Condor in September

Reviewed by: PJ

December 01, 2003

Rating: three

I would like to begin by giving the reader some background information about the series. It is adapted from Gu Long's novel with the same title. The VCD package advertises it as a sequel to Dagger Lee, which is quite true as it is a continuation of Dagger Lee into the next generation. Most of the key characters are successors of famous people from Dagger Lee's story. The main couple Ye Kai and Ding Linling also appear in at least one other Gu Long story.

Key characters:

Ye Kai (played by Damian Lau) - only person to have inherited Li Xunhuan's Flying Dagger skills

Shangguan Xiaoxian (played by Chen Fusheng) - daughter of Shangguan Jinhong and Lin Xian'er

Ding Linling (played by Wei Qiuhua) - lover of Ye Kai

Guo Ding (played by Goo Goon Chung) - brother of Guo Songyang (GSY is one of top 10 fighters in Sentimental Swordsman; friend of Dagger Lee who fought Jing Wuming and died)

Mo Douxing/Mo Jiuxing - leader of a group of "death seekers" from Qing Cheng mountain

Lu Di - Niece of Lu Fengxian from Wu Dang (LFS is one of top 10 fighters in Sentimental Swordsman - #5 to be exact)

Han Zhen - Nicknamed Awl, he is one of the most mysterious people in "Condor"

Yang Tian - Nicknamed Flying Fox, he is another mysterious character

Cui Yuzhen - Woman who falls in love with Ye Kai

Eighth Master Wei - Rather powerful figure in the South; major character in first few episodes

I was introduced to the story years ago and read the novel in less than one day, I think. It was full of intrigue and suspense. One noticeable characteristic is that nobody is who he/she appears to be, and nothing can be trusted. This seems to be fairly consistent among Gu Long's works, at least the ones I am familiar with. Still, the amount of deception and betrayal and twists and turns in "Condor" is mind boggling. Unfortunately the series does not reflect the original story to a satisfactory level.

First, the series has made some silly plot modifications. I was very pleased with the first five or so episodes, as they were faithful to the novel and most of the dialogues are spoken word-for-word from the book. However, the next few episodes are mostly made-up material that did NOT happen in the book, and they were too obvious for they lacked the witty dialogues and complex plot typical of Gu Long's works.

Also these made-up stuff adhered too much to cliches, and I found them quite irritating. For example, the character Mo Douxing has a very minor role in the book, not appearing until late in the story. However he appears in episode 5 or 6 in the series and is given a much larger role; this destroyed his mysterious nature which was part of the book.

Second, I must say the choice of music is very bad. It's got perhaps the most ridiculous themesong I have ever heard from a wuxia series. The other music I am sure is unoriginal as well. There is nothing good about the music except for some spooky sound effects here and there.

Third, acting is almost non-existent. Most characters fail to convey the emotions or faces given in the book. Damian Lau maintains his wooden state throughout, but perhaps the uninspiring dubbing added to the negative judgement.

Fourth, too much repetition of dialogue. I do not recall whether this is the case with the book but Shangguan Xiaoxian really got on my nerves in this series because every time she is with Ye Kai (which can happen several times per episode), she has to say "Don't you know how I feel about you? As long as you are happy, I will do anything for you." So later whenever she would start saying "Do you know that..." I would automatically yell out "Yes, for crying out loud, we DO know what you are going to say. Next time say something else will ya?!"

Lastly, the fight scenes are not impressive either. At best the choreography is on par with the early 80s stuff I have seen from TVB. It is not up to the standard of a typical Shaw Brothers movie from the early 80s. Not that there is a lot of action in this series - perhaps they average to 1-2 minutes per episode. The longest fight scene is probably about 20 seconds long. So the bottom line is, if you want a lot of action or good action, look elsewhere.

The budget is also quite low, but I am willing to forgive this department as it is common for old TV series. One of the few good things I can say about "Condor" is the cast. Most characters match my impressions from the novel. Ye Kai is very free and simple; Shangguan Xiaoxian is extremely beautiful; Han Zhen is unpredictable. Chen Fusheng who plays Shangguan Xiaoxian deserves praise for conveying both the cruel and emotional side of this descendant of the heartless man and shameless woman from Sentimental Swordsman. Actually she also played Ah Zi in TVB's "Demi Gods Semi Devils" 1982, and she does convey a lot of the same gestures and faces in both roles, albeit more restrained here.

In conclusion, I was rather annoyed at the series' several attempts to change the original storyline. Acting, action, music, and plot are somewhat flawed. It delivers some suspense and interesting plot twists, but patience is required due to irritating repetition. "Condor in September" may be for you if you have not read the novel. As for me, this series definitely confirmed that reading the novel may be more rewarding than watching the adaption.

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