The Silver Emulsion Podcast: Ep. 138 – Dragon Inn

This week on the Silver Emulsion Podcast, Stephen and I talk about King Hu’s follow-up to Come Drink With Me, the even more influential Dragon Inn! Sharpen your swords and enjoy! 🙂

Watch Dragon Inn along with us on Blu-ray, DVD, or iTunes!

Also: the show is on iTunes! So if you feel like subscribing there, or rating/reviewing the show, feel free to share your thoughts!

Music Notes

Intro:

Outro:

  • Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Ramada Inn

If you’ve got feedback, throw it into the comments below or email it to me via the contact page! We’ll include it in a future show!

The podcast is embedded directly below this, or you can go directly to Podbean (or use their app) to listen. If you want to subscribe, paste http://silveremulsion.podbean.com/feed/ into whatever reader you’re using.

Chinatown Capers (1974)

ChinatownCapers_1Chinatown Capers [小英雄大鬧唐人街] (1974)
AKA The Chinese Enforcers, Back Alley Princess in Chinatown

Starring Polly Shang-Kuan Ling-Feng, Samuel Hui Koon-Kit, Sylvia Chang Ai-Chia, Don Wong Tao, Idemura Fumio, Pamela Pak Wan-Kam, Melvin Wong, Wong Sam

Directed by Lo Wei

Expectations: Low. I didn’t like the first one.

twostar


Chinatown Capers was a big box office hit in Hong Kong when it was released. This is a little hard for me to understand, considering the strength of some of the films that didn’t do nearly as well, but that’s the way these things go. Successful mainstream fluff will often fades as time passes, while artistic work generally stays potent and powerful. And it’s hardly a stretch to call this film pure fluff. Like the first film, Back Alley Princess, it’s highly episodic and without much of a story. It works better in Chinatown Capers, perhaps because the culture clash brought on by the setting makes the film more entertaining and relatable to Western viewers such as myself.

You could easily watch Chinatown Capers without having seen Back Alley Princess. Honestly, the only benefit is already being familiar with the main duo of Chili Boy (Polly Shang-Kuan Ling-Feng) and Embroidered Pillow (Samuel Hui Koon-Kit), so you know what kind of movie you’re in for. None of the other characters return, because they’re all back in Hong Kong. Yes, Chili Boy and Embroidered Pillow have flown to San Francisco to… I don’t know… I guess they got tired of Hong Kong! The actual reason they’ve arrived in the US isn’t mentioned until much later (that’s the “story” I mentioned), but it doesn’t matter for my purposes here.

Continue reading Chinatown Capers (1974) →

Back Alley Princess (1973)

BackAlleyPrincess+1973-4-bBack Alley Princess [馬路小英雄] (1973)

Starring Polly Kuan, Samuel Hui Koon-Kit, Lau Wing, Angela Mao, Lee Kwan, Tien Feng, Wang Lai, Tong Ching, Carter Wong, Wu Jia-Xiang, Han Ying-Chieh, Fung Ngai, Huang Chung-Hsin

Directed by Lo Wei

Expectations: Hmm?

onehalfstar


Back Alley Princess feels like one of those movies that was popular in its day, but it’s hard for a modern viewer to see exactly why. It’s an odd mix of a light comedic tone, heavy drama involving a prostitution ring, and some martial arts action… none of which are of quality enough to stand on their own. Ordinarily a multi-genre film like this might have a story that strings it all together, but in the case of Back Alley Princess that didn’t seem to be too high of a priority (which is somewhat odd, because Lo Wei generally packs a lot of story twists and turns into his scripts).

What Back Alley Princess is full off is a whole lot of working-class strife. Chili Boy (Polly Kuan) — AKA Hot Pepper Kid in some translations — and Embroidered Pillow (Samuel Hui) are a team of con-men doing whatever they can to make a few bucks and survive on the streets of Hong Kong. This leads them to meet up with the martial arts troupe of Teacher Chiang (Tien Feng), who agrees to join up with Chili and Embroidered Pillow in the interest of making more money. But this isn’t really the foundation of a story, as the film’s main concern is seemingly to endear Chili Boy to the audience so Lo Wei can drive the point home how important family and community are to the individual.

