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Thread: THE SHELL GAME (千王之王) (1980) Thread

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    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Default THE SHELL GAME (千王之王) (1980) Thread

    In 1980, TVB released THE BUND, which started a whole new vogue for gangster dramas set in the 1920s/1930s during the early Republic of China era.

    Within the same year, THE BUND spawned not only two direct sequels, but also THE SHELL GAME, which used a similar 1920s/1930s gangster conflict milieu, but whose focus was on the world of gambling, gamesmanship, and deception rather than the more overtly social/political/cultural focus of THE BUND.

    On the one hand, THE SHELL GAME was definitely produced at the time to capitalize on the vogue created for gangster dramas by THE BUND. THE SHELL GAME, however, was no cheap, exploitative knockoff of THE BUND, but a classic in its own right. Unlike THE BUND, which aspired to be art and attained that lofty objective, THE SHELL GAME didn't have any ambition to be more than the standard TVB drama, circa 1980. Drawing upon the intensive quality-control standards that went into the production of THE BUND, however, TVB seemed determined that although THE SHELL GAME would be, by comparison to THE BUND, standard TVB product, it would be standard TVB product at a higher level of quality than had been previously seen.

    Unlike THE BUND, THE SHELL GAME did not aim to reproduce a special noir atmosphere (although it occasionally did so anyway, since it borrowed many of THE BUND's production values). Where THE SHELL GAME couldn't lose, however, was in its casting. The principals:

    Patrick Tse Yin as "Southern Divine Eyes," Guangzhou Gambler King Lo 4 Hoi

    Liza Wong Ming Cheun as Tam Siu Tong

    Peter Yeung Kwun as "Northern Thousand Hands," Shanghai Gambler King Cheuk 1 Fu

    Simon Yam Dat Wah as Tam Sing

    Rounding out this stellar main cast was a strong supporting cast, including:

    Regina Tsang Hing Yu as Cheuk Lei

    Gwok Fung as Hung Pau

    Sheut Lei as Hung Ying Ying

    ...among others.

    The actors played their roles extremely well. Direction by Wong Teen Lam was excellent, and the script by Wong Jing was probably his best work ever. The characters were well developed and engaging, and the narrative was gripping. A suite of songs was composed by Joseph Koo Ga Fai and stands as one of his best suites of work for a TVB series.

    The series focuses on a thematic element of deception, not only in gambling games or in schemes for the attainment of power, but also how people deceive themselves in matters of life. At twenty-five episodes, THE SHELL GAME, like THE BUND, is a textbook example of economic teledrama that delivers on multiple levels.

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    Senior Member SkyWalker's Avatar
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    I still remember the ending...very sad!

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    I watched the series within 2 days. Then it is video tapes. Some thoughts are:
    1. to be the ultimate, you must ignore the six "qing". actually, to date, I can't name them. should be parents, teachers, family
    2. power goes one cycle. the mayor is back to power in the end.
    3. Tam Sing's skills in gambling were hardly challenged. it will be good to add some suspense to this. Perhaps, the emphasis is more on character instead of gambling.

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    Senior Member charbydis's Avatar
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    The fact that Tam Sing spent so much time training to gamble for revenge, yet the end, resorted to overuse of bombs and guns seemed very disappointing for me. I mean, a gambling show-down between Cheuk Lei and Tam Sing would have been great (luckily they made up for it in part two when it did happen)!

    Also, the rape thing was a bit over the top. One thing to be cold and emotionless, then another to let your long-lost daughter get brutally raped while you are hiding one board away. Make's one think that gees, is revenge all that important? I would rather die in a fight than to watch her get raped.

    I think the main point of "The Shell Game" is that all people can be corrupted no matter how innocent you are. Greed, power, fame, revenge, and wealth can control someone to make choices that they would not normally do and will regret for the rest of their lives. Everyone strives to climb to the top yet when they get there, they realise they are the most miserable people in the world. The clever ones leave and opt for a simple (?poor) life before the lose everything rather than a rich but painful life.

    However, the ending pisses me off so much.
    click to show/hide spoilers
    How can Tam Sing leave Ying Ying in the nunnery after that one talk? At least he can persist and talk to her again and again until she relents. After all, her main problem is that she is concerned that she is unworthy because she was raped by her brother. He is such an idiot. He regrets for the rest of his life yet does he go and ifnd her agian? No.
    "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
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    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wkeej View Post
    I watched the series within 2 days. Then it is video tapes. Some thoughts are:
    1. to be the ultimate, you must ignore the six "qing". actually, to date, I can't name them. should be parents, teachers, family
    This theme was carried over into THE SHELL GAME II as well. As always, however, using this method carries with it a price.

