The first thing that startles prospective viewers of this Venoms’ film is the absence of such series stalwarts Lo Meng and Sun Chien. This is obviously bound to be a flaw as will be discussed later, but any chance to see such masters of the craft as Philip Kwok, Chiang Sheng, Lu Feng and supreme director Chang Cheh is always going to be worth watching. In this intrigue-packed tale of crosses and double-crosses presents the various stars pushing back the boundaries of what can be considered a deadly weapon; here the heroes/villains fight with spear topped flags – something that can hardly be boasted in many kung-fu films.
The honourable Iron Flag clan are well-respected within their hometown and their righteous stand against any tyranny is often documented. One rival, however, decide to wipe out the heroic clan and be continue their immoral practices. On hearing about the plan, the Iron Flag chief decides to attack the villainous school before the plan can be executed. The assault goes well until the master is mysteriously killed; professional killer ‘Man In White’ – who has been hired by the Iron Flag elder pupil Chow (Lu Feng) to help their cause – is the chief suspect. However, the suspicious student Lo (Philip Kwok) is unable to investigate when he is persuaded to be a scapegoat for the mass battle and is forced to leave town. Living as an exile away from the martial world, the innocent fighter gets work as a waiter and hopes to return home when the heat has died down. What starts out as a quiet existence away from the Iron Flag clan is disturbed when a series of hitmen are sent out to kill him. Although he successfully vanquishes these foes, the puzzled Lo begins to piece together past events and meets his loyal clan brother. After being told that Chow has turned the Iron Flag clan into a money-making enterprise, Lo decides to go back to town and uncover the mystery of Chow’s reign. This brings to the fore an unlikely ally in the shape of the ‘Man In White’.
First the bad news: without the aforementioned Venoms in ‘The Flag Of Iron’, this doesn’t manage to live up to classics like ‘Killer Army’ and ‘Invincible Shaolin’. Although Chang Cheh once again gives his very watchable supporting players the chance to stand out, they do not compensate for the absentees. The storyline, while interesting, is not developed with the same panache that Chang Cheh usually shows; the first half seems to just present Philip Kwok with numerous opponents with little build up to the showdowns. Thankfully, even these minor inadequacies do not stop this from being another thunderous piece of entertainment. The three remaining Venoms are as good as can be expected with each one again proving their physical and thespian aptitude. The action may not be the very best the team has performed, but remains exciting and constantly inventive. As always, the highlight is seeing Philip Kwok and Lu Feng face one another again – fans will not be disappointed by their finale. ‘The Flag Of Iron’ is a good film in nearly all of its departments and therefore earns a strong recommendation.
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