Continue reading Back Alley Princess (1973) →

Dragon Inn (1967)

dragoninn_8Dragon Inn (1967)
AKA Dragon Gate Inn

Starring Shih Jun, Pai Ying, Polly Kuan, Miao Tian, Sit Hon, Cho Kin, Go Ming, Got Siu-Bo, Ko Fei, Tien Peng, Han Ying-Chieh, Man Chung-San

Directed by King Hu

Expectations: High, this is one of the most influential early martial arts films.

fourstar


When it comes to martial arts films, 1967 was a huge, formative year. The first mega-hit of the genre, The One-Armed Swordsman, made Jimmy Wang Yu a star and cemented director Chang Cheh as the genre’s leading visionary. Just a few months after the release of that film, director King Hu, having recently left the Shaw Brothers after creative differences on Come Drink With Me, unleashed Dragon Inn. As an independent film out of Taiwan it may not have had the budget or the clout of the Shaw Brothers studio behind it, but Dragon Inn is arguably more well-known than almost all the 1960s martial arts films from the Shaw studio. I knew all this going into Dragon Inn, and even with an incredible amount of historical hype behind it, Dragon Inn wowed me with its cinematic artistry and an ahead-of-its-time ability to craft thrilling martial arts sequences through editing.

The story of Dragon Inn is a well-known one, but that doesn’t impede the film’s ability to enthrall. The government is corrupt and controlled by devious eunuchs, and our story begins as Zhao Shao Qin, a eunuch with unparalleled power, orders the execution of General Yu, a good man who was framed. Yu’s family is sent to the remote outpost of Dragon Gate, where Zhao has plans to murder them far from the watchful eyes of civilization. He sends a delegation of his most powerful soldiers to await the family’s arrival at the inn, but thankfully there’s a few people at Dragon Gate still loyal to General Yu and his resilient spirit.

Continue reading Dragon Inn (1967) →

Uncle Jasper reviews: The Eighteen Jade Arhats (1978)

The Eighteen Jade Arhats [十八玉羅漢] (1978)
AKA The Eighteen Jade Pearls, Jade Killer, The Eighteen Claws of Shaolin, Jaws of the Black Dragon, Eighteen Deadly Arhats, Bruce Lee – The Flying Dragon

Starring Polly Shang Kuan, Lee Jan-Wa, Lo Lieh, Chang Yi, Phillip Ko Fei, Lung Fei, Ching Kuo-Chung

Directed By Jen Chieh Chang


Oh Eighteen Jade Arhats, you looked so good when we first met. You presented yourself with nothing but class and promises of wonderful times. How my heart fluttered at your awesome box art full of white-eyebrowed old men in dexterous kung fu poses and bizarre multi-limbed training machines. Your plot summary read like a smorgasbord of wu xia thrills and edge of your seat action, a veritable buffet of tasty kung fu goodness. Your opening credit sequence featuring a duo of seasoned martial artists fighting a 20-foot-tall, 14-armed robot statue nearly brought tears of joy to my eyes. Oh where did it all go wrong? I thought we had something special. Instead, our love fizzled out in a sea of dizzying confusion and broken promises.

That’s the gist of it. The Eighteen Jade Arhats, in its eager attempt to give you the world, throws a little bit of everything at you at such a frantic, breakneck speed that it ends up playing out like a collection of Shaw Bros. trailers instead of anything resembling a real motion picture. At one moment you have a dizzying, treetop wire-assisted fight scene, and at the next you have a supernatural kung fu zombie thriller. This would of course be acceptable, welcome even, if there was a shred of coherent storytelling holding the funky mish-mash together. But instead we are left scratching our heads as the film carelessly jumps from subplot to subplot like a drunken frog looking for a specific fly in a vast sea of horseshit. Hell, sometimes subplots are discarded or flat-out forgotten altogether. The viewer of course, is so batshit confused by this point that they either won’t notice or simply won’t care.

Continue reading Uncle Jasper reviews: The Eighteen Jade Arhats (1978) →

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