Thursday, September 4, 2008

Dragon Inn (The Original)

I finally had a chance to see King Hu's Dragon Inn and enjoyed it. The picture quality and subtitles were not of the highest caliber and I think those factors may have limited my enjoyment of the film -- it's hard to watch a lot of the Shaw re-issues and then see something from the same era that looks so bad.

King Hu, apparently, did this film after his triumph with Come Drink With Me for the Shaw Brothers studio and you can see similar set pieces and themes at work in this film as well.

I thoroughly recommend Brian's review here, as well as the further essays he has up on his site.

Dragon Inn is certainly more stagey than Tsui Hark's version -- as is to be expected -- but it's also a good deal more stagey than similar Cheng Pei Pei films made at the Shaw Brothers studio at the time. I think part of that owes to the film's largest section being set in the titular inn.

But for film fans, it's not unlike watching an American Western -- very similar I'd say -- where the heroes and villains eye each other up in the saloon for a good long time before fighting it out.

Not quite the stylistic mix-up that A Touch of Zen is (not that that's a negative comment, by the way) and not the classic -- for me at least -- that Come Drink With Me is, Dragon Inn is worth seeking out to see an early classic of the wuxia genre.

Contrary to the listing on YesAsia.com, this edition of the DVD does indeed have English subtitles. They are not particularly good English subtitles, but they are there; I noticed they also dropped out a few times when characters were speaking.