Saturday, March 8, 2014

Review of TVB series “Rage and Passion 中神通王重陽” (1992)

Cast (partial list):  Ekin Cheng (鄭伊健), Fiona Leung (梁藝), Gallen Lo (羅嘉良), Money Lo (盧敏儀), Wayne Lai (黎耀祥), Newton Lai (黎漢持), Mary Hon (韓馬利), Lee Sing Cheong (李成昌),  Lam Seung Mo (林尚武), Cheung Yik (張翼), etc. with guest appearances by Eddie Kwan (關禮傑) and Vivian Chow (周慧敏)


First off, I would like to make one very important ‘disclaimer’ of sorts – I’m sure that fans of Jin Yong’s novels will be able to recognize the Chinese title of the series instantly and mistakenly think that this is another one of those ‘remakes’ of JY’s works.  To clarify – this series is NOT a remake of Jin Yong’s novels, but rather a fictional ‘prequel’ (or ‘spinoff’) based on a few of the characters from his famous Return of the Condor Heroes story.  Though some of the names are the same and even such details as personality traits and relationships are quite similar to the Jin Yong version of the story that most of us are familiar with, it’s important to note that these ‘details’ were added for effect and enhancement purposes.  Back in the early 90s (1991 to about 1993 or so), TVB actually produced a number of these Jin Yong ‘prequel’ series that technically have nothing to do with the novels and merely ‘borrow’ some details to make their own story.

I put such emphasis on the above point because it truly does affect the way one watches this series.  Fans of Jin Yong’s novels might get ticked off when they watch this series because it ‘distorts’ the original story so much (the ending especially will probably leave fans of the original story scratching their heads) – which is why I wouldn’t recommend watching this series if you’re a Jin Yong ‘purist’ unless you are able to remove the ‘Jin Yong’ element and treat this series as purely a fictional, stand-alone story.  Otherwise, you will definitely have a hard time getting through this series (and the other ‘prequels’ from that era) without wanting to pull your hair out in frustration.

Ok, now that I got that out of the way, a quick explanation on why I chose to watch this series (especially seeing how much I dislike watching shows that are not loyal to the original works on which they are based):   the primary reason is because I like majority of the cast (with a few exceptions of course) and since most of the main actors/actresses in this series no longer participate in HK series, I was truly starting to miss them.  The second reason is because, well frankly, I miss watching ancient martial arts/wuxia series due to the fact that TVB doesn’t make these types of series anymore and few of the other countries do either – so I guess you could say that this was my way of temporarily satisfying my ‘wuxia series’ craving…LOL.  Third reason is because I’ve already seen most of the other early 90s Jin Yong ‘prequels’ (i.e. Golden Snake Sword, Rise of the Taiji Master, Mystery of the Condor Hero, etc.) and was able to tolerate those, so I figured I might as well continue the ‘trend’ of watching.  [As a side note…I only write reviews when I have time (and when I feel like it…LOL) so there definitely WON’T be a review for everything I watch.  Out of the 3 series that I listed above, I only wrote a review for Golden Snake Sword, which I actually recommend for those reading this particular review to also read because my overall sentiments toward that series are very similar to this one.  Those interested can check out the review here].

Before I go into the individual performances and characters, a few words about the script and the overall storyline / plot – basically, my advice is this:  don’t take the story too seriously and you’ll be fine.  When I was watching this series, I found a lot of the same problems/flaws that I noticed in the other JY prequels/spinoffs that TVB made back in that time period – the editing was sloppy, the plot was all over the place, some of the story arcs didn’t make a whole lot of sense at times, and the overall production was just plain messy.   Luckily, this series is fast-paced enough that it’s not a ‘chore’ to sit through like some of the others I’ve seen, but if you’re expecting a ‘quality’ production with a ‘good’ script, you definitely WON’T get that with this series!   Despite the messy script, there seems to be something about this series (and the other prequels I mentioned) that somehow draws audiences (well, me at least) into the story and makes us want to ‘root’ for the main couple in each series – in other words, I would find too many flaws to count with each of the series, yet I can’t bring myself to ‘hate’ or ‘dislike’ the series.  Yes, it’s weird, but hey, it’s the truth….

Oh, and another point worth mentioning – especially since those watching the series will for sure notice it – is the ‘exaggerated’ martial arts effects that this series utilizes.  It seems like each time there is a major battle / fight scene in the series, it’s done in an overly deliberate, choppy, slow-motion manner – to the point that it becomes a bit frustrating to watch (for those who are well-versed with watching shows on the Internet, I would describe the effect of those scenes as  ‘buffering gone awry’).  Needless to say, I definitely didn’t like the overuse of the slow-motion technique in this series, which ended up being more of a ‘distraction’ than anything else.

Anyway, here’s the rundown of some of the main characters from the series (not all of them of course) as well as my comments on the artists who portrayed the characters (note that I usually include much of the plot in my character descriptions, so if you prefer not to be ‘spoiled’ with what happens in the series, then my advice is to STOP HERE…):

Cameo roles:

EDDIE KWAN (Tin Sang) – Eddie’s character Tin Sang is a Daoist priest and the third of four apprentice-brothers in a Daoist sect.   Due to his great affinity with the Daoist principles and his ability to quickly understand and master martial arts moves, Tin Sang is pegged as the next leader of the sect by his sifu (played by veteran actor Bau Fong), which also means that he would be responsible for finding and protecting the missing Nine Yin Manual (九陰真經), since it is the most important manual in all of Daoism (hence also making it the most ‘coveted’ manual in the martial arts world).

