The Flying Fox of Snowy Mountain


Reviewed by: sukting

September 02, 2003

Rating: three-point-five

How long
40 episodes

Foreword
I don’t like this novel as it has an incomplete ending. The actual novel comes in 2 parts – 飞狐外传 and 雪山飞狐. Jin Yong was inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s classic movie, Rashomon, where replays are done by narration by the characters (another example is Zhang Yimou’s movie, Hero). Many love the anticlimatic ending (which is not really an ending where Hu Fei is hesitant on whether to kill Miao Ren Feng) but I detest it.

I have watched 3 versions on Singapore television – two by Hong Kong and one by Taiwan. Being a lazy person, I will compare most characters in detail in this review. So this review is more like a summary. This serial is still worth watching because of good acting from the cast.

Story

Many know the story well, so I am not writing a summary here. The serial is basically about Hu Fei seeking revenge on Miao Ren Feng, thinking that Miao has killed his father. But slowly, Hu Fei uncovers the truth and meets different people on his travels. He challenges Miao to a duel in the presence of martial artists who are aware of the circumstances of Hu Yi Dao’s death. Each gives his own version of the truth.

Introduction on characters

1. Hu Yi Dao – Lui Leung Wai
He is so attractive that Ni Xue decides to elope with him. He is a righteous man who is determined to duel with Miao Ren Feng. However, they become good friends. But alas, poison on Miao’s sword kills Hu instantly. Lui is good as the swordsman and is splendid in the role. No wonder he likes this role better than Hu Fei too, saying that he is more heroic although screen time in this role is limited to 5 episodes.

TVB 1999 version: Wong Yat Wah is also impressive in the serial. Many will like his wild look and marvelous acting. It was said that the producer approached him because he had no confidence in Chan Kum Hung in acting as a mature swordsman. Yat Wah’s only complaint is that Kum Hung can wear thinner clothes but he has to wear leather costumes. But his hard work is paid off because he sheds almost 10 pounds after filming.

Taiwan: Meng Fei also doesn’t let us down in any of his serials. He is remarkable in fighting scenes too. All should not miss this serial.

2. Hu Fei – Lui Leung Wai
It is not easy to balance the father and son roles but he does it well. With his tall build and strong physique, he really fits in the role perfectly as a rugged Dai Hup. There is the hot-bloodness of the northern Chinese in him. There is also a direct simplicity when he expresses his emotions. The love scenes and chivalry that he portrays are simply so real. He has chemistry with all the actresses.

However, I don’t really like this character because he is too obsessed with love affairs, unlike his father who focused more attention on state affairs. This makes his character a bit weak. I don’t really like him with the beard in later scenes, although he is more impressive in there. He also looks a bit awkward acting as a young man as he is already in his late twenties (or early thirties?)

1999: Chan Kum Hung doesn’t do that well in here. He is too fair. He is unsuitable for period dramas and the love scenes are only lukewarm. The beard looks fake on his face!

Taiwan: Meng Fei does it again! Many will be impressed by how he portrays the mischievous and serious facets of Hu Fei's character. Age doesn’t seem to have left a trace on his face. He is the best out of the three.

3. Miao Ren Feng – Tse Yin
I am shocked when he is given this role – can he do it as he doesn’t look boorish enough? Surprisingly, he still stands out and is quite persuasive in his acting. He is convincing as a man who is so interested in martial arts and doesn’t know how to make his wife happy. He packs a lot of emotional zing into this part.

1999: Who can doubt Yin Yeung Ming’s acting as he always portrays tragic heroes well? In fact, I think he does a better job than Tse Yin except that he isn’t old enough in the fatherly scenes!

Taiwan: Mu Si Cheng is also another experienced actor who turns in a fine performance too.

4. Tian Gui Nong – Tsang Kong
Thumbs up for his acting as an evil man who seduces away Miao’s wife with his good looks and riches. At 45, Tsang is still fit and preserves a scholarly appearance. Many wonder how he did it? But Nan Lan later decides to end her own life. However, he fails to control his daughter in hand and also loses his skills in the end. In desperation, he kills himself. Quite a tragic role.

1999: Cheung Siu Fai is also too young and too fat for the role. He should attempt to lose some weight. I really shake my head. Moreover, he gives me the feeling that he doesn’t put in his best because he is biased against this villain role.

