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Thread: Ten years ago, my dad and I went to see DRAGON GATE INN (1967)

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    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Default Ten years ago, my dad and I went to see DRAGON GATE INN (1967)

    About ten years ago, the college that I was attending (UCLA) hosted a free screening of classic wuxia films. Mind you, this was a few years before wuxia first got any meaningful exposure in the West thanks to the success of CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON. My father had always sold DRAGON GATE INN to me as the "greatest wuxia movie ever made." He had seen it in Hong Kong back in the Sixties years before I was born. I grew up watching TVB Jin Yong and Gu Long adaptations, and Dad always told me that DRAGON GATE INN (made in 1966) blew those away as far as being a serious, epic wuxia adaptation steeped in realism.

    Needless to say, I was hyped for it.

    So we went to see it. It...wasn't bad. I wasn't bored by it, but it didn't blow me away like I thought it would after the way my dad had described it to me. It *was* more realistic than the TVB adaptations...had to be, owing to the more primitive state of SFX back then (and the generally better production values of movies versus TV series in general). That being said, it wasn't the masterpiece I imagined it would be. It was just...kind of OK.

    Even my dad came out of the movie confessing that having rewatched it, it didn't seem quite as great as it did when he first saw it in the Sixties. I could relate: I recently rewatched the unremastered, original (i.e. non-Special Edition) version of the first STAR WARS movie, and what looked really cutting edge back in 1977 looks like a joke in 2007.

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    Senior Member shenlong's Avatar
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    Well films with SFX fade over time. The plot never dies, and if it is portrayed as a book I think that will stick with you longer than a movie or T.V. series. I will probably forget all of the series I've seen now, but I doubt I'll forget most of the wuxia books I've read.
    秋风清,秋风明;落叶聚还散,寒鸦栖复惊。相思相见知何日,此时此夜难为情

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    Senior Member PJ's Avatar
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    I was equally thrilled about having the opportunity to view this much acclaimed classic on video. I was not so thrilled after viewing it. In fact, I hated it for many years. But recently, I have come to accept it more. I think in general it is a BAD idea to hype up a vintage film to someone new to it. Lord knows how many times I'd been disappointed.
    忽见柳荫下两个小孩子在哀哀痛哭,瞧模样正是武敦儒、武修文兄弟。郭芙大声叫道:「喂,你们在干甚麽?」武 修文回头见是郭芙,哭道:「我们在哭,你不见麽?」

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    Senior Member dewyloony123's Avatar
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    Golly, I was hoping to see "Dragon Gate Inn" based on the reputation... now I'm glad I've run into these words of warning. Thanks, folks!

    (and don't I sound like a 1950s eager beaver? Talk about old-school...)

    A great deal of the excitement/hype surrounding the film and idealizations of the film arise from nostalgia for days gone by. Lost youth. Salad days .

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    Senior Member Ren Ying Ying's Avatar
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    was this the first of its kind?

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    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ren Ying Ying View Post
    was this the first of its kind?
    I don't think it was the first wuxia movie ever made, but it was probably the first done with a big budget production, full color, etc. There wasn't anything we would call SFX today, but my dad said that at the time, audiences were in awe because it was like nothing they'd ever seen before.

    But, from the point of view of someone who grew up later, it just looks like a wuxia movie from the 1960s...albeit one with a larger budget than others of its time.

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    Senior Member odbayarb2000's Avatar
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    Hmm, first expressions are always more glowing/shining than later ones.
    Maybe that movie was your dad's first exposure to the wuxia, or perhaps he watched it with your mom in their earlier days of relationship. That's why he thinks and says that way.
    "Big Hero Linghu kills frogs with the Dugu Nine Swords!


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    Senior Member mawguy's Avatar
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    hmmm...while i agree the techniques/technology then available dates the movie, i enjoyed watching it. my mom also watched it in theatres when it first came out, and i've been subjected to the same kind of hype.

    i think i got past the limitations because the story was compelling enough.
    nostalgic for wuxiasociety? http://wuxiasociety.freeforums.net/

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    Senior Member Temujin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cheng View Post
    So we went to see it. It...wasn't bad. I wasn't bored by it, but it didn't blow me away like I thought it would after the way my dad had described it to me. It *was* more realistic than the TVB adaptations...had to be, owing to the more primitive state of SFX back then (and the generally better production values of movies versus TV series in general). That being said, it wasn't the masterpiece I imagined it would be. It was just...kind of OK.