Of course, as luck would have it, Tin Sang doesn’t end up taking over the sect as leader.  First of all, he doesn’t feel that he is leader material, plus since he is only the 3rd apprentice brother, he feels that the leadership position should rightfully go to the eldest apprentice brother, Seung Sang (played by Newton Lai).  However, Seung Sang  also feels that Tin Sang is the best person for the job and even reprimands Tin Sang for not wanting to take the position (for those who are wondering – yes, Newton actually plays a good guy in this series).  

Anyway, the main reason why Tin Sang doesn’t want to take the position is because he had fallen in love with Cheng Yeuk Si (played by Vivian Chow), a blind orphan living in the woods with whom he had a few chance encounters and ended up curing her eyesight.   Due to an ‘accidental’ situation that happens (a ‘far-fetched’ situation in my opinion – but you’ll need to watch it to judge for yourself), Tin Sang and Yeuk Si end up ‘doing the deed’ and Yeuk Si becomes pregnant because of it .  The two of them do truly love each other, but due to fate, they couldn’t be together – Tin Sang unwillingly abandons Yeuk Si after his sifu dies, as he felt obligated to fulfill his sifu’s last wish of him becoming sect leader (no, he doesn’t know that Yeuk Si is pregnant at this point, otherwise he wouldn’t have left her).   Later on, Tin Sang’s evil second apprentice brother Yuen Sang (played by Lam Seung Mo) captures Yeuk Si and tortures her in the hopes that she will rat out Tin Sang as the father of her unborn child, which would then mean that Tin Sang was no longer qualified to be leader of the sect (keep in mind that in Tin Sang’s position, he is supposed to be sworn to celibacy).  Tin Sang succeeds in saving Yeuk Si, but due to Yuen Sang relentlessly pursuing them, they end up retreating into a huge cave-like place [the famous ‘Ancient Tomb’ from the Return of the Condor Heroes story].  Trapped in the cave, Tin Sang and Yeuk Si reconcile and establish a happy life together, growing ‘love’ flowers [another reference to ROTCH] and anticipating the birth of their child.   In the cave, Tin Sang also accidentally finds the Nine Yin Manual that had been missing for years – he studies the martial arts in the manual and within days (I’m assuming here, since the timeframe in the series is a bit sketchy), he has already learned the highest form of the moves described in the manual (which is extremely ironic given what happens shortly after he leaves the cave).

Not long after that, their baby is born and since it just happened to be on the same day that Tin Sang is supposed to take over the Daoist sect, he decides to leave the cave and return to the sect so that he can renounce his position as well as turn over the Nine Yin Manual to his eldest apprentice brother.  Unfortunately, it was already too late, as the evil Yuen Sang also chose to betray the sect on that day – he sets the entire sect on fire and tries to kill everyone there.  Of course, Yuen Sang’s martial arts at the time is inferior to that of his eldest brother Seung Sang, plus his 3rd brother Tin Sang re-appears right at that time (remember that Tin Sang learned the martial arts from the manual, so Yuen Sang was definitely no match to him either).  Just when it looked like Yuen Sang was being defeated, Yeuk Si shows up with the baby and of course (in typical TVB series fashion), Yuen Sang takes the two of them hostage and threatens Tin Sang to hand over the Nine Yin Manual in exchange for their safety [I’m sure most of us can count how many times a similar story arc has occurred in TVB series].   Somewhere in the process, Yuen Sang pushes Yeuk Si into the fire and she throws the baby into the air – Tin Sang saves the baby and gives him to the eldest brother along with the manual, then tries to go save his wife…needless to say, both Tin Sang and Yeuk Si die in the fire.  This all happens at the beginning of episode 3, so pretty much Eddie and Vivian only guest star for the first 2 ½ episodes.

Performance-wise, Eddie was great as usual!  Despite only having 2 ½ episodes of screen time (plus a bit of a far-fetched story arc with some ridiculous segments), he gave a very convincing performance!  Eddie is one of my favorite actors from the 80s (actually, most of the actors/actresses from that era are on my ‘favorites’ list…LOL) and I can truly say that I’ve enjoyed almost every series of his that I’ve watched from that era (80s and early 90s).  Honestly speaking, Eddie actually didn’t have a whole lot of ‘leading actor’ roles compared to some of the others from that era, but luckily, he did well in all of them, which helped him ‘stand out’ amongst the breadth of talent in those days.  I actually talk quite a bit about Eddie’s acting as well as his most memorable roles in my review of The Swords of Conquest a few years back (those interested can read it here), so I won’t go into too much detail here.  What I will say though is that I wish Eddie had more screen time in this series because I had just finished watching him in Rise of the Taiji Master (another great performance from Eddie!) a few weeks back and was still in my ‘Eddie Kwan’ mode…LOL.  Ah well…I can always go pull out some of his older series from my collection and re-watch those….


VIVIAN CHOW (Cheng Yeuk Si) – Since I told most of Yeuk Si’s story already while describing Eddie Kwan’s character, I won’t go into tremendous detail here (plus there really isn’t a whole lot of development to Vivian’s character in this series anyway, since her screen time is even less than Eddie’s). 

