The Chinese wuxia (martial arts) picture was never the same after King Hu’s legendary Dragon Inn. During the Ming dynasty, the emperor’s minister of defense is framed by a powerful court eunuch and then executed; his children are pursued by secret police. In the ensuing chase, a mysterious group of strangers begin to gather at the remote Dragon Gate Inn, where paths (and swords) will cross. This thrilling milestone of film history returns to the screen in a new, beautifully restored 4K digital transfer, created from the original camera negative.
TAIWAN • 1971 • 111 MINUTES • COLOR
IN MANDARIN WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES • 2.35:1
Director/Scriptwriter: King Hu
Producers: Sha Jung-feng, Hsia-wu Liang Fang
Cinematographer: Hua Huiying
Editors: King Hu, Wang Chin-chen
Music: Wu Dajiang
Martial arts choreographers: Han Yingjie, Pan Yao-kun
Hsu Feng as Yang Huizhen
Shi Jun as Gu Shengzhai
Bai Ying as General Shih Wen-chaio
About the Restoration
King Hu’s Dragon Inn was restored in 4K by the Chinese Taipei Film Archive and L’Immagine Ritrovata from the 35 mm original camera negative, which, fortunately, was still in relatively good condition. The primary focus of the restoration was correcting the main issues affecting the negative: flicker, dirt, scratches, splice marks, and a generally unstable image. As there was no vintage print available to be used as a color reference, notes on color timing held by the Film Archive proved to be key. The monaural soundtrack was likewise restored from the original sound negative, with distortion and cross modulation corrected using digital tools.
• During the Ming dynasty, there were many eunuchs in the emperor’s court. They were considered reliable officials and nonthreatening to the royal bloodlines, as they could not marry and start dynasties of their own. They often gained large swaths of political and military power as a result.
• Director King Hu was a talented calligrapher, and he painted Dragon Inn’s opening credits himself.
• Many filmmakers have paid tribute, directly or indirectly, to Dragon Inn. In Tsai Ming-liang’s Goodbye, Dragon Inn, Hu’s film is playing as the last feature to ever screen at the historic Taipei Cinema. Dragon Inn actors Shi Jun and Miao Tien both appear in the audience. The camera work, choreography, and special effects of Dragon Inn have had a clear aesthetic influence on such modern-day entries in the martial arts genre as Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Zhang Yimou’s Hero and House of Flying Daggers. Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight has many plot similarities with Dragon Inn.
• Bai Ying, who memorably plays the eunuch in the film, would go on to play the eunuch in Teddy Yip’s entertaining Shaw Brothers film The Eunuch.
• Hu encouraged his martial arts choreographers to draw from the alternately fluid and rhythmic movements of Chinese opera. Rather than resorting to fast or slow motion, footage printed backward, animation, or other early special-effects techniques, the filmmaker relied as much as possible on the actual skills of his performers and on the magic of editing.