ASIAN FILM - Review
11:48 - 12th January 2016, by David West

Dragon Inn

Originally released in 1967, King Hu’s second martial arts film concerns a group of warriors trying to save the lives of the children of their former commander, recently executed under false pretences by the power hungry eunuch Cao (Pai Ying). At the remote Dragon Inn, the heroes cross wits and then steel with Cao’s ruthless henchmen led by Bi Xiaotang (Miao Tian) and Mao Congxian (Han Ying-Chieh). Lined up against them are the innkeeper Wu (Cho Kin), wandering scholar Xiao (Shih Chun), and the two Chu siblings (Shangguan Lingfeng and Sit Hon).

Dragon Inn has proved enduringly influential in the five decades since its creation. It has been remade twice, in 1992 and 2011, but in the grand scheme of King Hu’s output, it’s not quite up to the standard of Come Drink With Me or The Fate Of Lee Khan. The action choreography by Han Ying-Chieh draws heavily upon the Peking Opera tradition and looks dated now. Likewise, the acting can often be stiff – and while there is humour, particularly in the interplay between the Chu siblings, there is nothing to match the wit and crafty plot twists found in The Fate Of Lee Khan. Shangguan Lingfeng steals the show as swordswoman Chu, although Pai Ying makes a delightfully despicable villain. Despite the vintage aesthetic and theatrical style, neither of the later remakes can match the grandeur or drama of the original classic.

A fascinating reminder of what martial arts cinema looked like before the rise of Bruce Lee.
SCORE: 4/5
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