Yeuk Si is a very kind, compassionate woman who lives by herself in a small house in the woods located at the foot of the mountain where a major Daoist sect has its headquarters.  Even though she is blind (I actually don’t remember the details of how she became blind, though her character does talk at length about it), she has a positive outlook on life and spends all her time taking care of the injured animals she often comes across.  She meets the man who will change her life forever (Tin Sang) during a chance encounter when Tin Sang’s eldest apprentice brother Seung Sang is fighting with someone trying to steal the Nine Yin Manual and accidentally injures her in the process.  While Seung Sang runs off to pursue the thief, he tells Tin Sang to take care of Yeuk Si (who was knocked unconscious) as well as tend to her injury.   Tin Sang heals Yeuk Si’s injury, however due to the circumstances, Yeuk Si didn’t understand what had happened and thought that Tin Sang was up to no good.  They part ways, but encounter each other again later and since Yeuk Si doesn’t recognize Tin Sang (due to the fact that she is blind and doesn’t know what he looks like), he befriends her and she accepts him.   Tin Sang finds out Yeuk Si’s background and feels sorry for her plight, so he offers to find a cure for her eyesight – he succeeds in doing so and falls in love with her in the process.  Much of what happens next I already described above, so no point in rehashing all that again…Yeuk Si ends up dying a tragic death together with her love Tin Sang.

I really don’t have too much to say about Vivian’s performance in this series because there is so little to go off of.  Her character is the typical sweet, caring, compassionate type who can also be tough and strong when she needs to be – pretty much the same as Vivian’s personality in real life.  To me, there wasn’t much complexity to Vivian’s character and nothing much interesting about her performance here either.  In all honesty, I really didn’t feel much for Eddie and Vivian as a couple because their love story was so hastily put together and ended so abruptly that I didn’t have time to develop any feelings for them.  Of course, I can understand why their relationship was rushed, since they aren’t the main characters in the series and the purpose of their story was to setup the backdrop for what happens later on involving the ‘true’ main couple (Ekin and Fiona) of the series.  Anyway, since I’ve never been a fan of Vivian’s singing or acting (I’m pretty much ‘neutral’ towards her), not too much comment from me on her performance here.


Main Characters:

EKIN CHENG (Gau Jai / Wong Chung Yeung) – Ekin plays the series’ title character Wong Chung Yeung (which, if you haven’t guessed by now, is the same character mentioned briefly in the LOTCH and ROTCH stories – except keep in mind that this is a fictional prequel to those stories, so a lot of the facts aren’t going to add up). 

Wong Chung Yeung actually did not have a name when he was born, as his parents Tin Sang and Yeuk Si left the Ancient Tomb shortly after he was born and they died not too long after that (pretty much the same day).  After his parents’ death, WCY is raised by his ‘uncle’ (his father’s eldest apprentice brother Seung Sang) and is given the name ‘Gau Jai’ (literally translated as ‘Little Dog’) – however, due to the fact that Seung Sang went insane and lost his memory when he was pushed off a cliff by his 3rd brother Yuen Sang (more on this piece later) -- WCY had no clue about his own or his uncle’s identity and so he thought Seung Sang was truly his father (he called him ‘dad’ during the first half of the series and later when he finds out his true identity, he starts calling Seung Sang his ‘yi-fu’ or ‘adopted father’).  The two of them lived in some tree-house type thing on top of a mountain located in the middle of the woods that was actually very close to where the main Daoist sect compound once was (I know, it’s a bit confusing…LOL).  Once WCY was a grown man, he took to caring for Seung Sang like his own father, cooking for him and tending to his needs like any filial son would do – during this time, Seung Sang would recite some verses from the Nine Yin Manual (which SS still had in his possession, though he had no clue what it was), thereby indirectly ‘teaching’ WCY some martial arts in the process.

WCY was a very playful young lad and since he grew up in the mountains, he was very ‘naïve’ and had no idea what things were like in the ‘real’ world.   He would often go out into the forest and play with the various animals there, since there was no one else around to keep him company besides his ‘dad’, who sometimes would disappear out of the blue and then show up again when he was hungry (keep in mind that his ‘dad’ is a bit insane, so his behavior is bound to be weird and unpredictable).

One day, while ‘playing’ in the forest, he encounters a woman dressed completely in white (another reference to ROTCH…LOL) who is fighting with some Daoist priest person (we find out later that the Daoist priest is actually one of Yuen Sang’s disciples, who by now has become a crazy, evil Daoist high priest).   Being the compassionate guy that he is, WCY gets in between them and tries to stop the woman from hurting the priest, which ticks the woman off big-time (especially since she already has a preconceived notion about men being the root of all evil and loathes all of them, particularly Daoist priests….more on this later).  The priest ends up getting hurt anyway and since the woman thinks that the priest is dead, she goes on her way….(if you haven’t guessed by now, the ‘woman in white’ is Lam Chiu Ying, played by Fiona Leung).

Not long after that, WCY encounters Lam Chiu Ying again, but this time, she is unconscious due to a major injury – he does what any good samaritan would do and tries to save her life…when he saw that she wasn’t getting any better, he innocently puts her in some warm water spring that he had found that was famous in the area for resurrecting people from the dead (or something like that) – only problem is that she was in there unclothed and when she wakes up, she is of course ticked off to no end (this segment was actually kind of funny because WCY, who grew up in the mountains with animals as companions, was totally oblivious to issues of manners and modesty between men and women, so he totally did not understand why the woman was so upset…I loved the interaction between Ekin and Fiona in this scene – he kept innocently asking her whether she felt better and that he hoped the spring would help heal her injury while she’s in there fuming and just wanting him to go away….LOL).   After this, Lam Chiu Ying is hard-set on ‘killing’ WCY (which is understandable given what we know about what she thinks he did) and when she is cured, she chases him down and pushes him off a cliff (of course he doesn’t die – in fact, he doesn’t even have a scratch on him afterwards….typical dramatic effect, right?).  Hence starts the ‘relationship’ between Wong Chung Yeung and Lam Chiu Yeung (albeit they despise each other at first, then later fall in love), which is pretty much the backbone of this entire series (yup, the series is based on the ‘famous’ love story between these two characters that we only hear small snippets of in ROTCH – but keep in mind that this series is FICTIONAL, so the story evolves totally different from what we are used to hearing in the past…sorry for the redundancy, but this is such an important point to make that I feel the need to keep repeating it, especially since the ending is going to be a shocker for those who are too used to the ‘original’ story).

