FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH (1972) – The Dungeon Review!

I wanted to discover and experience as many new titles as I could during my journey through the 70’s, but I also wanted to share a few of my favourites. I haven’t a clue how many times I’ve seen Five Fingers Of Death over the years but it never fails to entertain me. It isn’t the most violent or action packed martial arts film nor would I claim that Lieh Lo is the best fighter I have ever seen. But then again, I know zero about fight choreography or fighting styles, I just like watching men beating the snot out of each other. Five Fingers Of Death offers more than just men beating the snot out of each other, it actually features well fleshed out characters with depth. The character encounters throughout the film are that much more meaningful because of it. Plus, our hero has glowing red hands and some seriously cool theme music!

Chao Chih-Hao becomes caught up in a power struggle between two schools both hoping to win a competition that will determine the dominant fighting style for the provinces. When his rivals learn Chih-Hao’s master has passed down his knowledge of the deadly Iron Fist they will stop at nothing to prevent Chih-Hao from representing his school. Chih-Hao is forced to defeat a number of deadly foes who aren’t afraid to use ugly tactics to win.

Five Fingers Of Death has a satisfying story about revenge, tragedy, love, and honour with a very likable lead you can’t help but root for. Lieh Lo is excellent as humble hero Chao Chih-Hao. He is not super-human and his regular guy tendencies really help to ground the character and make his journey that much more engrossing. Because I could connect with Chih-Hao it is extra rewarding when he unleashes the beast and decimates his opponents. A fair amount of attention is given to characters in general. Among the players is Chih-Hao’s long time love and daughter of his first master who he intends to marry. Along his travels Chih-Hao saves the life of an attractive singer who falls in love with him providing some serious inner turmoil for our hero. Chih-Hao is sent away to learn under a new master who really puts the gears to Chih-Hao making him work in the kitchen until he improves his skills, which he does with great humility. A jealous fellow student wants to see Chih-Hao go down, but he’ll have to get in line. Even the bad guys get their share of the spotlight. There are some memorable villains all guided by the evil Meng Tung-Shun. Tung-Shun runs a corrupt martial arts school and on his payroll are Japanese Samurai, a fighter with a forehead like a drive-in movie theatre and Tung-Shun’s douche bag son who proves the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

It’s a great story with interesting characters but Five Fingers of Death has its share of bloody 70’s violence. Scattered among the martial arts mayhem is blood spray, deadly head-butts, and plucked out eyes. The soundtrack is great and Chih-Hao’s infamous musical cue is the perfect compliment to the glowing red power of the Iron Fist. A fair amount of restraint is used in the length of the fight scenes which might turn some off. But personally, as much as I enjoy guys wailing on each other I enjoy it more when I have an idea who they are and what their motivation is. The film is also well-paced and long wordy exchanges are kept to a minimum. In my opinion, Five Fingers Of Death has the perfect balance of fighting and story that makes for an entertaining viewing experience.

The Dragon Dynasty DVD for Five Fingers Of Death looks superb and had a nice selection of extras. It is awesome to see these older films getting the love and respect they deserve. Five Fingers Of Death is one of my personal favourite martial arts films. It delivers lively and entertaining violence without sacrificing its story or characters. Epic fun. Highest of recommendations!

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Chang-hwa Jeong

Starring: Lieh Lo, Ping Wang, Hsiung Chao, Chin-Feng Wang, Mien Fang, Feng Tien, James Nam, Shen Chan, Bolo Yeung, Wen Chung Ku, Lung Yu

2 Responses to “FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH (1972) – The Dungeon Review!”

  1. Great review Goregirl! This has been recommended to me countless times but I’ve yet to see it. I’m going to seek it out now!

    • Thanks Dan. I’ve literally loved this film since I was a kid. There is probably a wee bit of fond memories of childhood mixed into my love, but this one is really entertaining. Definitely worth picking up! Try to get the Dragon Dynasty version, there are versions out there that do not compare.

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