tony Todd - best known for his role in Clive Barker's "Candyman" plus a few other noteworthy film / martial arts personalities.
While cameras will be allowed, video equipment will be barred from this event. Phillywood Entertainment will be shooting video during the course of the event and plans to produce a DVD. Even if you're unable to come to Philadelphia this August and meet "The Toad" in person, this disc will still enable many to share in the experience. Check the Phillywood site and this page for future details on how to purchase this DVD. For an official press release of this event, please visit the Five Deadly Venoms Fansite.
See you all in Philly this summer and remember... "Poison Clan Rocks the World!"
UPDATE - SEPTEMBER 2007:
If you reading this now, you missed the boat! Fortunately, you can read all about the event here plus find out info about the DVD.
© Terrence J. Brady
THIRD MILLENNIUM entertainment
Acknowledgements: Richard Hopkins, Kioko Ntheketha, Jill Girardi, Belinda Hutchings, Audrey Seabrook, Daniel Tuck & Asian Cult Cinema, Paul Nice and HKCinemagic. Special thanks to the many members of the Kung Fu Fandom forum who have provided untold amounts of information, lively discussions and incredible images over the years on the films of the Venoms and the Shaw Bros. library.