The Thief of Time


Reviewed by: sukting

June 25, 2009

Rating: three

Foreword

It was the 25th Anniversary Special for TVB. This telemovie brings back many old memories of the dramas in the 70s to 90s. Are you interested to watch it? It has big names like Wan Siu Lun, Cheng Siu Chau, Lau Chung Yan, Lau Tak Wah, Chan Yuk Lin, Chow Sing Chee and Lee See Kei. With a star studded cast, I can’t contain my curiosity. I happened to find it in a video store and rented it.

Story

(The first 20 minutes is extremely boring.)

Mr Cheng (Bao Fong) wishes to pray for good health and comes to a Tibet temple. (One nurse was Chu Kit Yee while another was Chan Pui San.) There is a said valuable treasure taken from the imperial palace. He gets it from an auction in the name of charity. After holding it, he can stand up from his wheelchair as he feels better. This shows that it is worthwhile. Two thieves Yip Siu Kin (Ha Yu) and Siu Bing (Cheung Wai Kin) from China decide to steal it from him at night.

But someone is faster than them. Raymond (Ho Kok Wing) and his men (one of them is Wong Tak Bun) have witness it earlier. They kill the security guards (one of them is Lam Kar Dong). They are not trapped by the security system. Siu Kin and Siu Bing steal their way into the house, undiscovered. They trigger the alarm and all the people are trapped together in the hall.

Raymond stares at them sternly and tells his men to kill them. The two try to escape and Raymond’s men end up killing the other residents in the house. Raymond gets shot and Siu Bing is left to struggle with the injured Raymond while Siu Kin runs away. Raymond faints after getting hit while Siu Bing is nearly caught by the police inspector, Alex Lee (Tsang Wai Kuen).

He pretends to be a policeman to solve the case. He keeps covering Raymond’s mouth to prevent him from talking. Actually he has the chance to leave but he is greedy for money to turn back. Alex grabs his hand, wanting to ask him questions but this stupid thief thinks that his cover is blown and begs for mercy. Uncle Kat (Hu Fung) and another policewoman, Hao Ying Ying (Ho Yuen Ying) roam the street.

He prefers to work on small cases and walks away even though he hears of announcement of the theft. He teaches her 4 words – greed, alive, scared and die. Greed is to get away from responsibility, alive is nothing matters than their own lives and it is natural to get scared to avoid danger. The last is pretend to die so that the villains will not silence them! (Hu is definitely a veteran in relating this in detail!)

Siu Kin holds the honest taxi-driver Tam Ah Lun (Wan Siu Lun) as hostage after stealing the treasure. Uncle Kat is angry when Ah Lun knocks into him. He tries to hint to them in English that Siu Kin is up to no good but they don’t understand him. But Ying Ying is observant to know that later. She is a fierce cop and seizes a truck. The truck driver (Wong Yat San) tries to get fresh with her but ends up being kicked to the main road. During the struggle with Ying Ying, the three are sent to the past by the treasure.

(This part – I think they just want to eat on Man Tse Leung’s popularity by getting him to appear for only 5 minutes and Kwan Lai Kit has more screen time. Equally boring as well. )

Genghis Khan (Man Tse Leung) and his henchman, Song Kuan (Kwan Lai Kit) mistaken them as spies. So they capture them. The three even think that they are performers from Sum Chen. Song Kuan grabs Ying Ying’s police pass from her and throws back at her after looking at it. The three only think that they are in another territory although they are in China. They demand to speak to the person in charge.

Genghis Khan decides to behead them the next day. Siu Kin gives him Song Kuan shades that he has stolen and the soldiers praise him for resembling Genghis Khan. But he fails to bribe him even after giving all the things he has stolen, including a gun. Ah Lun accidentally diminishes their tribe’s scared fire but lights it with his lighter instead.

