King Hu is one of the few directors from Asia that are loved by critics and fans alike but his films have been treated very poorly on home video formats over the years. A new 4K restoration of Dragon Inn was done by L’Imagine Ritrovata and the results are seen on this new Blu ray / DVD release.
It’s the middle of the Ming Dynasty. The powerful eunuch Cao has killed the Loyal Minister Yu, and Yu’s children are exiled to the border, whereupon Cao undertakes efforts to massacre the remnants of the family. As Yu’s children take refuge in the Dragon Gate Inn, Xiao the righteous swordsman and the surviving loyalists of Minister Yu engage in a series of battles to the death against the forces of the bloodthirsty eunuch.
When released it broke box office records in Taiwan and stands up well today and you can see where this film and his previous hit Come Drink With Me set the benchmark for all swordplay (WuXia) films to follow.
What strikes you about the film is the magnificent cinematography and the way the director uses the build-up of tension before a major action scene. Those not familiar with the older Swordplay movies must be made aware that the choreography although well staged is nothing like what fans today are used to seeing, but for 1967 it was a revelation. The film still seems fresh and exciting to watch especially now it has been remastered properly and can be seen as it should be.
The 1080p picture is fabulous, lush colours and solid blacks give it a very cinematic look. The sound is original Mandarin mono and sounds as it should, robust and clear. Subtitles are easy to read and free of any errors. Extras are a little disappointing, you get some rare black and white archive footage of the premiere in Taiwan and a video essay by critic David Cairns which I found a little dull.
The booklet is very informative with writing on the film by critic Tony Rayns; a testimonial about King Hu by Tsui Hark; an analysis of Hu’s style by Edmond Wong; the eight characteristics of “the inn” in King Hu’s films and archival images.
This is a dual Blu ray / DVD release. (REGION B / 2)
Overall a great disc with a fantastic restoration, let’s hope other classic Swordplay / Kung Fu movies will get the same treatment in the future.
FILM: 8 PICTURE: 8 AUDIO: 8 EXTRAS: 5