Taiwan: What a surprise Tong Chun Chung has given us! He portrayed a loyal subject, Zhao Zi Long, in ‘Zhuge Liang’, but is successful as a brat in here! His dimpled smile is a plus to show why Lan gets infatuated with him and is willing to forsake her husband. Natural acting from him as a villain.

5. Fu An Kang – Wong Yin Choy
He uses his good looks to attract Ma Chun Hua and tricks her into believing that he will marry her. He is successful as the man who betrays his love as he only wants the children. A very heartless man to drive Chun Hua away due to his mother’s pressure. Flawless acting from him.

1999: Ngai Chun Kit shines as the stern and powerful man who is in love with Nie Sang Qing. He also acts quite well as Chen Jia Luo who forces him to give up Sang Qing.

Taiwan: Lin Wei (Kung Chi Yun’s real life husband) also plays well as the unfeeling man. But his Chen Jia Luo outlook is too young and is a big flaw. No one believes he is the father.

6. Chen Jia Luo – Wong Yin Choy
Hu Fei attacks him upon mistaking him as Fu An Kang to seek revenge for Chun Hua. He is an upright man and helps Hu Fei to save her from Fu’s residence by impersonating as Fu An Kang. Upon knowing that she is dying, he still pretends to be Fu to let her die in peace. But her death reminds him of Princess Xiang Xiang so he sheds tears at her grave. Good acting despite this being a minor role. But his looks and attire are too plain in here. Doesn’t really show that he is the ‘Red Flower Clan’ leader.

1999: Ngai looks evil here, as if he is going to expose the clan to court any minute. Very weird indeed.

Taiwan: Lin Wei is equally outstanding in this role. His scholarly air adds to his looks too.

7. Shang Bao Zhen – Kwan Lai Kit
He loves Chun Hua but his mother never approves of him wanting to marry her. Later he betrays her by killing her father, thinking that he will get her through riches. That is why he gets killed in the end. Kwan has the weak-scholar look. But I still can’t accept him falling for Chun Hua, as we know that Chiu is older than him despite looking youthful at her age.

1999: Yung Kum Cheong simply lacks the looks. This man is said to be handsome and fair looking but he is not even close to it. But his acting makes up for the deficit.

Taiwan: Wang Shang is also far from handsome. Another wrong choice as his acting is also mediocre.

8. Ping Si – Long Tin Sang
He is very good in it as the disfigured but righteous person! Another plus point is that he is really thin and small in size. Yi Dao doesn’t look down upon him and treats him well. So he risks his life to save Hu Fei, even to the extent of being disfigured, and brings him up. But he gets the wrong impression that Miao is the murderer.

1999: Liu Kai Chi is also impressive in this role. He simply steals the glamour from Kum Hung.

Taiwan: Guan Yong is only okay in this role. We know how most China actors act.

9. Du Xi Men – Bao Fong
He pretends to be kind but he is a ruthless and greedy man. It is weird that Ni Xue has such an old cousin. He only makes use of Yi Dao, as he wants to know the place of the treasure. He has been staying for years near the treasure's alleged whereabouts, but doesn’t know where it exactly is. Splendid performance from this veteran actor.

Yu Zan Shun is more persuasive as the cousin and he is equally ruthless in the role.

10. Ni Xue – Chik Mei Chun
It is a waste to ask Chik to make a cameo performance in here. She is so stunningly beautiful and sweet as the gentle woman. Many complain when her character dies. She is so good in here as the daring woman who elopes for love despite not knowing martial arts. She is married to Yi Dao and gives birth to Hu Fei. She is so faithful to him that she kills herself upon his death. Chik does the tragic role well.

1999: I wonder why the character's name is changed to Lang Jian Qiu? Moreover, this woman is very daring and knows martial arts. Maybe this is to fit Maggie Shiu’s strong personality. She is outstanding in this role, and has never been prettier. It has been a long time since she has worked with Yat Wah in the same serial as lovers after ‘Kim Mo Duk Gu Kau Bai’. It is said that they are so good in here that the producer decides to star both of them in ‘Treasure Raiders‘ later.

Taiwan: I wonder why Kung Chi Yun is given the role as she appears as Ling Su later. Their dressing is almost the same. But they are not even closely related. This causes confusion although she still acts well.

