Hong Kong Cinema

Chinese Super Ninja

(Five Element Ninja)

  • Made: 1982
  • Format: DVD
  • Region: 0 NTSC
  • Release Date: November 2000
  • Company: Ground Zero
  • Length: 104 mins
  • Picture: Full Screen Video Transfer
  • Language: Dubbed Audio
  • Extras: Chapters
  • Classification: R


Chang Cheh


Michael Chan (Wai Man), Lo Meng, Chen Pei Hsi, Lung Tien Hsiang, Lau Tin-Chi, Wong Lik, Bruce Lai, Ricky Cheng (Tien Chi), Kwan Fung, Chan Shen, Chui Tai Ping

Chinese Super Ninjas (Five Element Ninja) is commonly classed as one of Chang Cheh's Venom movies, but in actual fact it only contains one of the original Venoms, Lo Meng (Toad). This film was four years after the seminal Five Venoms and since then, many of the stars had departed the Shaw stable. Unlike many of Chang Cheh's previous Venoms offerings, this one has divided his fans more than any other. Some have revelled in the excessive gore and violence of the movie, whereas others have declared it dated and camp. It managed to take a lightweight HK $1,628,000 during its seven-week run at the box office outperforming House of Traps, but considerably dwarfed by many Golden Harvest productions.


As with every great kung fu movie, the first ten minutes should be extremely little dialogue and a great deal of action. Chinese Super Ninjas certainly does not disappoint, with Mr Li's school challenging Mr Kang's school to a martial arts tournament. After having his students humiliated, Mr Kang (Chen Pei His) summons his Samurai to defeat Mr Li's students. However, an unarmed Shi Shang (Lo Meng) defeats the Samurai. Before the samurai commits Hari-kiri he first poisons Mr Li and sends for the Ninja master (Michael Chan) to kill all of them. The Ninja leader arrives with his five element ninjas; gold, wood, fire, water and earth. The ninja leader uses the beautiful Sungi to infiltrate Mr Li's headquarters and eradicate the remaining students. After all the treachery, only Shao Tien Hao (Ricky Cheng) remains and he flees to an old master who teaches him along with three other students how to defeat the five element ninjas.



This film's 'campness' is due to the costumes and weaponry of the ninjas. Each of the five elements have colour coded pyjamas to show which they are (i.e. fire = red, water = blue etc). They all have special styles to defeat their opponents. The gold ninjas useful reflective weapons that blind their opponents and the wood ninjas disguise themselves as trees. The fire ninjas create red smoke clouds to disorientate their victims. Predictably the water ninjas hide under water and the earth ninjas explode out of the ground! The whole emphasis of this movie lies in tongue-in-cheek suspense and surprise, and this is further enhanced when Lo Meng is butchered halfway through the movie after being portrayed as the main protagonist.

The film almost exists in two discernible halves. The first section is where the ninjas defeat Mr Li and his students, and the second involves Ricky Cheng training and then exacting his revenge. The training sequences are classic Chang Cheh (see Invincible Shaolin, Crippled Avengers etc), with blindfold fighting featuring prominently. The four challengers use a multi-faceted weapon to take on the ninjas, which is an axe, spear and stilts among other things. The revenge scenes are particularly brutal and include one ninja having all four limbs torn off and one of them tripping over his own intestines. The fighting scenes are well choreographed and good fun, but they also display the limitations of Chang Cheh. Cheh sticks to his tried and tested method of using hidden trampolines, shots in reverse and super crimson blood within the all too familiar Shaw set. However, the fighting is consistently good throughout and many different weapons and styles are crammed into this festival of pyjama clad kung fu.


The disc is an very early Ground Zero offering with a poor dubbed soundtrack and a very soft full screen picture. The extras are non-existent, but once again these discs are probably worth picking up at a bargain price, until the Celestial version comes out.




Chinese Super Ninjas when contrasted against Shaolin Challenges Ninja (Heroes of the East) provides a clear distinction between the attitudes and styles of Chang Cheh and Lau Kar Leung. Chang Cheh is content to depict the Japanese as back-stabbing and deceitful and have their women shown as weak and treacherous rogues. He is also determined to ensure that the Chinese reap a bloody and painful revenge on the Japanese. Lau Kar Leung instead focused on the mastery of different martial arts disciplines and the respect between different schools. He was also prepared to give a major lead to a female character, and show the Japanese to be just as honourable as the Chinese. Neither approach is right or wrong, but for me this remains the greatest distinction between the two directing legends.

Chinese Super Ninjas was released in the same period as Young Master, Prodigal Son and Buddhist Fist. The 'three brothers' and Yuen Woo Ping were busy developing some of the most intricate and stunning kung fu sequences ever put to print, but Chang Cheh was too set in his ways to innovate in the twilight of his career. Love it or hate it, Chinese Super Ninjas is the ultimate showcase of Chang Cheh's infatuation with gore, violence, secret weapons, training sequences, vibrant arrays of costumes and weaponry and more than anything else; a bloody and gruesome quest for revenge.