AKA: Dragon Gate Inn, Breakthrough

Year of release: 1967

Genre: martial arts

Director: King Hu

Action director: Han Ying-Chieh

Producer: Cheung Tiu Yin

Stars: Polly Shang Kwan, Hsu Feng, Shih Jun, Pai Ying, Tin Peng, Cho Kin, Go Ming, Got Siu-Bo, Phillip Ko, Han Ying-Chieh, Man Chung San, Miu Tin, Sit Hon

Not rated; contains IIA-level violence

DVD Information

Company: Red Sun

Format: widescreen

Languages: Mandarin

Subtitles: English

Extras: cast/crew info, plot synopsis

Notes: Certainly not the best DVD available of this movie out there -- the picture has some scratching and fading, and the menus and extras are all in Chinese. Still, it is relatively cheap and easily available for US buyers.

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Dragon Inn

Dragon Inn

Widely regarded as one of the finest kung fu movies ever created, King Hu's Dragon Inn (aka Dragon Gate Inn) still holds up today, some forty years after its' original release. But tracking down a decent copy in the US has often been a tricky proposition. Thankfully, this has been rectified by Red Sun, who have recently put out the film on DVD, which will allow a whole new audience to experience this epic for the first time.

Dragon Inn

The story (as you might guess) centers around an inn located in one of the most desolate parts of China. It is a time of turmoil, with the evil eunuch Zhao (Pai Ying) looking to increase his standing with the emperor by getting rid of his enemies. Zhao has recently executed one of the members of the royal court, and sends his family into exile. Not wanting to create any more ammunition for the growing rebellion, Zhao sends a group of mercenaries led by the great warrior Shao Tung (Miu Tin) to the Dragon Inn to lay an ambush and kill off the remaining family members. The mercenaries quickly dispatch all the troops in the area and take over the inn. The plan seems to be well on its' way to fruition until various people come to the inn. After learing about the planned assassinations, the inn's guests come together to drive out the mercenaries, but then the inn becomes like a prison as the villains return to lay siege to it.

Dragon Inn

Most Hong Kong movie fans out there have probably seen the 1992 remake, New Dragon Inn, which was a great movie in its' own right, but quite over-the-top in terms of its' wire-fu action and gory violence. So those who have been weaned on films like that might be initially put off by the slower pacing and relatively bloodless action of the original version. But if you're a viewer with a bit of patience and give Dragon Inn a chance, you'll see why many consider the "old school" of kung fu movies the real "golden age" of Chinese film-making.

Dragon Inn

For starters, the movie is wonderfully shot and edited. In this day and age, when most action sequences consist of close-up two-second shots, it was great seeing wide shots where you can actually see what the performers are doing. Granted, the stuff here isn't up to the manic level of a Jackie Chan or Jet Li picture, but there's a lot of fights, and they get quite intricate -- especially towards the end, which culminates in a breathtakingly-shot five-on-one brawl near the top of a mountain.

Dragon Inn

I also really enjoyed the way King Hu kept things simple in terms of story-telling; he doesn't depend on any twists or double-crosses to keep things interesting. And some note should also be made of the actors, all of which -- especially the legendary Polly Shang Kwan -- do an outstanding job. Overall, Dragon Inn is an outstanding film, and deserves a viewing by anyone and everyone that considers themselves a fan of martial arts movies. When put up against most of the weak efforts put out in recent years on both sides of the ocean, there really is no comparison. This is one of those films that can truly be considered a "classic", and hopefully, it will continue to do so for years to come.

Dragon Inn