Reviewed by: bastardswordsman
A brilliant film with an impressive 'who's who' 1970s castlist. Click on the links section on the left-hand task bar for a webpage with cast photos from this and several other films starring Mao Ying.
Back to the film, it really was more than I expected, a really engaging espionage affair. The introductory scene of the restaurant is superbly handled, the director Hu allowing us plenty of time to get a feel for the place and the period in which the proceedings take place, as well an introducing us to some of the key characters.
The second part of the film deals with Lee Khan and his presence in the Inn, the Inn being kept central pretty much throughout the film. This leads to much suspenseful interplay, plotting and political manoeuvring amongst the various characters, all culminating in a violent martial conclusion.
Without question recommeded.
Reviewed by: jean yves
Summary: Another King Hu Masterpiece
Dragon Inn broke box office records in Asia in 1967, and A Touch of Zen(1969) won a Grand Prix at Cannes. With The Fate of Lee Khan, King Hu further refined his vision of the martial arts film. The plot is very similar to his masterful Dragon Inn, in that it involves a myriad collection of travelers, soldiers, spies, and employees all interacting in a lonely, windswept desert Inn in Northern China. The employess of the Inn are mostly Chinese patriots, whereas the visitor Lee Khan and his entourage are Mongol officials plotting against the Chinese. The owner of the Inn and her staff are trying to get the map from the posession of Lee Khan and his sister without their knowledge, and without arousing their suspicions. Everyone is trying to put on the facade of politeness and civility, but you soon become aware that a lot of the people in the Inn are concealing ulterior motives, political and military ambitions, and superior martial arts skills--which of course all come out in the open at the finale.
Compared to the more available Shaw Brothers movies, King Hu's works stand in sharp contrast. While I do love the SB films, I would have to admit that, aside from some gems, the bulk of them are B-movies, cranked out quickly and with an eye towards the market. King Hu's films, however, are closer in spirit to Kurowsawa epics, with generally much better acting, plots and cinematic aspirations than the standard 70's kung fu movies. His works have very high production values (Lee Khan and his sister where actual historical antique costumes). The fight scenes aren't as complex as the later SB choreography, but IMO the fact that the plot and characters are so much better developed makes the action scenes very appealing. Also, unlike the gaudy wire-work of 90's KF movies, King Hu opted instead for much more use of trampolines, which to my mind looks much more natural and exciting.
Don't expect the fast pace and lightning fight scenes of more modern kung fu movies, but in my opinion King Hu more than makes up for this with simply superior filmmaking.
Reviewed by: STSH
A little stagey and slow in places, when compared with slick modern HK action pics, but still very good, and well above the average of the time. I saw Tsui Hark's New Dragon Inn shortly after this one, and it seems very likely Hark was paying tribute to this film. The plot and settings are very much the same - political intrigues played out in a desert setting, with plenty of smouldering evil looks, swordplay and flying people.
Reviewer Score: 5
In short, very much an Eastern Western. Worth a look.