    Even my dad came out of the movie confessing that having rewatched it, it didn't seem quite as great as it did when he first saw it in the Sixties. I could relate: I recently rewatched the unremastered, original (i.e. non-Special Edition) version of the first STAR WARS movie, and what looked really cutting edge back in 1977 looks like a joke in 2007.
    I am not sure about you, but though I won't consider myself a wuxia pien expert, I am a part-time film enthusiast, and a wuxia film collector (I am fortunate to have amassed about 500 wuxia films in my collection to date, including rarities from the 1930s, Shaw, Golden Harvest and other Taiwanese independent films), nevertheless it wasn't until 2-3 years ago, I had finally watched the legendary Dragon Gate Inn again (I watched about 20 something years ago) ... My reaction.... I was floored when I saw both Dragon Gate Inn and if I can add one more, A Touch of Zen, both by one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, King Hu. Perhaps his works can only be compared to two other Chinese directors before his time... Li Han Hsiang and Doe Chin. However the latter two weren't wuxia pien directors. Even Chu Yuan and Chang Cheh weren't even at the same level as King Hu.

    The movie might be a lot more raw, slower in the pacing, undeveloped in terms of sword fight choreography compared to today's standard, but it was the pioneer of its time, and what's to come in the wuxia pien genre. Its influenced is still felt today, even the recent famous Chinese directors such as Tsui Hark or Ang Lee or Zhang JiMou still owed it to King Hu. Because King Hu felt his talent was limited working for Shaw Brothers in his first wuxia pien Come Drink with Me, he quit Shaw Brothers and directed Dragon Gate Inn throwing everything in his arsenal, including maximizing the use of Taiwanese landscape to create the grandeur feel, the camera movement was so dynamic that you felt you were in the movie, really they just don't make this kind of movie anymore... In Dragon Gate Inn King Hu brought the new elements of realism mixed with poetic beauty in movements, you could see each character facial expression were intense, they looked real. The under-reliance of CGI and visual effect technology also needed to be pointed out, as King Hu often waited for days or weeks to shoot the scenes so that the natural sunlight or weather could brought the mood he was trying to create. King Hu also paid a lot of details to costumes, designs and realistic sets, his style is natural poetic movement with intense style with dynamic camera work. King Hu also liked to focused on storylines, unlike the directors of its time like Chang Cheh who focused on blood spurting, man bounding theme, prioritizing bloody fights over quality of the story. You may want to notice the element of music that comes into play during the intense scenes in his movie, they complement the scene, we can see clearly how later Ang Lee mimicked it in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. King Hu was a master at these elements.

    If you are familiar with other King Hu's films, you will start to notice his brilliant artistic talent with the camera and details, synchronizing all the elements of nature while putting his character in the heart of the films using long shots or intense tracking camera movements, Legend of the Mountain, The Valliant One, Raining in the Mountain, Painted Skin (Sammo Hung, Joey Wang), etc. In Dragon Gate Inn, Shangguan Lingfeng (a famous Taiwanese Queen of wuxia pien) completely impressed me as a heroine in the hands of King Hu and Han Yingjie (the martial arts choreographer), only Cheng Pei Pei and later Hsu Feng in A Touch of Zen can equalize her rare on screen magnetism.

    To me, Dragon Gate Inn is a bridge for King Hu to create his ultimate masterpiece, A Touch of Zen considered one of the best films ever made in many all time lists around the world. While Come Drink with Me provide the spark of flame to jump start the genre and A Touch of Zen provide a complex world of wuxia intervined with some elements of buddhism or whatever messages King Hu was trying to convey, it was a long 3 hour movie, Dragon Gate Inn gave us the best of both world, not as raw as Come Drink with Me, and the first film that King Hu was able to freely utilize all his talents given the limitation of the period, it wasn't too artistic and long as A Touch of Zen either. A Touch of Zen failed in the box office during its released, the movie was just way ahead of its time. No one liked the artistic aspiration of King Hu at the time, but even until today the bamboo fight scene still inspired of what's to come.

    Check it out here.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W66deTvYq6c

    To me, Dragon Gate Inn remains one of the best wuxia pien that ever hit the movie screen and one of the best films ever. just a little comment from me.
    Last edited by Temujin; 07-17-07 at 07:30 PM.
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