Venom Mob visual flair and palace intrigue combine for explosive results
On the one hand, my personal timing for reviewing this film is perfect in that Shaw Brothers Studio films are being released in great abundance right now in the United States by both 88 Films and Arrow Films, and I’m choosing to take a pretty deep dive into many of them right here on Cinapse. On the other hand, however, this treasure trove of kung fu classics I’ve been taking in in recent weeks and months does make the films a little hard to distinguish from one another. I greatly enjoyed The Flag Of Iron while watching it a few weeks back, however, even if it begins to meld into the broader Shaw-verse.
The Flag Of Iron is a 1980 Venom Mob film, meaning that it features the handful of stars known affectionately as the venom mob, a group of talented stars and choreographers who mega-star director Chang Cheh “discovered” and featured in many of his later career films for Shaw. Cheh is really the major breakout director from Shaw Studios and was involved with dozens upon dozens of their releases, including many of the all-time greats.
This title features many of the same antics and much of the same plotting as many other kung fu films: Rival martial arts schools, in this case the Iron Flag Clan and the Eagles, are duking it out for supremacy on the streets. When the Eagles pull a duplicitous fast one on the more nobly intentioned Iron Flags, their master is killed and a power vacuum emerges. Somewhere in the midst of all of this a mysterious assassin, known as the Spearman, who will play a major role in how this conflict turns out. Phillip Kwok (Hard Boiled’s Mad Dog) stars in this one as “Iron Panther” Lo, who takes the fall for his fellow Iron Flag brothers and undergoes a voluntary banishment after their master is murdered. Unfortunately, his fellow brother “Iron Tiger” Chow Feng (Fend Lu), has less than noble intentions in mind and has set Lo up for this fall. When Lo returns home, a confrontation is inevitable, and alliances will shift, but will Lo prevail?
The costuming and props teams on The Flag Of Iron, along with the action choreography (which I understand the Venom Mob actors themselves coordinated), really deserve all the praise in helping The Flag Of Iron stand out from the pack. The villainous Eagles clan have VERY distinctive feathered ensembles that don’t remind me of any other martial arts film I’ve seen. And the red and black uniforms and flag-spears of our Iron Flag heroes also really make a visual impact. In the finale there’s a ton of great slow motion action choreography featuring these beautiful and visually engaging massive flags and there’s no doubt that imagery will be what sticks with me years from now when nothing else does.
Like Disciples Of Shaolin and The Chinese Boxer before this title, 88 Films has really done an incredible job bringing this to the US Blu-ray market. Stuffed to the gills with physical and digital features, all supplementing a kick-ass film and including brand new original art for the title, kung fu fans and Shaw Brothers fanatics simply need to jump on this release.
Special Features (Adapted From 88 Films’ Site)
- LIMITED EDITION Slipcase with brand-new artwork from R.P. “Kung Fu Bob” O’Brien + Reversible sleeve artwork with original Hong Kong poster art
- Double-Sided A3 Foldout Poster
- Extensive Booklet Notes “Red and Black Attack Unfurling the Fury of Cheh Chang’s Gloriously Inventive Martial Arts Masterwork, The Flag of Iron (1980)” by Andrew Graves
- Restored HD Master in 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio
- English LPCM Mono, Mandarin LPCM Mono 2.0, Newly Translated English Subtitles
- TECHNICAL SPECS: Region Code: AB, Audio: DTS-HD MA Dual Mono, Picture: HD 1080p 2.35:1, Runtime: 113 mins approx, Language: English / Chinese, Subtitles: English,
And I’m Out
The Flag Of Iron released on Blu-ray in the USA February 8th, 2022 from 88 Films