As the story evolves, WCY also meets Yuen Ngan Fung (played by Gallen Lo), who is a kind-hearted (at first), intelligent, righteous, and very well-mannered Kam prince (those who are familiar with LOTCH and ROTCH will probably remember the background history of the animosity between the Han people and the ‘foreigners’ from the country of Kam due to the battles over power, money, land, etc.).  Ah Fung is different from his fellow Kam comrades in that he has always felt that there shouldn’t be any separation between Han and Kam and advocates both groups co-existing in peace and harmony.  This is one reason why he and WCY become best friends (though in the beginning, WCY doesn’t know that Ah Fung is a prince) – they also experience many life and death situations together and even learn martial arts together at one point.   The two of them even fall for the same woman at first– the kind-hearted and naïve Fok Mo Sheung (played by Money Lo)… (well, in WCY’s case, it was more ‘like’ than ‘love’, since he was obviously ‘meant’ for Lam Chiu Ying…)…in the end, Mo Sheung chooses Ah Fung but remains good friends with WCY.   The rest of the series is pretty much about Wong Chung Yeung’s relationship with Lam Chiu Ying as well as the affinity he has with Daoism, which culminates in the end with WCY becoming the leader of the Daoist sect.

I actually quite liked Ekin’s portrayal of WCY in this series.  Like I said in my review of Golden Snake Sword, I’ve always felt that Ekin has that ‘martial arts warrior’ look and feel, which is probably why he constantly portrayed those types of characters back in the day.  The difference with this particular character (Wong Chung Yeung) as opposed to some of his other ‘tragic hero’ roles is that there is no ‘mean streak’ in his character whatsoever (many of his previous characters were those ‘borderline good/bad’ type roles).  Ekin’s character is actually quite well-developed in the series, as we get to see him evolve from a playful, naïve young lad to a mature wuxia hero with a compassionate heart – his portrayal was quite natural!


FIONA LEUNG (Lam Chiu Ying) – I talked a bit about Fiona’s character Lam Chiu Ying earlier…before I elaborate further though, I have to once again give the ‘fictional prequel’ disclaimer:  if you’re a Jin Yong fan (especially a die-hard one), I strongly urge you to throw out (at least for the time being) whatever you know about the character of Lam Chiu Ying from his novels when you watch this series – otherwise, you will likely get very frustrated and possibly confused with the way her story evolves in this series.

Lam Chiu Ying was raised by her mother Lam Ling So and throughout her entire life, she had no clue who her father was – her mother would only tell her that her father is dead and the person responsible for his death is a Daoist priest named Wong Seung (aka Seung Sang).   Due to her mother’s influence and ‘brainwashing’, Chiu Ying grew up to be a cold, distant woman whose sole mission in life is to kill Wong Seung – she was also taught by her mother that all men are heartless and as a woman, she should never trust a man with her love because he will abandon her in the end.  This is why when Chiu Ying first encounters Wong Chung Yung, she immediately takes a disliking to him (WCY doesn’t really like her in the beginning either, though with his personality, he’s friendly to everyone pretty much, so he’s still nice to her). 

As fate would have it, Chiu Ying encounters WCY again and again – later on, due to a misunderstanding, she thinks that WCY knows where Wong Seung is, so she befriends him and stays by his side in the hopes that she can find Wong Seung through him. [As a side note – during this time, WCY actually DOESN’T know that his ‘father’ Seung Sang is actually Wong Seung or that Chiu Ying’s mission is to kill Seung Sang].   It’s not until way later when Seung Sang is reunited with his 4th Daoist brother Lien Sang (played by Lee Sing Cheong) that he eventually regains his memory and is able to tell WCY his true identity as well as relay the story of how his parents met and how they died.

Of course, Wong Chung Yeung and Lam Chiu Ying eventually fall in love with each other.  One time, while fleeing the murderous Yuen Sang (who, 20 years later, is still trying to kill his Daoist brothers so that he can get his hands on the missing pages of the Nine Yin Manual that he needs in order to master the highest level of martial arts), WCY and Chiu Ying find the Ancient Tomb and take refuge there (remember that this is the same Ancient Tomb that WCY’s parents fled to 20 years ago and the place where he was born).  WCY discovers some verses from the Nine Yin Manual that his father had written and due to his high affinity for Daoism, he was able to master the martial arts moves contained in the verses fairly quickly.  Then, for a reason that I didn’t fully understand (and still don’t), WCY falls ill and almost dies, but Chiu Ying is right there by his side and saves him – from that moment on, they declare their love for each other and swear that no matter what happens, they will not let the other die alone.