All are shocked and kneel to him – Ah Lun must be the famous sacred fire messenger. Thus Ah Lun claims to be so that he can be Song Kuan’s friend. The other two become slaves instead and wishes him to save them out. His lighter runs out of kerosene and he can’t light it when pretending to give luck to Song Kuan’s wives.

Ying Ying seizes Siu Kin’s lighter and he finally gets the mission done. Ah Lun requests for their release and they are happy to be free. Ah Lun can’t break free as he is forced to light the sacred fire in the centre of the courtyard. He is tied to the pole while the others set fire to him. When he is nearly burned to death, the two set the place on fire so that they can save him out.

Ying Ying manages to steal Siu Kin’s bag of valuables and intend to hand to the police when they return. Siu Kin is annoyed with her. Genghis Khan’s men are still after them. Ying Ying is injured and faints when one of them gives her a flying kick. They are surrounded and can’t move.

(‘Return of condo heroes’ fans will love this part as they can see their favourite screen couple together again.)

Luckily, they are saved by Yeung Guo (Lau Tak Wah) (an amazing sight when he moves his sword swiftly among the white birds.) He braces through the crowd and finishes all of them. Ah Lun realises that they are indeed in the past when seeing that he has only an arm.

One glance at Ying Ying, Guo knows that her wound is not serious. They bring her to the ice cave. She wakes up, puzzled. She is speechless when seeing Siu Long Nui (Chan Yuk Lin). Is she a ghost? Siu Long Nui assures her that she is still alive.

Ying Ying is delighted to know that she is Siu Long Nui and relates how much she likes her. Siu Long Nui shakes her head in fright. How can she like her as she is already in love with Guo? Ying Ying explains that it is not her intention as she has looked up to her as her model. Siu Long Nui can’t cure her as she herself is injured. So she has already taught her Yuk Nui skill to build up her inner strength.

Ying Ying regrets not bringing her camera and has no paper for her to sign. She has read the novel numerous times. She is so thrilled to see Guo and Siu Long Nui as they are her idols. He is really handsome and she gets smitten with him. Ying Ying gets the bag back from Guo and touches his hand admiringly. (This scene is really funny as I have not seen a woman so eager over a man before.) Guo suddenly feels a sharp pain in his chest and Siu Long Nui comes close to him. Ying Ying then recalls that he is poisoned by the love flowers.

Guo asks how they know about it. Ah Lun says it’s written by Gu Long while Ying Ying says it is by Liang Yu Sheng. (Many will crack up at this digging at the wrong author. Everyone knows that Jin Yong is the rightful owner of this novel. ) The couple refuses to eat the remaining antidote so Siu Long Nui throws it away. It ends up in Ying Ying’s mouth and she faints. (How unexpected!)

The antidote will not harm her as Guo will impart the next half of the Yuk Nui manual to Ah Lun or Siu Kin so that they can heal her. The couple decide to kill themselves down the heartless valley since they are dying. Siu Kin stops them for a while and requests to learn the skill after knocking Ah Lun out. Siu Kin doesn’t mind hardship as long as he can teach Ah Lun a lesson. He declares that he wants to be superman.

Siu Long Nui disallows him to use the skill to hit others easily so he lies that he wants to help the weak and the evil to learn from their mistakes. Siu Long Nui then hopes that he can become Superman soon. He thanks them happily.
After teaching him, both come to the valley, wanting to jump off the cliff. Ah Lun wakes up to stop them.

This is not their ending – they should be a pair of condor hero lovers. He tells Guo to eat the poison grass while Siu Long Nui can eat the fish under the valley. But how to reach there as their heng gong isn’t that superb to reach the bottom of it? Ah Lun looks up to the sky to see the condor – the condor can get the fish for her!

He hurries them to get the antidote and sees them flying away. Since he has changed the ending, he should ask for copyright fees when he returns to Hong Kong. In the meantime, Siu Kin has mastered the skill and plans to steal the treasure back. Ying Ying is also practising her skills and sitting down but she knows what is going on. She fights with Siu Kin and the cave rocks. Ah Lun picks up the treasure when the two of them pit their forces into it.