    2. power goes one cycle. the mayor is back to power in the end.
    Do you mean the Chairman of the Guangzhou Gambling Association, Fok Man Ting (played by Chow Chung)? This guy never lost power. He was in power all the way through. In the beginning he supported the Hung Family, but later switched his support to Tam Sing when it became evident that Tam would be the new kingpin in the Guangzhou gambling community.

    3. Tam Sing's skills in gambling were hardly challenged. it will be good to add some suspense to this. Perhaps, the emphasis is more on character instead of gambling.
    Actually, there was very little tabletop gambling done during the final part of the series when Tam Sing challenged Cheuk Lei. They had one card match (which Tam won), but that's it.

    Quote Originally Posted by charbydis View Post
    The fact that Tam Sing spent so much time training to gamble for revenge, yet the end, resorted to overuse of bombs and guns seemed very disappointing for me. I mean, a gambling show-down between Cheuk Lei and Tam Sing would have been great (luckily they made up for it in part two when it did happen)!
    They only had that one card match. Neither one really got to exhibit his/her gambling skill in full force.

    But Lo 4 Hoi had said to Tam Siu Tong way back in Episode 2, "A Swindler isn't focused on gambling, but on plotting." That's what it came down to in the end: not tabletop games, but a much bigger game played out in human lives.

    Also, the rape thing was a bit over the top. One thing to be cold and emotionless, then another to let your long-lost daughter get brutally raped while you are hiding one board away. Make's one think that gees, is revenge all that important? I would rather die in a fight than to watch her get raped.
    It would have been futile, though. Lo 4 Hoi was just one man, and he was blind. There was nothing he could do against four or five armed men. He could have died valiantly to save his daughter, but she still would have been raped. In fact, had he resisted, her fate might have been even more brutal.

    I think the main point of "The Shell Game" is that all people can be corrupted no matter how innocent you are. Greed, power, fame, revenge, and wealth can control someone to make choices that they would not normally do and will regret for the rest of their lives.
    I think there was a warning in THE SHELL GAME about what happens when ambition overreaches the conscience. Tam Sing was always ambitious, even when he was a naive young man. As his skills and experience grew, so did his ambition. After he started learning from Cheuk 1 Fu, his ambition overtook his conscience.

    Everyone strives to climb to the top yet when they get there, they realise they are the most miserable people in the world. The clever ones leave and opt for a simple (?poor) life before the lose everything rather than a rich but painful life.
    That's the price that Tam Sing paid. By THE SHELL GAME II, it was clear that Tam Sing had finally learned his lesson, but it was too late. He had already condemned himself.

    However, the ending pisses me off so much.
    click to show/hide spoilers
    How can Tam Sing leave Ying Ying in the nunnery after that one talk? At least he can persist and talk to her again and again until she relents. After all, her main problem is that she is concerned that she is unworthy because she was raped by her brother. He is such an idiot. He regrets for the rest of his life yet does he go and ifnd her agian? No.
    click to show/hide spoilers
    This was the "Ignoring the Six Relations" at work. Tam Sing had worked hard and suffered greatly to attain the title of King of Gambler Kings. He couldn't just walk away from it...not even for Ying Ying. You could tell it was a difficult decision for him, but in the end, he wanted that position more than he wanted her. He wished he could have it all, but when it became evident that he had to sacrifice true love for the attainment of his ambition, he chose to make that sacrifice.

    This was, of course, the tragedy of his story. Did he make the wrong decision? By THE SHELL GAME II, it seemed evident that he might have believed that he did, but it was too late to go back and do things over. Therein also lies a lesson...


    Additionally, few people realize this, but there was actually kind of, sort of, a THIRD SHELL GAME series produced by TVB during the early 1980s. In 1983, TVB released a series called THE BOLD ONES, starring Kent Tong, Austin Wai, and Tung Wai. Although this series had no direct storyline connections to THE SHELL GAME or THE SHELL GAME II, Simon Yam appeared once again as Tam Sing in THE BOLD ONES as a supporting character, and some references were made back to other characters and events in THE SHELL GAME and THE SHELL GAME II. THE BOLD ONES, therefore, could be considered the third part of a THE SHELL GAME TRILOGY.

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    Although every member of THE SHELL GAME's cast played his or her role exceptionally well, I think the runaway star of the series was Patrick Tse as Lo 4 Hoi. By the time that Tse took on this role, he was a veteran actor with more than twenty years of experience and had been in countless movies and TV series. But Lo 4 Hoi became a sort of defining role for his career. He brought a great amount of personality into the character. Towards the end of the series, though, it seemed like the focus went off of Lo 4 Hoi and more towards Tam Sing and Cheuk 1 Fu.

