"Long men kezhan", internationally known as "Dragon Inn" is a co-production between Taiwan and Hong Kong from 1967, so this one is already over half a century old and it is in the Mandarin language. The director is King Hu, who was still in his 30s when he made this one, also wrote it, and I read he is considered as one of the defining directors nowadays when it comes to old Eastern films. It needs to be said that this is a color film, not too uncommon for Asian movies from that time, probably more common than for most other regions in the world. And if you look at the film's rating, the number of votes, and also how much it is appreciated on other websites and how remakes and sequels have been made or just new films inspired by this one, you can see that it is very popular today, almost considered a mini classic. It runs for 110 minutes and takes place several centuries in the past. The story is relatively simple you could say. It is a fairly political movie, even if it may not seem like that to the untrained eye. We have the two children of an influential dead general and they are told to pass by the location in the (English) title and this is where a big group of soldiers/assassins awaits them in order to execute them. However, it won't be a piece of cake mission because a ruthless (seems so kind and friendly) martial artist arrives before the two children and add to that a sibling duo that is not too unskilled either also awaits there and all three of them have in mind to lead the two sons to safety and exile before they can get killed. Also the innkeeper is part of the resistance team, so it is these 4 people basically against the rest you could say. Good enough for close to two hours? Very much so I would say. I enjoyed the watch for sure. I must say it did take me a little while to get interested, but the moment the guy in white enters the inn/movie, it is pretty fun most of the time, also had me occasionally on the edge of my seat. I mean the outcome is slightly predictable and there are little to no shades in the characters in terms of good and evil, but that rarely feels like a problem. My guess early on was that the young sister and the guy in white would be the only two surviving from this quartet and it turns out I wasn't entirely wrong. But it is somewhat good and realistic that sacrifices had to be made. With these two surviving ones, I also felt it was to include a minor love story that is really only just referenced extremely vaguely.
Okay, when at some point the bad guys from the inn are all killed, the action moves forward to the headquarter of the eastern forces, the bad guys. And one bad guy in particular of course, the one with the very light blonde hair. Usually it is not a good sign if several fighters approach one for the several guys (and we saw that with everybody who tried to kill the guy in white earlier), but here it is the spectacular end fight sequence in which we learn that the super bad guy is capable of a very unique fighting technique that he uses to fight (and kill) some of the good guys near the end. I liked it. It was almost a bit of a pity that he had no screen time before that really. He sure was interesting enough to be featured in other scenes. I would also like to say that the eunuch references about him are the only attempts at comedy really. And I am not even sure if they should be seen as that. Of course, they were gigantic degrees of humiliation for the bad guy and maybe completely unfunny int he 1960s. Also a bit edgy for the guy in white to constantly mock his opponent with the general's kids who went through the same painful measure and clearly it is still very much in their heads. But for the audience it was entertaining, no denying. Stuff like you need to watch what you got up there if you have nothing down there. Very vague quote from me now. Other (considered today) slightly funny sequences include some of the earlier martial artis fight in the Dragon Inn and how quickly the guy in white fights back at those trying to kill him and how precise he is. Yeah well it does not feel too realistic, but it is pretty cool and funny and that is why the film is probably getting away with it. The characters are all interesting, which is really important here, as even if the story and fight sequences are key, this would not have been a good film without strong casting and decent performances. And boy, Polly Ling-Feng Shang-Kuan is a cutie easily showing that there are no extremely beautiful Asian women outside Japan is nonsense. Am I even allowed to say this? She was like 17 when this film was made, but seemed a bit older for sure. With that very heterosexual statement I am almost done. Another kinda memorable aspect here is the ending, which even if the fight is over after a very memorable way of suicide and somebody losing his head in the truest sense of the word felt a bit surprising with how quickly it happened and very abrupt. But I think that was not uncommon for Asian martial arts films from that era at all and as we see the victors wander off, the credits roll in. It somehow fits. Go watch this one. I can somehow see how many people include this in their Top10 films from this genre. The beginning was a bit slow, but then it moved back and forth between good and great, so no hesitation for me in giving this one a thumbs-up. Go check it out.