(This segment is the best and most exciting of all. I simply crack up at it – a combination of ‘Luk Siu Fung’ and ‘The Little Flying Dagger’. )

They are transported to another era. Two pugilists pit their skills on the rooftop of the imperial palace. Luk Siu Fung (Lau Chung Yan) believes that Yip Gu Shing (Cheng Siu Chau) displays his ‘Tien Woi Fei Sin skill now so Sai Moon Chui Suet should win but Lee Cham Foon (Chu Kong) disagrees. He observes that Sai Moon can’t concentrate and Gu Shing has the upper hand. Siu Fung smiles – Cham Foon doesn’t know Sai Moon that well and he believes that he should win. (One of the onlookers was Doi Chi Wai.)

Just then the three fall on Sai Moon and the four fall into the house, breaking the roof. Ah Lun wants the experts to capture Siu Kin but he slips away. Sai Moon is dead and all are stunned. The two do not expect this to happen and are horrified. They want to apologise as they think that they have crushed him to death.

Gu Shing retorts that he is dead because he suffers a blow from his ‘Tien Woi Fei Sin’. He laughs haughtily. Siu Fung shakes his head – there is a strange dart that hits his heart – something that he has not seen before although he has been wandering for long.

Ah Lun knows that it is the bullet that has hit him accidentally. (It is very hilarious!) They try in vain to explain matters to them. Gu Shing is thrilled to be the no.1 pugilistic expert. The others tell him to come 3 days later to prove it. The others keep the two back and they stay since they trust them to be righteous. Gu Shing returns to his boat and is angry that some unknown people have ruined his chance to be the emperor.

Siu Kin has hidden in his boat and Gu Shing feels his presence. He sees Siu Kin’s gun. So he is the one to kill Sai Moon. Gu Shing tries to get his gun but Siu Kin hits his arm to injure him. Gu Shing then changes his mind to decide to work with him to fulfil his wish. Siu Fung observes that Ying Ying has strong internal strength so Cham Foon deduces that they are the famous Yin Yeung couple. They try in vain to deny.

Siu Fung’s deduction is comical. He insists that Ying Ying must be the 200 year old rainbow grandmother while Ah Lun is the 5 year old Yeung Bat Dai who can’t grow up! The other pugilists also quarrel over their identities. Some of them have fathers who have sparred with the two pairs in the past and they can’t decide on the answer. (This part is comical over the argument as the two give up and lay on the floor, sighing.)

Ah Lun has no choice but to lie that they are pearl and jade from TVB station. They learn that Siu Kin is going to spar on Gu Shing’s behalf so Siu Fung decide to send the two as their representatives since they start the commotion. Gu Shing lies that he treats Siu Kin as his family as he gets his maids to help him in his bath. They should be sworn brothers since they have the same surname. In the meantime, Ying Ying and Ah Lun have discussed with Cham Foon on their next move.

Gu Shing tries to steal the gun in vain when Siu Kin is in the water. The Yips turn up the next day and Siu Kin is prepared with the gun. Siu Fung replies that they have sent out TVB as their representatives. (I can’t control myself from laughing from watching this – how can Chung Yan still keep a straight face when saying that?)Ying Ying and Ah Lun kneel in front of him to beg for forgiveness. Siu Kin is pleased and Cham Foon uses his little flying dagger to strike off his gun. Gu Shing seizes the gun and shoots at Siu Kin instead. He needs not depend on him anymore.

Cham Foon uses another dagger to strike at him again so Gu Shing gets his sword. Siu Fung spars with him, using his Leng Sai finger to break his sword. He then hits Gu Shing’s head. Ying Ying uses all her might to hit his chest and he dies. Peace is restored and all forbid Siu Kin from leaving.