As is typical with these types of story arcs, the relationship between WCY and Chiu Ying is put to the test later on when WCY discovers that the person Chiu Ying has been trying to kill all along is his adopted father Seung Sang (kind of ironic, since Seung Sang is actually Chiu Ying’s biological father – more on this piece later).  Things take a turn for the worst when Seung Sang is killed with a sword through his chest – since the sword was Chiu Ying’s and she was at the scene when Seung Sang died, plus she had had been trying to kill him all along (she actually didn’t kill him though – she refused to kill Seung Sang once she found out he was really her father), WCY mistook Chiu Ying as the killer and without listening to her explanation, he lashed out at her, hurting her in the process.  They part ways and even though WCY doesn’t want to have anything to do with her anymore, Chiu Ying still loves him and pines for him – her hair eventually turns white because of it (so basically, she inadvertently follows in her mother’s footsteps, as her mother was also ‘rejected’ by the man she loved and her hair turned all white due to pining for him all these years). 

When Chiu Ying finds out that WCY has decided to become a Daoist priest and take up the responsibility of leading the main Daoist sect, she realizes that her mother was right about men being heartless.  She becomes angry and bitter at being rejected so ‘cruelly’ by the man she loved and from that point, views WCY as her enemy.  Even though she agrees to collaborate with him in order to kill their mutual enemy Yuen Sang, she doesn’t want anything to do with him after that and even admits to killing his adopted father Seung Sang in order to make him hate her.

Since I don’t want to spoil things too much, I won’t go into great detail about the ending.  All I’m going to say is that WCY eventually finds out the truth of who killed Seung Sang and realizes that he had wronged Chiu Ying. They do eventually reconcile (though not right away), WCY renounces his position as leader of the Daoist sect and retreats to the Ancient Tomb with Chiu Ying, where they hoped to spend the rest of their lives together.  I’m not going to reveal the ending, but knowing that Wong Chung Yeung eventually DOES become the leader of the Daoist sect (the script did stay true to that part of the story), I’m sure it’s not too hard to guess what Lam Chiu Ying’s fate ends up being.

In terms of performance – ok, maybe I’m a bit biased, but I felt that Fiona was awesome in this series!  Fiona is one of my favorite actresses and just like many of the actresses from the 80s/early 90s era, she is quite versatile in that she can portray a variety of roles and be convincing in all of them.   Whether she’s playing a sweet, docile, reserved woman with no martial arts background whatsoever or a bitter, angry, spited woman out for revenge, or even a loud-mouthed tomboy (those are just a few of the roles I’ve seen her in – there are many more that are worth watching), she handles each of the roles well.  In fact, part of the reason why I decided to watch Rage and Passion in the first place was because I was in my ‘Fiona’ mood (having just re-watched State of Divinity for the nth time and Rise of the Taiji Master for the first time…both series that she starred in).  Also, since Fiona officially left the entertainment industry several years ago and won’t be filming ‘regular’ TV series ever again, I was really starting to miss her, so I sort of did a ‘marathon’ of her previous series.   One of the things that amazes me about Fiona is how much chemistry she has with each of the male co-stars she has been paired with in each of her series – it’s rare for an actress to have such great on-screen chemistry with each of her partners…that’s one of the things I miss most about Fiona!

Lastly…just a little bit of background on Fiona, since she retired from the industry more than a decade ago and was last active in the TV industry back in the mid-90s, so some audiences today might not be too familiar with her.  Fiona was discovered by a talent scout in the 80s and started off filming commercials – then, in 1987, she participated in TVB’s Super New Talent (超級新星大賽) contest where she won first place in her category (there were 2 winners from that contest – for the females, it was Fiona Leung and for the males, it was Nixon Pang).  Of course, she signed with TVB that year and participated in her very first series -- 1987’s mega production Legend of the Book and the Sword (書劍恩仇), where she was one of the female leads.  She was active in the TV and movie industries up until the mid-90s or so, but then her career started going downhill, so she decided to change careers and get out of acting completely.   In the early 2000s (2001/2002 or so), Fiona became a Christian and since then, has devoted her life to her religion (she currently works for The Media Evangelism Association, which is a Christian organization that utilizes multi-media and other technological methods to spread the Gospel and do God’s work).  She mostly does hosting work now for TMEA’s various evangelistic programs and has participated in a few of the movies they’ve produced (along with our famous Christian celebrities in HK).


NEWTON LAI (Seung Sang / Wong Seung) – Since I talked quite a bit about Newton’s character in my earlier character descriptions, I’ll just fill in the gaps here…

As the eldest brother of the Daoist sect, Seung Sang is highly respected and revered by his juniors, especially since he is the most  ‘righteous’ amongst the 4 brothers.  He is very dedicated to Daoism and is also highly skilled in martial arts, however his affinity with the Daoist principles isn’t as great as his 3rd brother Tin Sang, so he supports his sifu’s decision to make Tin Sang the sect leader instead of himself.  He is an innately good person and remains so throughout the series, even when he loses his memory and later on when he dies. 

Seung Sang understands full well that as a Daoist priest, he is supposed to cut all ties with women and live a life of celibacy, which he follows to the core.  This is why he always got annoyed to no end when his 2nd brother Yuen Sang’s sister Lam Ling So – herself a Daoist nun (sorry if the word is wrong, as I’m not familiar with Daoist terminology) – would constantly chase after him, trying to get him to accept her (obviously she had a huge crush on him).  He would always avoid her like the plague whenever he could and sometimes would even reprimand her for betraying Daoist principles.  Being a willful, obstinate woman, Lam Ling So was obsessed with Seung Sang and had no qualms about doing whatever it took to get what she wanted. 

