The Blood-Stained Intrigue

Reviewed by: KHN

December 13, 2004

Rating: three-point-five

The Chinese title of this little-known, ancient series literally means The Divine Sword and Possessed Saber. Actors who usually played supporting roles stepped to the forefront as leading characters and they performed quite well. Jimmy Au Shui Wai (The Grand Canal) stars as the main character. Other familiar faces include Rong Wai Mun (1986 HSDS's Kei Hu Fu), Ng Seen Mei (1986 HSDS's Yeung But Fui), Lai Hon Chi (1986 HSDS's Yeung Siu), Liu You Wai(1983 RoCH's Li Mok Chiu).

This is one of the best mystery/adventure stories I've ever seen, with a very well-developed and intricate plot, although I don't think it was written by either Jin Yong or Gu Long. It is about a dia hup (Kenneth Tong Tsang) who was wrongfully accused of murdering the leaders of Shaolin, Or-Mei, Wu Tang, and Wah San. The entire Mo Lam forces pursue them and succeed in killing the parents, but the three children (Jimmy Au, Rong Wai Mun, and an unknown actor)escape. However, they become separated, each thinking the others are dead. The oldest brother loses his memory while Rong Wai Mun is saved by a sifu who teaches her "dark" kungfu.

Jimmy Au enters an hidden valley and becomes the student of two great martial-arts men. One is an expert with the saber (Chun Pui) while the other is a formidable swordsman. Together, they discover two metallic elements which they forge into an extraordinary sword and saber. Yet, whoever holds the saber becomes possessed with an immediate desire to kill. With this, Chun Pui kills the sword sifu and chases Jimmy (with the divine sword)outside of the valley. Armed with the saber, Chun Pui reenters the Mo Lam world as a cold-blooded murderer.

Beyond the valley, Jimmy is the proclaimed enemy of Mo Lam and must hide his identity. He begins to investigate the "blood-stained intrigue," which destroyed his parents and dishonored his family. Along the way, he gains the help of loyal friends and of a number of girls who fall in love with him. He is also reunited with his sister,now a dark kungfu master driven to hatred by the past.

This series is about revenge, conspiracy, underlying power currents in the martial-arts world, and the duplicity of human beings. The story unravels in a fast-paced, suspenseful tone. Romance is muted; the focus is more on family and the sadness of a shattered family. Fittingly, an aura of seriousness pervades the plot. Friendship, gratitude, and loyalty are the prominent themes. And of course, symbolic of good and evil are the Divine Sword and Possessed Saber, as these weapons continually changed hands.

The acting in this series is pretty good. However, this is not Jimmy Au's best role although I would suspect one of his first leading roles. He was believable (not perfect) as a naive man whose responsibility was to determine the culprit and avenge his parents. His relationship with his lover, Ng Seen Mai, needed a lot of work, since there was no chemistry between the two.

Rong Wai Mun, on the other hand,was remarkable as a "tragic heroine." In some ways, she resembled the alter ego of Siu Lung Nu, swathed in white and vengeful. Her dark kungfu prohibited emotions, particularly love; yet, she fell in love with a detective who aided her brother. In fact, their love was a touching factor in the series.

Another weakness was that "Blood-stained Intrigue" lacked dynamic supporting characters (something Jin Yong and Gu Long are awesome at creating) and the comic relief was irritating instead of funny. No fault of the actors or director, but of the scriptwriter. Actually, the direction was fantastic, taking a less original storyline and making the series more inviting than, say, TVB's newest version of Heavenly Sword and Dragon Saber, where the inept direction left much to be desired. I actually enjoyed this series more, although Jin Yong's HSDS was by far the better story.

In terms of choreography, this series offers some of the best fighting sequences. I particularly enjoy the 1980's fighting scenes because they incorporated acrobatics and gymnastics, as well as kungfu techniques. Nowadays, computer graphics seem to dominate, accompanying camera swooshes of hands, arms, and legs instead of actual kungfu.

This action-packed series is highly recommended for those who enjoy complex kungfu mysteries, like the New Adventures of Chor Lau Heung or the Return of Lok Siu Fung. But don't expect much humor!

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