The Rebel Intruders (1980)
Director: Chang Cheh
Writers: Ni Kuang
Starring: Chang Cheh Ni Kuang Lu Feng, Phillip Kwok, Lo Meng, Chiang Sheng and Sun Chien

The Plot: Chen Chu Kwan (Lu Feng) is a despotic warlord who rules over his territory with an iron fist. His men oppress the citizens by whipping and beating them on regular occasion, but Chen Chu kwan will soon run into trouble with three young fighters. Wong Shu (Phillip Kwok) is a beggar who has been forced into this lifestyle by the totalitarianism ruling of Chen. Chin Chow-ping (Lo Meng) is a wandering martial artist with a tremendous amount of strength. He quickly impresses the military with his abilities, but he doesn’t have a cold heart, and is soon at odds with his commanders. Yu (Chiang Sheng) is also a starving thief, thanks to Chen Chu Kwan. This trio initially meets at a gambling den, where Yu is caught giving out free tips in order to collect money from the winner at the end of the evening. When Wong Shu realizes what he is doing, a fight ensues. Wong Shu and Chin Chow-ping soon realize that they are using familiar styles, and their masters were best friends. This turns out to be the catalyst for this trio to find an unlikely, and incredibly strong, friendship. After their friendship is established, this group runs into trouble when Wong Shu witnesses the assassination of highly respected military official. This official opposed Chen Chu Kwan, who has at this point associated himself with the nefarious rebel General Lin, and now every clan within the city will be after our three heroes. Will they manage to escape their grasp and put a end to Chen Chu Kwan’s plan of aligning with General Lin?

The Review
What can possibly be said about the Venom Clan that hasn’t already been repeated a million times before? There are some who favor this era in director Chang Cheh’s career (like me), and then there are others who see this period as being too over-the-top and generally silly. These are films that feature casts who dress in wild uniforms that do not reflect their period, men who have hands replaced with robotic limbs, and where bloodshed at every turn is a downright necessity. These films were, despite everything negative you can say about them, very far ahead of their time. Showcasing a affinity for the bizarre, Chang Cheh was certainly a influence on the emerging kung fu/comedy genre that would come during the eighties. While Lau Kar Leung, his chief competition at the Shaw studio, was busy crafting slightly more realistic films that depicted enhanced versions of real life combat, Chang Cheh was busy focusing entirely on the entertainment side of this business. With a movie such as The Rebel Intruders, Cheh shows off his ability to create a relatively relaxed atmosphere and still retain some of the zaniness that helped establish him as the director that he is known to be.

Featuring every member of the venom clan except for Wei Pai, there is no question as to whether The Rebel Intruders is a true venom film. Each member of the clan is featured in a prominent role, but this time out it is Chiang Sheng, Lo Meng and Phillip Kwok, who fill in for our heroes. For those unaware, the venom clan were a troupe of actors who became famous from their Chang Cheh-led feature Five Deadly Venoms. After the immense popularity of that film, they would forever be known as the Venoms, and would star in numerous kung fu films together. The great thing about this troupe was how each member seemed to fill a necessary gap. Each member had a specific talent or ability that somehow helped make this unit work and function. Sure, they could carry projects individually, or with few members, but when they worked together the sparks were almost always guaranteed. For instance, Sun Chien was a taekwondo expert, so he filled in as the requisite “kicker” of the group. Lu Feng had the “face” of the entire group. Similar to a Charles Bronson, he simply had distinguished features that made him a perfect villain, or even a perfect superhero if the script called for it. Chiang Sheng was certainly the most acrobatic of the group, so he was always the wiry one who could be nimble when necessary. Lo Meng was quite simply the muscle. In my opinion, he had the most impressive physique, and with this he gave off an aura of invincibility. He was also capable of emoting very well, and his eyes were notoriously bright and wide. Then there is Phillip kwok, who was easily the most charismatic of the group and featured the greatest acting talent. Every last one of these details are on display in The Rebel Intruders.

Although the story becomes a wee bit convoluted, due to the opposing forces not being developed or explained well enough (General Lin is never even shown, yet referenced all throughout the film), I have to admit that I was fully absorbed in the project. At around the forty five minute mark, when our trio of heroes are properly formed, the film really steamrolls into becoming something unique within this genre. The story becomes less about military politics, and instead turns into a story about a daring escape. Similar to The Warriors, we watch as our leading men travel great distances in order to put an end to the treason that lies within this culminating group of clans. Cheh delivers on the uncomfortable situation revolving around these characters and their inability to trust anyone. The movie is solid in developing this simple story, and it crafts a great amount of tension along the way. Even though Chang Cheh and Ni Kuang usually developed meandering storylines whenever they attempted to pack-in too much story, this is one of the rare instances where they did everything right. Similar to the original Five Deadly Venoms, the plot is actually given a serious amount of leeway. However, unlike that film, Cheh and Kuang were able to also pack in the requisite action that was expected from this group.

Although every member of the clan deserves to be mentioned, I have to say that Chiang Sheng was such a naturally gifted martial arts actor. His style reminds me of someone who was highly influenced by Buster Keaton and the silent film era. Hong Kong, and Peking Opera, are well known for their insistence on over-emoting, but Chian Sheng certainly made it work. His body movements and over the top dramatized style of action made for some unique performances. Although many of the kung fu comedians out there were obviously influenced by these silent film stars, Sheng is one of the few actors that I have seen who truly managed to replicate that style of acting whilst in combat. Here with Rebel Intruders, there are no weak links within the cast. Every actor fits their character, and every performance seems to be running at full steam. Philip Kwok, in particular, could certainly use a mention. His use of weaponry in this film is spectacular to witness. The work he does, in two separate scenes, while using a wooden chair, has to be seen to be believed. Lo Meng is charismatic as always, Lu Feng is awesome, and Sun Chien kicks up a storm. Venom clan perfection, it seems!

The Conclusion
Although many would argue with me on this point, I have to admit that Rebel Intruders quickly turned into one of my favorite Venom films. I think the success of the film boils down to its story and the interesting twists and turns that Chang Cheh and Ni Kuang lead us upon. Packing in tons of action, this story is the perfect device to show off all of the greatest attributes that the Venom clan had. I give the title a four out of five. An enthralling piece of kung fu cinema, I highly recommend it.