The three combine forces and disappear with the help of the treasure. Siu Fung sighs that the young surpasses the old. Who will expect Gu Shing to be beaten by TVB? They finally know the power from the two pugilists – jade and pearl. (I shall salute to those who can still hold back from laughing if they watch this scene.)

(It is just slapstick comedy from the Final Combat. It is a complete waste of time as we see how Fei feeds Fung with nuts as if he is feeding a monkey.)

This time, they land in a place full of taels of gold. They are in Duen Fei’s (Chow Sing Chee) residence and Siu Kin keeps some of the gold in his bag. Fei tries to get Eunuch Wong to reduce his taxes on the poor by bribing him. Eunuch Wong keeps complaining that he loses lots of notes at the residence and even lifts both legs to count! Fei curses him for being corrupted but still gives in.

Gu Fung (Ng Man Tat) comes and keeps asking for food. Fei accuses Ying Ying of stealing so she removes her blouse. The two men are not convinced and they tell her to pull her pants down to prove her innocence! They are definitely lecherous but she doesn’t give in this time! Siu Kin seizes this chance to escape.

Siu Kin fights with Ying Ying and escapes. Fei gets interested in Ying Ying but she likes Ah Lun more. Siu Kin uses his own force and Ying Ying disappears with him when both struggle with the treasure. Seeing Ah Lun in pain, Fei transfers his inner strength – Bu Sei skill to him. He doesn’t mind since he is so lazy in practising.

Since Ying Ying likes him, he should let him learn the skill to protect her. He is not Duen Fei but Duen Siu Fei. Duen Fei is his father and he also has the same treasure in his home as he gets it from Tibet. He finds it and passes to him. Thus Ah Lun also disappears. Fei begins to recite his poems but Fung hates it so much that he keeps stabbing himself.

(I think that TVB has made a wrong choice of picking ‘The Misadventures of Zoo’ as many people did not watch it and do not know the story. I am one of them. The pace was also slowed down here so I don’t bother to elaborate too much.)

This time round, Ah Lun end up in a town and he saves Lee Chi Yung (Lee See Kei) from hanging herself from the tree. Now her lover, Chu Kum Chun (Cheng Siu Chau) ditches her again. He brings her to the town and acknowledges him. Now Siu Kin is the emperor and Ying Ying is going to marry Siu Kin.

The officials congratulate him. (The guests include Lo Kar Leung, Lee Kar Shing, Chun Wong and Chor Yuen.) Siu Kin steals the treasure map and also Duen’s skill manual to become rich and powerful. He is in cahoots with the Japanese. Siu Kin has destroyed Ying Ying’s skills but Ah Lun assures her that he can help her. He transfers some strength to her. The two defeat Siu Kin and destroys his skills.

The new emperor, Pu Yi (Kwok Chun On) comes. Siu Kin has imprisoned him in the cold palace so he must punish him. He must make him an eunuch or he will harm others. Siu Kin pleads in vain when he is led away as he has never have a girlfriend. Others shake their heads over his fate. The elderly couple sing their favourite song ‘love warmth from the heart’ 愛在心內暖again. (Good grief – as if they don’t have enough of it. They have sung it when they reunite earlier. It seems that they are trying to stall for more time.)

The young couple use their powers to return to 1992 again. This time round, they are in an ancient street. They frown upon seeing the treasure broken to pieces. How to return to the future again? This time, they spar against Lok Fung (Kwok Fu Shing). They have thought that he is a villain for running after Si Ma Jung Wang (Lau Kong). Soon they realise that they are shooting ‘Revelation of the Last Hero’ when the director (Mak Ho Wai) shouts cut. There were also Yiu Ji Ping (Leung Siu Bing)and Ling Seung (Choi Siu Fun) attacking the villain.

The director demands to know which unit they belong to for ruining his filming? How are they going to pay for hurting his men? Kwok Fu Shing doesn’t want to help them sign their autographs since they hit him. (It is funny to see him acting as himself and being so vain plus arrogant.) He simply turns his head away and ignores them.