11. Cheng Ling Su – King Doi Yam
I have only seen her in ‘The Foundation’ and ’84 Duke of Mount Deer’ before this serial so I had the wrong impression that she could only do well in fierce and willful roles. She proves that she is versatile in acting and she is good in tragic roles too. She is also pretty in here although some complained because this character is said to be simple and plain in the novel.

1999: Strange that the new version has no Cheng Ling Su. There is only a detestable Yiu Yat Yat played by Lau Hiu Tong . Why the change to invent a new role?

Taiwan: Kung Chi Yun does well here but it can be confusing as her character and Ni Xue look to have similar costumes.

12. Yuan Zi Yi – Chow Sau Lan
Her acting is impressive as the mischievous Zi Yi. But when she reveals that she is a nun all along and only disguised as a normal maiden to seek revenge on her ungrateful father who abandoned her mother, she turns so serious that you will suspect whether you are looking at the same person!

1999: There is no Yuan Zhi Yi. What is going on??? A combination of Chun Hua’s role and Zi Yi produces Sang Qing. I just can’t accept the arrangement.

Taiwan: Wu Yu Juan is pretty and also proves that she can act. Really looks like a spitfire, just like her nickname!

13. Miao Ruo Lan – Tsang Wah Sin
She is not very outstanding. I guess she is not used to playing a tragic and quiet role who knows no martial arts. I think Miao’s decision to end the feud by not teaching her any martial arts is stupid. So she becomes an educated maiden who is so vulnerable that she gets caught and bullied. Still, she has tried her best but I feel that the producer has arranged her to love Hu Fei too fast.

1999: Charmaine Sheh See Mun is wooden in her acting. She shows no emotions at all although she looks sweet. I wonder why she was asked to play this difficult role when she is only a newcomer at this point in time? This is too hard on her.

Taiwan: Wang Lu Yao is only satisfactory in this role.

14. Tian Qing Wen – Chu Siu Bo
Another refreshing change from her demure role as Gong Sun Lu'e in ‘84 Return of the Condor Heroes’! She is good as the ruthless and willful woman despite her demure looks. Qing Wen even kills her own child after birth as she is not married, fearing that her father will find out and because she wants to elope with another man. This shows that the genes really go from the father to her – they are equally ruthless and heartless.

1999: Also no Qing Wen here. The producer has eliminated the role. What a pity!

Taiwan: Liang Pei Yu is too exaggerated in her acting.

15. Nan Lan – Chan Sau Chu
She is simply good as the woman torn between two men. She ditches her husband Miao because he spends too much time on sharpening his skills while Tian is so good in sweet talking. Later, she regrets her choice and refuses to see a physician despite her illness. She gets Miao and Ruo Lan’s forgiveness in the end when she dies. Chan is quite good.

1999: Cho Chung is also remarkable in the role. Her pitiful looks are a bonus as she resembles Teresa Teng Li Jun. Many complain that her role is too limited.

Taiwan: Yuan Jia Pei is acceptable too.

16. Ma Chun Hua – Chiu Nga Chi
She is quite pitiful to get cheated. But she becomes strong after her father’s death. After giving birth to twin sons, she is poisoned. Although Hu Fei saves her, it is too late and till death, she doesn’t believe that Fu An Kang has cheated her. Chiu has done well in here too.

1999: Only in the form of Nie Sang Qing dying in Fu An Kang’s hands – the man she loves. Her sons call Jia Luo in the end because he looks exactly the same as An Kang. I don’t really like the spiteful look that Joyce Tang Lai Ming wears on her face all the time. She is not suitable to be a periodic maiden.

Favourite character
Ling Su for being so self-sacrificing. She loves Hu Fei but even after knowing that he doesn’t love her, she still helps him, even to the extent of losing her own life in order to suck the poison from his body.

Most hated character
Gui Nong for being such a brat to seize another person’s wife and doing despicable acts to get the treasure.

Songs

The theme song is sung by Loi Fung and Kwan Guk Ying. They match really well despite their first attempt at a duet. I also like the sub-theme song ‘Words from the Heart’ (??) which is a lively song with touching lyrics. Some are amused that the elder sister, younger brother duet in looks can fit their voices so well in their singing. The songs are by Mr Koo Kar Fai and Wong Jiem again.