After Tin Sang and his wife Yeuk Si died, Seung Sang tried to go into hiding with their baby as well as the Nine Yin Manual – unfortunately, Yuen Sang is hot on his trail and ends up forcing Seung Sang into a small cave-like place (no, not the Ancient Tomb).  Lam Ling So happens to come along (too much of a coincidence, no?) and seeing her opportunity, she sets off an aphrodisiac that she had gotten, which of course causes Seung Sang to lose his senses and “do the deed” with her.  When he comes to his senses, he is ticked off at what Lam Ling So did (the aphrodisiac thing) and berates her, refusing to take responsibility for what happened.  Angry at being rejected, Lam Ling So grabs the Nine Yin Manual and runs out of the cave.  Seung Sang chases after her (with the baby in tow) and attempts to get the manual back – unfortunately, he forgets that Yuen Sang is waiting outside.   The 3 of them fight over the manual and in the chaos, the manual gets split 3 ways – thinking that he got majority of the manual, Yuen Sang pushes Seung Sang off the cliff. 

Amazingly (well, maybe not, since this IS a TVB drama series after all), Seung Sang and the baby both survive the fall, though Seung Sang does go crazy after that and loses his memory (he probably hit his head).  Next thing we know, it’s 20 years later (that was quick…lol) and somehow, Seung Sang managed to raise the baby despite his craziness.   

He basically appears here and there throughout the next couple episodes until he finally regains his memory.    He is no longer interested in leading the Daoist sect and only wants to retire to a life of peace; unfortunately though, Lam Ling So has been pursuing him this entire time, as she is angry and bitter at being rejected by him and wants him to suffer the most hellish fate.  As described in the previous sections, he is killed by Yuen Sang, but not before finding out that Lam Chiu Ying is actually his daughter – right before he dies, he scolds Lam Ling So for being so cruel to their daughter in trying to force her to kill her own father. 

Newton gave an amazing performance in this series, especially during the episodes when he had lost his memory and would wander around the woods like a mad man – the way his character would innocently pop in and out of various situations was actually kind of funny.  Then, when he regained his memory back, he went back to being the overly serious and reserved person that he used to be – the transformation was actually quite significant, yet Newton handled the role perfectly.  I’ve actually liked Newton as an actor ever since his stellar performance in the 1986 version of New Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre (a series I’ve re-watched at least 20 times if not more…lol) and even though he was  known for playing villain roles (his most famous villain role was in ATV series The Legendary Fok back in the early 80s and subsequently in his career, he sort of got typecasted into those types of roles), he was actually quite versatile in his acting.  He retired from the industry in the mid/late 90s and immigrated to Canada with his family, though he did return to HK later and switched to doing business, still occasionally guest starring in series here and there in the after 2000s era (though most of his roles by that time were not very significant).  Sadly, Newton passed away last year (it was reported that he died of complications from pneumonia) – I actually was quite devastated because we lost quite a few veteran artists the last 2 years (Austin Wai and Jacqueline Law in 2012; Newton Lai, So Hang Suen and Kong Ngai in 2013) – since I grew up watching all of these artists on TV, it was difficult for me to hear of them passing one after the other.   Nowadays, when I watch / re-watch series with these artists in them, I can’t help but be saddened by how much talent we lost….


MARY HON (Lam Ling So) – Lam Ling So is truly a tragic character from beginning to end – though it could be argued that she inflicted a lot of the pain she suffered on herself, her plight is still a sad one nonetheless.   Her biggest mistake was trying to force a man who didn’t and couldn’t love her to actually love her and take responsibility for an action that she caused.  Then, when he refuses to take responsibility, the love that she had for him turns into hate and she subsequently plots to have him suffer the worst fate possible – to be killed by his very own daughter.  In a sense, this proved how selfish and delirious Lam Ling So was, as all she wanted was to take revenge against the man who spited her, even if it meant sacrificing her own daughter in order to so.  [In comparisons, her daughter Lam Chiu Ying was much more noble – despite her mother’s actions, Chiu Ying never gave up on her mother and continued protecting her, even if it meant risking her own life to do so…the death scene where Chiu Ying holds her mother’s lifeless body in her arms and weeps at having forever lost someone she loved so dearly was very very sad (and very very well acted by both Mary Hon and Fiona Leung)]. 

After Seung Sang’s death, Lam Ling So loses her mind, as it’s at that moment that she realizes she still loved Seung Sang all these years and actually didn’t want him to die – but she realizes all of this too late…the damage is already done.   She wanders off by herself, unable to accept the fact that Seung Sang is dead, and continually tries to ‘find’ him after that (similar to what she had been doing the past 20 years).  In the end, she dies a tragic death at the hands of her evil brother Yuen Sang, but not without first helping Wong Chung Yung understand the truth of how Seung Sang died, thereby clearing Lam Chiu Ying’s name. 

In the beginning, I actually despised the character of Lam Ling So, as I felt that her stubborn insistence on getting what she wanted at all costs was way too selfish and through her actions, she brought so much pain on others.  Plus she is also the catalyst for Wong Chung Yung’s misunderstanding and subsequent anger toward Lam Chiu Ying for supposedly killing his adopted father, the results of which, as I described above, are devastating on Chiu Ying (again, I’m probably a bit biased here too because Lam Chiu Ying was my favorite character in this series).

