In the Ming dynasty, mighty eunuch Tsao Chow Shih wants to augment the
power he already has, and to that end, he has Ue, a mighty minister,
executed on false charges. But not enough with that, he also wants to kill
his family, who are already in the hands of the imperial guards, so he
sends out general Shao Tan and his agents from the East Agency to
intercept them at the Dragon Gate and have them killed.
So the East Agency soon sets up camp at the Dragon Gate Inn, throws all
other guests out and bullies, occasionally even kills, the personnel ...
that is until swordfighter Xiao (Shih Jun) stops by, who isn't impressed
by the agents' bullying and pays every attempt to hurt or even kill him
back in kind. Eventually Shao Tan comes to accept that the inn has another
guest, especially since the innkeeper Wu insists that he is a friend of
Then two more guests arrive, brother and sister Ju Li and Ju Hui, fine
swordfighters as well who won't be bullied - and it soon becomes clear
that they want to protect Ue's family ... but unfortunately they at first
think that Xiao, not the East Agents, is the assassin.
Once they realize their error though, Ju Li, Ju Hui, Xiao and innkeeper
Wu - who was once a general under Ue - decide to work together in
protecting Ue's family, and the very next day they set out to interceptz
them before they reach the Dragon Gate - but too late, somehow the Ues get
to the Dragon Gate while our heroic quartet is out looking for them. In a
violent battle, our heroes not only manage to regain control over the inn
and free the Ues from the East Agency, they also manage to kill general
Shao Tan - much to the dismay of the eunuch Tsao Chow Shih, who, a master
swordfighter and martial artist way mre skilled than our heroes, now
decides to take things into his own hands, and soon enough he intercepts
them when they are on the way to bring the Ues to safety ...
Our heroes know that they only have one chance: To keep Tsao Chow Shih
occupied fighting, as he suffers from asthma, and only when they have him
all exhausted they can give him the final blow - finally they succeed, but
the battle leaves many of our heroes dead or fatally wounded - but the Ues
are in safety now.
After the success of his Come
Drink with Me (also 1966), director King Hu decided to leave Hong
Kong, and his production company, the Shaw
Brothers, for Taiwan, to direct films for the Union Film
Company. Now one might argue if that sounds like a clever move, his
first film, Dragon Gate Inn however became one of the most
successful East Asian films of its time and is held in high regards by
critics and fans alike even today ...
... and what can I say: A truly great swordplay/martial arts-film,
a film that equally relies on first-class action, intelligent story and
interesting characterizations far beyond the usual good-evil dichotomy,
a film that is not carried by the same dry seriousness like many other
swordplay-films of its time (including the early Chang Cheh-films) but
manages to bring a light approach to the serious proceedings. Of course,
beautiful cinematography and influences from the Western and Japanese
samurai films do not hurt either.