The two are too thrilled to be back in 1992 again as they no longer need to don period costumes. Siu Kin finds them and they are dumbfounded to find him growing so old. He has suffered for 63 years as an eunuch and can’t come back to the future without the treasure. They run away from him. Ah Lun’s dream is to buy a house but the date to choose one is over. But he decides to buy a house using the gold that he steals from Pu Yi and registers the house with Ying Ying’s name.

Interesting facts

TVB initially invited Wong Yuen Sang to act in this telemovie but he declined as he was already a monk. Lau Chung Yan and Cheng Siu Chau really missed him when they acted in the scene. They knew no one else could be Sai Moon Chui Suet. Not willing to get anyone else to replace him, they suggested to use a stuntsman for the duel scene so that his face will not be seen at all. They were also glad that TVB did not just get any actor to play the role.

The only person who got his wish granted was Tak Wah. He had hoped to work with Yuk Lin again. He was overjoyed when meeting her and was astonished that she was still so youthful. Reporters could not stop snapping photos for them when they turned up for the shoot. All thought that they still looked young and compatible together.

Song

It is by Che Yuen Yuen. It is a remix of all the songs from the past. Very well written as it mixes the other drama clips as it is played at the end.

Conclusion

Unlike others who have high praises on how this telemovie is, I only find it average. Maybe my expectations are too high. It is obviously trying to promote Ho Yuen Ying as the female lead. But she fails to steal the glamour from others. The shoes are too big to fill. It will be better if she works as a supporting role instead.

I find the pace too long-winded at times. There are many empty gaps in between. The dialogues are too long. While watching, I am quite impatient on when they will be sent to the next place. The part on the final combat wears all my patience away. I can’t wait for it to end!

But I must admit that getting some artistes who have left the station to return to reprise their legendary roles is a good idea. They slip into their roles comfortably and effortlessly. Some look very much the same and are still attractive in their moves. They also do not put on much weight. It seems that all are ready to make the good comeback on the small screen.

The part of Yip Gu Shing holding a gun to threaten the rest comes out of the blue and it is astonishing that he knows how to use it! How fascinating! I guess if Wong Yuen Sang is present, the ending may be a different one as his face will be shown. I never know that Lau Chung Yan and Chu Kong can still crack jokes. If not for them, I would be giving this telemovie only 2.5*.

I understand that they can’t get Wong Yat Wah and Ng Kai Wah as they were in ATV then. Others are retired from showbizz or have gone into the movie world so it is hard to get them to return. But why are Chow Hoi Mei, Lam Mun Lung, Cheung Siu Fai, Wong Ming Kuen, Cheng Yuk Ling and Lau Ching Wan omitted? Somehow, I find it incomplete and it can be unfair as Cheng Siu Chau gets to play two roles while others only play one. Aren’t there many memorable roles too?

No doubt he is the powerhouse of TVB but I am sure that there are other dramas besides ‘Misadventure of Zoo’ that is more worthy to remake. It seems that he holds the most screen time besides Wan Siu Lun, Ho Yuen Ying and Ha Yu. ‘The Bund’? ‘Songbird’? ‘The Legend of Lady Chung’? ‘The Shell Game’? I am completely left in a cloud, figuring out what Ah Lun relates on the episode no. that Chu Kum Chun will return and which are the episodes that he becomes rich and later poor.

The ending is quite appropriate as it gives free promotion to a new drama and telling the fate of Siu Kin. And indeed, Kwok Fu Shing’s heavenly king status makes the conclusion a good one. If only they get another heavyweight actor to make a good start, it will be perfect.

Time really flies. It has been long since TVB gets such a strong cast for its anniversary celebration. I wonder when we can get to see them again. I am looking forward to it although the chance is slim. I wonder why TVB stops producing them now. They should continue to do it once in a while. Who knows – some movie stars might be willing to return for this short stint instead of being bonded to a 20 episode contract?



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