By the end of the series however, I could no longer bring myself to despise Lam Ling So – in fact, I felt tremendous pity for her when she FINALLY ‘wakes up’ and realizes how wrong she was in wanting Seung Sang to die…the pain and regret of this drives her mad and so after that, she decides to live in her own world of denial.  She further redeems herself (in my book at least) when she inadvertently helps WCY find out that Yuen Sang was actually the one who killed Seung Sang and that he had misunderstood Chiu Ying all along.  In her final act of ‘redemption’ (which occurs while she lies dying in her daughter’s arms), she tells WCY that Chiu Ying’s hair turned all white because of him and after everything Chiu Ying suffered due to his rejection, she implored him not to let her daughter down again.   At that moment, it was obvious to me that despite all she had done, deep down, she truly did love her daughter and regretted hurting her.  I actually got a little teary-eyed watching that scene….

From a performance perspective, Mary Hon once again did an excellent job with her role!  Mary Jeh (as everyone calls her) is another one of those amazing veteran actresses who is always so good at what she does.  Of course, it should come as no surprise, as she has been acting since way back when (even before I was born…lol) and has played so many different characters over the years that there’s no doubt she will do a great job.  Mary Jeh truly brought her character to life for me – though I despised Lam Ling So’s actions as well as her selfishness, I was also able to feel for her on an emotional level (her anguish at being rejected, her pain and regret at causing the death of the only man she ever loved, the helplessness of having to live in denial because she couldn’t accept what had happened, etc.).  I think that if it were another actress playing Lam Ling So, I probably would not have such strong feelings for the character.   Actually, I often feel the same way with most of Mary Jeh’s performances – even if I don’t like the series itself, I almost always enjoy her performance.


GALLEN LO (Yuen Ngan Fung) – I talked a little bit about Gallen’s character Yuen Ngan Fung earlier on, but of course there is much more to him than what was mentioned earlier.  Ah Fung starts off as a good guy for most of the series, but later on, he goes down the path of evil after enduring much suffering at the hands of his younger brother Yuen Ngan Bat (who not only kills their father but also takes over the throne that rightfully belonged to Ah Fung).  In addition, Ah Fung encountered one setback after another in his relationship with Fok Mo Sheung, whom he truly did love – since Ah Fung was a Kam prince, Mo Sheung’s parents hated him and refused to let their daughter date him (this has to do with the Kam vs. Han thing I mentioned earlier).  Mo Sheung’s father especially despised Ah Fung, which make sense, since he is an extremely righteous general who dedicates his entire life to fighting the Kams and rescuing his own people (the Hans) from oppression – with that type of background, it’s expected for him to treat all Kam people as enemies. 

Not surprisingly, Ah Fung and his best friend Wong Chung Yeung eventually drift apart, as the paths that they are expected to follow become drastically different:  Ah Fung is determined to get back what he had lost (the royal Kam throne) while WCY is set to become the leader of the Daoist sect, the goal of which is to free the Han people from oppression under the Kams.  The biggest problem though is that Ah Fung becomes a completely different person after his ordeal  -- he becomes hungry for power and longs to learn the highest form of martial arts possible (especially since by this time, WCY is already highly skilled in martial arts and Ah Fung is no match for him in that area).  Therefore, when WCY and Chiu Ying collaborate and defeat Yuen Sang, Ah Fung secretly saves him behind their backs and forces Yuen Sang to teach him martial arts from the Nine Yin Manual.  Of course, since Ah Fung doesn’t have the affinity with martial arts that WCY does, he has no choice but to learn the ‘shortcut’ version, which as we know from all those wuxia stories, is the most damaging to the person’s body and mind.  Needless to say, after Yuen Sang dies, Ah Fung ‘replaces’ him as the primary villain in the series – not only does he end up killing Mo Sheung’s dad, he also pretty much wipes out the entire Daoist sect.  Later on, he also inadvertently kills his own wife Mo Sheung, which sort of makes him crazy (since it truly was an accident and he didn’t mean to do it, plus he did love her dearly).  In the end, there is a big ‘battle to the death’ between Ah Fung and Wong Chung Yeung – I’m sure you can guess who wins that one!

Gallen’s performance as the Kam prince Yuen Ngan Fung was actually quite good (keep in mind that this was around the time when Gallen was just starting to rise to lead status at TVB, having struggled as a supporting actor prior to that).  As the villain, of course Gallen is only the 2nd male lead in this series (that’s the pattern that most TVB series took at that time – the ‘good guy’ was the main lead and the ‘bad guy’ was the 2nd lead), but his performance still stood out, especially as compared to his earlier performances in the 80s (remember how ‘wooden’ his acting was in his first few series?).  One thing that TVB actually did right with Gallen’s career back then was casting him as a villain in a bunch of series in the early/mid-90s, as we all know that there is more opportunity for development with villain roles  (the ‘good guy’ roles are more limited in comparisons) and the artists have more chance to shine.  Though I wouldn’t say that Gallen’s character or performance in Rage and Passion was particularly extraordinary (it was actually very similar to his other ‘foreign prince’ roles in those other Jin Yong prequels and remakes), he did a pretty good job here, especially during those scenes when he had to go from good to evil….can’t compare to his later series of course (the ones from the late 90s and early 2000s), but for ‘rising star’ period, it was fine.


MONEY LO  (Fok Mo Sheung) – I actually don’t have a whole lot to say about Money’s character Fok Mo Sheung other than she is the daughter of a general who was originally thought to be dead (her dad is played by Cheung Yik and her mom is played by Wu Mai Yee).  Mo Sheung is the typical ‘innocent good girl’ character who is steadfastly obedient to her parents except for when it comes to matters of love – once she falls in love with Ah Fung, she is forever smitten and there is no turning back (I know, so stereotypical, eh?).  She is pretty much loyal to Ah Fung even to the end, when she finds out that he killed her father and even when he accidentally kills her too.  My opinion of Mo Sheung is that she is a one-dimensional, boring character that the series technically could have done without.

