First of all, this is one of the saddest wuxia serials I ever watched! Unfortunately, for some reason TVB (or maybe my local VCD distributor?) squeezed this series to less than 50% its original, or just 3 hours. Yes, pals, only THREE HOURS! Which is insane, as the story line was not developed and many characters just came out suddenly with no introduction at all.
OK, here the story line goes:
Fu Qing Yun (Andy Lau) and Mu Rong Bai (Lawrence Ng) were both Wu Dang students. They were assigned to spy on Tao Yan, the so called 'evil' clan. Upon arriving there, they discovered that Tao Yan was actually a peaceful place. Moreover, Fu Qing Yun learned that he was actually the son of Tao Yan leader. This made Qing Yun hesitant on going back to Wu Dang, especially since he fell in love with Tang Qi (Angie Zhao), a girl expert in poison and medication. Unfortunately, since Tang Qi was loved by Muo--a Tao Yan hero--and Qing Yun was loved by Butterfly--Muo's sister--they decided to keep their love a secret.
On the other hand, Mu Rong Bai is determined to be the next Wu Dang leader. To fulfill his ambition, he killed his own teacher and learned Wu Dang's ultimate martial arts. As the Wu Dang leader was not allowed to get married, Mu Rong Bai tried to hide his love to Chu Han Yan (Zhou Xiu Lan), a cute girl with a mission to write a book about Wu Lim (Martial World) history.
Mu Rong Bai organized a raid to Tao Yan and killed Fu Qing Yun's father. Tao Yan was destroyed, and its remaining members decided to make Qing Yun their leader, especially since Qing Yun mastered Tao Yan's secret and ultimate inner strength, the Chi Yang. Qing Yun wanted to make peace with the so called 'good' sects, but his intention was rejected by Fu Qian Shi, his uncle, who wanted to destroy the 'good' sects as revenge. Tao Yan was then divided into two groups.
To settle this dispute, Fu Qing Yun and Fu Qian Shi decided to have a duel. Mu Rong Bai, as cunning as a fox, took this as opportunity to kill them both. To save Qing Yun's life, Fu Qian Shi sacrificed himself and got killed by Mu Rong Bai.
Meanwhile, Muo--discovering that Tang Qi only loves Qing Yun--poisoned Butterfly using Tang Qi's ultimate poison that could not be cured, but could only be stabilized by the perpetual transfer of Chi Yang inner strength. By doing so, he hoped that Qing Yun would transfer his Chi Yang to Butterfly forever and thus sealed Butterfly's wedding with Qing Yun. Muo then killed himself.
Mu Rong Bai organized a final attack to Tao Yan, in which the only persons left were Qing Yun, Tang Qi, and Butterfly. In this attack, Mu Rong Bai also managed to snatch the Chi Yang book, and made a pact with Qing Yun to have a duel one month later. Chu Han Yan pleaded with Mu Rong Bai to stop all of the killings and threatened to publish all of Mu Rong Bai's evil deeds in her book. Mu Rong Bai was shocked, and arranged to have one of his followers kill Han Yan. Chu Han Yan managed to survive, and gave her book to Tang Qi," so everyone would know who's evil and who's good."
Butterfly accidentally read the book and discovered that Tang Qi and Qing Yun actually loved each other dearly. She also learned that in the duel between Qing Yun and Mu Rong Bai, Qing Yun was guaranteed to be killed, as some of his inner strength was transferred to her. To save Qing Yun's life, Butterfly then begged Wang Qi to kill her.
Tang Qi tried to help Qing Yun by poisoning Mu Rong Bai, and by doing so she was nearly killed. Fu Qing Yun saved her in the last minutes, and said that even though he got killed, Tang Qi should survive to publish the Wu Lim History book, "...so that people would know that Tao Yan is actually a peaceful place."
Duel day!! Due to Tang Qi's poison, Fu Qing Yun managed to win the duel, but he refused to kill Mu Rong Bai. Mu Rong Bai said that he thought Qing Yun was a dreamer, unrealistically hoping that Tao Yan (translated here as Heaven on Earth) existed. Fu Qing Yun was very shocked and almost went insane. He kept on questioning himself whether heaven on earth could exist. As he really didn't pay attention to his surrounding, he was easily killed by a junior student of the 'good' sect.
In the mean time, Mu Rong Bai fell into a pit and met Chu Han Yan at the very bottom. It occurred that Chu Han Yan has decided to lock Mu Rong Bai with her forever, to prevent him doing more evil deeds.
Tang Qi, left alone, tried to publish the Wu Lim history book. As she went down the hill, she met leaders of the 'good' sects that snatched the book from her. They discovered that the book recorded many evil deeds done by their ancestors, and thus they destroyed the book. So, to restore Tao Yan's name and fulfill Fu Qing Yun's last request, Tang Qi became a storyteller, going everywhere to tell the real story of Tao Yan?
Well, as I told you, this is a very sad story. I just can't believe they let all of Tao Yan people dead, and gave such a sad ending for Tang Qi!!
Many of the best scenes were cut, especially when Qing Yun and Mu Rong Bai first entered Tao Yan. Angie's first appearance (which is superb), when she examined Qing Yun using a piece of shawl, was also cut.
Despite all the cutting, I don't particularly like the story line either. I praise the idea of making Wu Lim History Book, but the ending is just simply bad. It is illogical that Mu Rong Bai could make Qing Yun go crazy with just some simple sentences. Qing Yun's change from a kind hero to someone that questioned his own judgment is also too stupid.
Anyway, if you have watched this serial before (and still remember the story), it is a good memorandum on how great the 80's actors were. Despite their short (and came out of nowhere) characters, the actors gave the 'authentic' feeling, compared to 'modern' feel of today's actors.
I don't particularly like Andy Lau here, as he was not in his peak performance as in "Return Of the Condor Heroes 83". He didn't seem kind, he didn't seem powerful, he only seemed indecisive and weak. But I do think his wardrobe, which is not the typical 80s style, is great.
Angie is great. Her eyes, her body language, really depicted a girl who would sacrifice her own love and happiness for good deeds. It's just too bad that there is not much chemistry between her and Andy Lau.
Zhou Xiu Lan really seemed torn apart between good and bad, knowing that her lover is evil and tried to punish him. I really like her pained look when trying to kill or trap Mu Rong Bai. I think she's great.
Anyway, I think the actor that really steals the show is the very thin Lawrence Ng. He seemed born to be wicked! He looked so cunning, ruthless, yet madly in love with Chu Han Yan. But I am quite annoyed to see his moustache and all. Come on, he is suppose to be around the same age as Andy, so why he's the only one that bearded??
The fighting scenes are simply excellent. The use of graphics is minimum, and only used to illustrate both Yin and Yang inner strengths, which should be admitted, is tacky. And I don't think I heard a particular OST, although maybe it was also cut when the serial were converted (and squeezed) to VCD.
My Rating? * to ** (depends on cut / uncut version)