This is one of those films where, even with just a fleeting glance at the cast, you know that this one is going to be one hell of a ride!
Opening with a beautiful and atmospheric scene on a suspended bridge surrounded by lush greenery and waterfalls, two elders are facing off against each other. This location comes to have a lot more significance a little later on in the film, yet it also sets the tone very nicely for the events which are about to take place.
Shortly after this, we see a sedan chair being carried into town to greeted by a reception of Manchu officials. Prince Yin is discovered to be dead inside and after a brief encounter with guards, the assassin - Tsu Pa Hai (Carter Wong), manages to flee from the scene of the crime.
He soon stumbles across the famous yet mysterious Martial Inn (of the films title) run by Commander Ku (Chang Yi) and after passing a series of rigorous tests he is duly granted access into the Inn's revered grounds (he should have just booked a Travel Lodge if you ask me...).
Word soon gets around of the whereabouts of Tsu Da Hai and the Manchu's start to draw up plans to crush this martial den which in their eyes is a stronghold for rebels and Ching opposers.
With the Imperial Guards hot on his trail at all times, Tsu Da Hai is unsurprisingly ambushed and eventually injured, only to be saved by Hsiao Chiao (Doris Chen) who uses her Flowery Poisonous Fog on the guards to save him.
Meanwhile, it is becoming apparent to some that there may be Ching Government spies lurking within the Martial Inn and Kwan Shan Do (Champ Wang), whose intentions on being there are not very clear, becomes a prime suspect. Commander Ku calls for help in the form of the heads of the 4 main sects but tragedy strikes when the Manchu's launch a surprise attack on the Inn at nighfall leaving almost everyone inside critically wounded.
With Hsiao Chiao's blessing, Tsu Da Hai suggests to the commander that they reform the Martial Inn at the impenetrable Fortress that Hsiao Chiao's all-female gang inhabits. The advantage of this being that the only way in is to traverse the suspended bridge that was featured in the opening sequence as any other route into the Fortress is guaranteed to be met with death.
Yen Tien Sing, a respected elder with a firm Anti-Ching stance and his fiery daughter Yen Shen Fei (Judy Lee) manage to single handedly wipe out the Manchu Captain and his men. But, just when it was looking like victory for the rebels, one of the main characters reveals themselves to be the spy and leads the grey haired Fox Shang Shu-I Lang (Lung Fei) and the Ching's to the Fortress where everyone has been seeking shelter. Who is the person who has been masquerading as a rebel? And will anyone survive the final assault of the Imperial Manchu Guards!??
I've gone into more detail than usual for my review of 'Chivalrous Inn' as I feel that this film is an absolute classic of the genre and deserves a proper overview. There are various other sub-plots and characters involved but I've tried to keep it as simple as possible whilst omitting as many spoilers as I could.
Everything about the film is perfect - the level of intrigue, the performances, the plotting and pacing are all without fault.
There are so many great actors in this film that it's really more like an ensemble cast with equal amounts of screen time being shared between most of the main characters. The leading ladies are really letting off in this film though, especially Judy Lee who is particularly impressive in her ferocious assault on the Manchu Guards near the end. Carter Wong and Champ Wang both play their characters out with the necessary levels of mystery required. But let's not forget about Chang Yi as the white haired Fox who puts in a colossal performance for the final fight. Make no mistake about it - this is one of his finest moments and as always he is both vicious and almost unstoppable! Also, do keep an eye out for an inspired character called "Killing For Sure" who is master of the 'Bloody Souls Stroke'. He shows up intermittently throughout the film and indiscriminantly picks a few people off and then disappears again!.
The film is a certified old skool classic featuring a multitude of wily Foxes, two great leading ladies, a labryinthine plot and some simply stunning martial arts. 'Chivalrous Inn' deserves a place in every old skool fans collection!.