In terms of the acting…well, as I mentioned in one of my previous reviews, I’ve never been able to stand Money Lo as an actress.  For me, she was actually tolerable in this series, but I think that’s because I’ve seen a few of her previous series where her performance was much worse, so this was actually one of the decent ones (or it could be that I did forward many of her scenes, since I wasn’t too interested in her character or her storyline with Gallen….after all, I decided to watch this series primarily because of Fiona and the other cast, remember?).  I still feel that Money should have kept her ‘day job’ at that time (she was a very successful host for TVB) because she was way better at that than acting – which is why it makes sense that she eventually became a lawyer in real life (and a mighty good one at that).


WAYNE LAI (Chow Bak Tung) – I’m sure everyone is familiar with the character of Chow Bak Tung (yes, the same character from LOTCH and ROTCH, except the younger version).  Of course, the background of the character is a bit different in this series, though the personality traits are very much the same…in fact, I feel that Chow Bak Tung was the only character in this series that was portrayed almost exactly the same way that we’re used to seeing in Jin Yong’s works (which is a bit ironic because remember that we’re technically supposed to wipe the original story and characters from our minds when watching this series).  Chow Bak Tung is pretty much the ‘comic relief’ in an otherwise dramatic series that would have been depressingly tragic if it weren’t for his character (I mean, let’s be honest here – in a series where basically all the characters die except for like two or three lone survivors…if that’s not tragic, I don’t know what is!). 

Instead of describing the character in detail like I did with the others, I’m going to skip straight to the performance on this one (no need to describe the character because like I said, he’s basically the only character in this series who is written almost identical to the original story in terms of personality traits, how he interacts with others, how he reacts to situations, etc.).

Those who are familiar with Wayne Lai’s portrayal of Chow Bak Tung from the 90s remakes of LOTCH and ROTCH will no doubt enjoy his performance in this series, as he’s a natural when it comes to this character and is able to portray Chow Bak Tung with ease…though to be honest, I actually prefer his Chow Bak Tung here than in the actual remakes because this is the younger version, which was more fitting to his age at the time – the one in the remakes was way older and having Wayne portray the character at that age just seemed weird to me (I grew up in the 80s, so naturally, I’m used to the 80s versions of LOTCH and ROTCH where  Chow Bak Tung was played by Chun Wong – he will always be the best ‘mature’ version of Chow Bak Tung in my book!).   Of course, seeing that Wayne is one of my favorite actors, I of course loved his performance in this series (not much complaint from me, as he had the character down perfectly).  Wayne’s chemistry with the entire cast was amazingly good and I especially enjoyed all his scenes with his ‘sifu’ Lee Sing Cheong as well as with Ekin and Newton.

I’m actually quite glad that I got to see Wayne’s ‘comedic’ performance in this series because as much as I love him as an actor (and as a person), his roles recently haven’t been as good as the ones he had in the past (Wayne’s acting is still up to par, it’s just that the characters he’s given by TVB to portray nowadays are all very similar).  In fact, ever since Wayne was promoted to first lead status back in 2009, he hasn’t portrayed any comedic or ‘comic relief’ type roles, so I was really starting to miss that side of him.  Watching his performance in this series brought back the ‘old’ Wayne for me, so definitely happy with that!  J


LAM SEUNG MO (Yuen Sang) – I won’t go too much into Yuen Sang’s character either, since I talked about him a lot already in the earlier descriptions.  He’s obviously the villain in the series – a man so evil to the core that by the end of the series, I find myself wishing that he dies an awful death (I’m talking about the character of course).   Yuen Sang’s character is actually the instigator for much of what happens in the series and for all but the last 2-3 episodes, he is basically the ‘common enemy’ that every character in the series is trying to defeat.  Of course, Yuen Sang does die in the end (though whether his death was ‘awful’ enough is really subject to interpretation), but by that time, he had already done so much damage that killing him off just seemed too ‘good’ for him.

Anyway…performance-wise, Lam Sir was great in his portrayal as usual.  In fact, I would say that his portrayal of the character was so over-the-top scary that during several of the scenes, his character actually gave me the creeps (especially in the last few episodes where he is chained up in a dungeon).  Lam Sir is another great veteran actor who is very versatile in that he can play different types of roles equally well.  I’ve seen him play the ‘benevolent father’ roles as well as the ‘evil to the core’ villain roles and all of them are done quite convincingly.

.---.

There were actually a few more characters in the series that would have been worth a mention as well, but seeing that I hit most of the main ones (plus this review is way too long already), I decided to just leave it at what I have written.

Overall, I felt this series was decent and pretty much in-line with most of the other fictional prequels of Jin Yong’s works that were made around that time.  Though the script is heavily flawed and some of the plot is a bit far-fetched (plus the editing is borderline horrible), the acting (from most of the cast), the story, and the chemistry of the cast pretty much make up for it.

In terms of recommendation – well, I feel the same way about this series like I do towards the other prequels:   fans of the artists should definitely watch because most likely you will still enjoy the series despite its flaws;  those who have been craving wu xia/martial arts ancient series should probably watch because there is plenty of ‘action’ (i.e. fighting scenes) to keep fans of martial arts series satisfied.  As for Jin Yong fans – it’s pretty much ‘watch at your own risk’…if you are able to ignore the inconsistencies and ‘inaccuracies’ from the original stories and just take the series for what it is – again, a ‘fictional’ story independent of Jin Yong – then hopefully you should be fine.

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