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    I agree with Ken why Tam Sing leave Ying Ying in the nunnery - the moral of the six relations. btw, as noted in an earlier thread, anyone can tell me what are the six relations?

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    Quote Originally Posted by wkeej View Post
    I agree with Ken why Tam Sing leave Ying Ying in the nunnery - the moral of the six relations. btw, as noted in an earlier thread, anyone can tell me what are the six relations?
    I'll take a blind stab at it; NO idea how accurate this is:

    1. parents

    2. siblings

    3. spouses/lovers

    4. children

    5. friends

    6. teachers

    I guess that probably covers it.

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    There was a theme running through both SHELL GAME series about skill in the tabletop games vs. skill in the plotting game.

    During THE SHELL GAME I, I felt that Lo 4 Hoi was, by far, the best at the tabletop games. Neither Cheuk 1 Fu nor Tam Sing demonstrated the same level of skill that Lo did in cards, mahjong, dominoes, or dice. Even after becoming blind, Lo's skill in those games never diminished.

    Lo 4 Hoi was also a good plotter with keen instincts, but I felt he was *not* as good a plotter as Cheuk 1 Fu. Cheuk 1 Fu was not as good at the tabletop casino games. Lo 4 Hoi pretty much pwnd him in the one mahjong match they had. When it came to plotting a major swindling operation, however, Cheuk 1 Fu was The Man. It was Cheuk who masterminded the scheme to fool Chui Lo Geen in Hong Kong and take back the opium shipment Chui had stolen from Hung Biu. The plot would have worked perfectly if not for Cheuk Lei's secret machinations. Also, the Hung Family had no idea how to handle Lo 4 Hoi until Cheuk 1 Fu got involved. After Cheuk 1 Fu got involved, each one of Lo 4 Hoi's proverbial dominoes got knocked down one after another: Cheuk 1 Fu eliminated Lo 4 Hoi's most formidable weapon: the Divine Gunman Yeung Geen (he of the 7 guns). After that, he was able to track down the rest of Lo 4 Hoi's well-hidden gang and eliminate them.

    At the end of the series, it was Cheuk 1 Fu, not Lo 4 Hoi, who helped Tam Sing to plan and carry out the operation to take down Cheuk Lei. Cheuk 1 Fu was better at the plotting stuff; it was only after beginning to learn from Cheuk 1 Fu that Tam Sing really got anywhere in developing his swindling skills.

    I kind of wonder what might have happened if Lo 4 Hoi had played a game of cards or mahjong with Sau Dai Chin, the main villain of THE SHELL GAME II. Sau Dai Chin seemed unbeatable; even Tao 1 Siu (the new role played by Patrick Tse in THE SHELL GAME II) with his "Golden Right Hand" couldn't beat him, but *maybe* Lo 4 Hoi could have.

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    Senior Member charbydis's Avatar
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    I would really like to see how Cheuk Lei faces off with Yu Lan (?? think that's her name, Sau Da Chin's mistress) in a show-down!! to me, they are two of the best female villians in TVB's history! They rock!
    "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
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    Cheuk Lei is the girl who loves Tam Sing? In Shell Game 1, she became "mad" when their son was "killed"? did she re-appear in Game 2? I did not watch Game 2.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wkeej View Post
    Cheuk Lei is the girl who loves Tam Sing? In Shell Game 1, she became "mad" when their son was "killed"? did she re-appear in Game 2? I did not watch Game 2.
    click to show/hide spoilers
    Cheuk Lei dies in a fall just minutes after the death of her son, so no chance of a reappearance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by charbydis View Post
    I would really like to see how Cheuk Lei faces off with Yu Lan (?? think that's her name, Sau Da Chin's mistress) in a show-down!! to me, they are two of the best female villians in TVB's history! They rock!
    It could be a great match, couldn't it? But I think Cheuk Lei would outwit Yu Lan. Yu Lan needed Sau Dai Chin to take on the gambler kings, but Cheuk Lei was able to bring down Lo 4 Hoi and Cheuk 1 Fu on her own (although she did need the Hung Family's muscle to pull it off).

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    another classic which started off the gambling movies trend in hk after that ...

    it was disheartening to see tam sing lose his only son in the end and what worse retribution for chuet lei to lose her son, i believe she still loved tam sing till the end ...

    i find tam sing making a re-appearance as some singapore tycoon a bit cheesy though ...

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    Quote Originally Posted by jSMl2046 View Post
    another classic which started off the gambling movies trend in hk after that ...

    it was disheartening to see tam sing lose his only son in the end and what worse retribution for chuet lei to lose her son, i believe she still loved tam sing till the end ...
    I believed se loved Tam Sing all the way through, but her ambition and revenge got in her way. All the same, he never loved her. He liked her fine but would have never married her when he had Ying Ying.