This shows that the god of songs might not be able to save lousy songs with his good singing. The theme song ‘Loving you till the pain is unknown’ ???????)is too modern for my liking, while’ You are my four seasons’(????????) also lacks punch. Both songs are among the worst periodic drama theme songs that I have come across so far.

Interesting facts

There is another version by the now defunct Hong Kong ‘ ??’. I have no idea who acted as Hu Fei. But I found out that Lo Lok Lam( Ren Wo Xing in ’98 TVB State of Divinity’) acted as Miao Ren Feng on the set and his present wife, Chan Bo Yee, acted as his daughter, Ruo Lan. Both were dating then so this serial was very memorable for them.

This is Lui Leung Wai’s last serial with TVB after having worked with the station for 11 years. TVB seldom gave him the chance to act in movies. He found that even though he had fame, he still had to be frugal when it came to money matters.

Some who have watched it claimed that it is better than ‘Heavenly Sword, Dragon Sabre’ and ‘Return of the Condor Heroes’. What is your opinion? I may be biased as I did not like it because of the unattractive story.

Some stylish martial arts choreography is featured, especially in the climatic castle-duel scene.

Most remarkable of all is the creation of an artificial snowscape that can pass off as the real thing. The fact is that the cast didn’t shoot this overseas and this is filmed in a warm area. The cast really wore thick fur coats despite the hot weather. This gives an inspiring opening for the serial.

It was See Mun’s first period drama so it was very memorable for her. She went on to act in 'Crimson Sabre’ and ‘Heavenly Sword, Dragon Sabre’. She felt she was very lucky. She has been a big fan of Jin Yong and loves ‘Return of the Condor Heroes’ most as Huang Rong left a deep impression on her.

She thought acting as Ruo Lan wasn’t that difficult as the character is as innocent as a piece of white paper. Moreover, there were no fighting scenes for her. But to her, the harder part was to remember the dialogue. The hand gestures and facial expressions weren’t easy too. Luckily Kum Hung taught her many things. He often sang on the set to help everyone to relax and boost their spirits too.

After the serial was shown, she found that more China viewers got to know her because they love to watch television versions of Jin Yong novels. Are you surprised that this serial actually had better ratings than Chan Siu Chun’s ‘Duke of Mount Deer’ when shown in Singapore?

The Taiwanese version is the only version filmed in the cold winter at Chang Bai Mountain. They finished the schedule in 5 months. This is the first time in the world that a television station is allowed to film there with the aid of two China local stations.

The crew sat in the bus for 20 hours till their bones nearly broke. During the journey, they had to put up with the yellow sand blowing around and this caused them some difficulty. But upon reaching the destination, everyone was captivated by the beautiful scenery.

They came here on 4 occasions: filming of the changing of the leaves colours from green to yellow to red and then to bare! They completed all this in a month. I am very impressed by it! There are strict restrictions to preserve its beauty so every scene was shot using the rural technique.

Tong Chun Chong had a hard time walking on a log. He nearly slipped into the waterfall. This scared Yuan Jia Pei and she sat on the log very carefully. They proceeded to Chang Chun studio to film the palace scenes. They also visited the forbidden city before they left. This crew was really ambitious to have everything in it. So every scene was real!

Because of their upbringing differences, the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan artistes had disagreements initially. The were rumours that Kung See Sin and Wu Yu Juan (known as 'the little chilli padi') quarrelled on the set. The producer had a hard time pacifying all of them. Fortunately, for the sake of the serial, all managed to settle their differences. It is heard that this serial is well received in Taiwan but I’m sorry that I don’t have the statistics.

Conclusion

The serial is unique in a way. I must compliment the cast for bearing with the hot weather in producing it. It is definitely not easy to act well under such harsh condition. The makeup unit has taken great pains to produce a real snowing scene too. With a cast which can act well, the serial is still watchable although the story is too tragic and there are too few fighting scenes.

The new 1999 version received many complaints because only half of the story followed the novel. The viewers were annoyed when they had to refer to the old novel for the details as they expected this serial to rekindle their memory. Many were unhappy with the way Kum Hung and See Mun acted, although there were positive reviews for the supporting casts.

The Taiwanese version made some changes too but still it was acceptable to all. Thus many still find it okay.

On acting : * * * * (Scale of 5)

On story : * * * 1/2(Scale of 5)


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