Many people say that Adam Cheng's version of Chor Lau Heung in the 70's was the best of all Chor Lau Heungs, but in terms of compelling storyline, I thought the Mui Kiu Wai version of 84 was actually better. The cast of the 80's certainly could not match up to Adam Cheng's version but perhaps the 70's version reminds me of reading Gu Long's novels too much (I find his style too frustrating to read at times), that the faster and cut-down dialogues in the 84 version were more to my tastes. It could also be the fact that I saw Mui as Chor Lau Heung before I saw Adam Cheng's that Mui's interpretation of Chor was already imprinted in my mind as the Chor Lau Heung.
The cast in this series includes Barbara Yung Mei Ling, Yueng Pan Pan, Chow Sau Lan, Simon Yam Duk Wah, and Mimi Kung Ti Yun. The subtitle is "Legend of the Bat" and the story revolves around uncovering the identity of the mysterious Bat Prince who is head of a secret assassination association causing havoc and instilling fear in the martial arts world. His underground business is comprised of many talented fighters who are all masked and have dark secrets. The story begins with Chor Lau Heung (Miu Kiu Wai) returning from a trip to his ship and having to leave again to celebrate his good friend, Jor Hing Hau's, birthday. His three ship companions join him and along the way, they meet Song Siu Jing (Barbara Yung), a mysterious girl carrying a famous sword. Siu Jing despises Chor Lau Heung at first because of some misunderstandings but eventually falls for him. Chor also seems to love Siu Jing most as the series progresses. More familiar characters are back, such as Chor's wine-lover friend, Wu Tiet Fa, and ex-assassin, Yut Dim Hung. Like all Gu Long stories, each event that happens early on in the story is somehow tied to some bigger plot or some revealing clue to the bigger puzzle.
The sub-romances have the women-hating Wu Tiet Fa falling in love with Go Ah Lam (Yueng Pan Pan), who is a tomboyish Ngor Mei Sect disciple. Her martial sister Wah Zhen Zhen, played by Mimi Kung, falls in love with Chor Lau Heung while Chow Sau Lan, playing Kam Ling Zhi, the mischievous granddaughter of Kam Tai Kwun (Lei Hueng Kam), is paired up with Simon Yam Duk Wah.
The suspense and mystery in "New" are carried out well, while the story is also told at a good pace, especially at the beginning to intermediate parts. The irony in this particular Gu Long story is excellent, as the Bat Prince gives up everything for the throne, only to realize that he has been duped himself about his identity. The ending scene was one of my favorite scenes because it was very sweet and really shows the versatility of Mui Kiu Wai's facial expressions--from sadness to joy to disappointment--all flickering through his face in a matter of moments.
The acting in this series was also very good. Though Miu Kiu Wai had very big shoes to fill playing TVB's 80s version of Chor Lau Heung, he handled it quite well. Miu has a natural charm on-screen while his tall built and dashing looks all attributed to the role. Barbara Yung's character is made up by TVB and is not in the original Gu Long novel. Some might be disappointed that Barbara Yung did not play a clever girl as was her debut lead role as Wong Yung in "Legend of the Condor Heroes", because her character does get tricked in several cases. However, her chemistry with Miu was really something in this series and though their scenes together are few, they were quite memorable. It is no wonder that gossip went around that they were a real-life couple. This was also Barbara's last TVB series before her unfortunate death.
Simon Yam was one of TVB's finest actors back then but it is a pity that he never won any recognition or awards for it. Before figures like Chow Yun Fat or the Five Tigers had their first debuts, Simon Yam was already playing lead roles. Simon Yam played Yuen Chui Wan in "New" and gave a solid performance.
Special notes about the actors who played Wu Tiet Fa (Chen Wing Chun) and Yut Dim Hung (Wai Tin Chi); I thought both were great for the respective roles. Many thanks to sukting for providing me the names!
Chor Lau Heung's three ship companions are played by minor female actresses here and are given relatively less importance to the story. There are also inconsistencies between Adam Cheng's version and this version. For instance, Chor Lau Heung loved So Yung Yung in the latter parts of the 70's version while in this series, he treats all his three ship companions only as sisters. So Yung Yung also died at the end of the 70's series while Yut Dim Hung had lost his arm. This "New Adventures" version kept them all intact. The only thing that struck me as a bit odd was that in the 70's version, Adam's Chor didn't seem to be as happy or cheerful as Mui's Chor.
All in all, this was one of my personal favorites of the 80's series. The plot, storyline, fighting, costumes, and acting were all done well. The outfits worn by Barbara Yung were stunning, she changed her clothes quite a few times in the series. The themesong is sung by Roman Law Man while the subtheme is sung by him and Lisa Wang Ming Chuen. Background music fits the mood of the series, though I noticed that some themes were from the 70's version. *Note: check out the Multimedia section at the site for themesong video clip.*
Note: TVB has finally released the official version of this series on VCD! I hope it was because fans kept pestering TVB that they finally decided to listen as I was getting quite a lot of messages too requesting for information on this! Please follow the Related Products link above on this review page for purchasing information.