    I found it repulsive when
    click to show/hide spoilers
    Tam Sing didnt blink an eye when he sent Cheuk Lei's son off to die, then get all emotional when he found out it was his own son. Bombing kids up is just wrong - whether big revenge plan or not!
    '

    Tam Sing just has too many characteristics that i find annoying. He is one of my most hated TVB poptagonists.

    BTW, I think Yu Lan has a terrible choice of men she uses (that stupid guy).
    "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
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    Junior Member jSMl2046's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by charbydis View Post
    I believed se loved Tam Sing all the way through, but her ambition and revenge got in her way. All the same, he never loved her. He liked her fine but would have never married her when he had Ying Ying.

    I found it repulsive when
    click to show/hide spoilers
    Tam Sing didnt blink an eye when he sent Cheuk Lei's son off to die, then get all emotional when he found out it was his own son. Bombing kids up is just wrong - whether big revenge plan or not!
    '

    Tam Sing just has too many characteristics that i find annoying. He is one of my most hated TVB poptagonists.

    BTW, I think Yu Lan has a terrible choice of men she uses (that stupid guy).
    that's how he became qian wang zi wang becos he's the only one who can go liu qing bu ren ...

    much to his regret in the shell game II ...

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    Quote Originally Posted by jSMl2046 View Post

    i find tam sing making a re-appearance as some singapore tycoon a bit cheesy though ...
    Was that in THE BOLD ONES? That's the last TVB series to depict or refer to the Tam Sing character, as far as I know.

    Quote Originally Posted by charbydis View Post
    I believed se loved Tam Sing all the way through, but her ambition and revenge got in her way. All the same, he never loved her. He liked her fine but would have never married her when he had Ying Ying.
    He had that one night of lust for her, but the memory of that night is forever contaminated by the fact that she had deceived him and used him to get the information that would enable the Hung Family to entrap and blind his teacher, Lo 4 Hoi.

    I found it repulsive when
    click to show/hide spoilers
    Tam Sing didnt blink an eye when he sent Cheuk Lei's son off to die, then get all emotional when he found out it was his own son. Bombing kids up is just wrong - whether big revenge plan or not!
    I think Tam Sing had gone insane with vengeance for a while...truly insane, until
    click to show/hide spoilers
    the death of Fai-jai
    brought him back to reality in the cruelest possible way.

    Tam Sing just has too many characteristics that i find annoying. He is one of my most hated TVB poptagonists.
    By THE SHELL GAME II, however, he had clearly learned his lesson. Of all the great swindlers in THE SHELL GAME II, Tam Sing ultimately proved to be the wisest.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cheng View Post
    He had that one night of lust for her, but the memory of that night is forever contaminated by the fact that she had deceived him and used him to get the information that would enable the Hung Family to entrap and blind his teacher, Lo 4 Hoi.
    I think to some extent she loved him or else she could have easily killed him too. On the other hand, she is power-hungry by "marrying" into the hung family and "sleeping" with the mayor.

    Please refresh my memory on how she died. After her son was killed, she went "mad", fell and died? So simple

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    Quote Originally Posted by wkeej View Post
    I think to some extent she loved him or else she could have easily killed him too. On the other hand, she is power-hungry by "marrying" into the hung family and "sleeping" with the mayor.
    Oh, there's no doubt that Cheuk Lei had a soft spot for Tam Sing. She had numerous opportunities to kill him and for her own good, she *should* have, but she never was able to bring herself to do it.

    She couldn't achieve the "Ignoring the Six Relations" that he did; that's why Tam Sing, not Cheuk Lei, attained the title of King of Gambler Kings.

    Please refresh my memory on how she died. After her son was killed, she went "mad", fell and died? So simple
    click to show/hide spoilers
    Cheuk Lei went catatonic after the death of her son. As she left the park where the hostage exchange took place, she began hallucinating that her son, alive and well, was waving to her from a promontory over the park (the scene is a bit spooky). She followed her hallucinatory image of him over the side of the promontory and fell maybe about thirty or forty feet onto hard pavement to her death.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jSMl2046 View Post

    i find tam sing making a re-appearance as some singapore tycoon a bit cheesy though ...
    Ah, wait...I get what you mean now. When the group returned from Macao to Guangzhou to avenge themselves on the Hung Family, Tam Sing arrived "undercover" as Chan Sabah, the Chairman of the Malaysian Rubber Industry Association.

    I like how that set-up was established and used, actually.

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