General Father, General Son

Reviewed by: spcnet

October 12, 2003

Rating: three

20 episodes

The sequel to "The Legend of the General Who Never Was", "General Father, General Son" tells the story of Sit Ding San, the son of Sit Yun Gwai. While Sit Yun Gwai is the general who pacified the East, Sit Ding San is the general who placates the West, the country of Ha Mai.

Story (Warning! Spoilers!)
(By special request, I'll recount the story in detail)
The story starts off with the young Sit Ding San who, mistakened by Sit Yun Gwai, as a tiger, was shot through the heart with an arrow, and fell down a cliff. Sit Ding San is saved by a taoist who tells him that it was fated for his father to shoot him with an arrow and that he must stay with him for 7 years before returning, else his whole family would be in dire trouble. So young Sit Ding San stays and learns martial arts from the taoist.

Seven years later, Sit Yun Gwai (Ha Yu) has successfully secured the Eastern borders and returns home to his wife Lao Kam Fa and Sit Ding San's twin sister, Lao Kam Lin (Yeung Pan Pan). After a brief reunion (and a conspiracy against Sit Yun Gwai that doesn't add much to the plot), news of invasion by Ha Mai country in the west sends Sit Yun Gwai once again to the battlefield. Leading troops at a fort with the Tang emperor Lee Sai Mun, Sit Yun Gwai is injured in a battle and "dies". His spirit chased the enemy down to Hell and there the Hell King shows him three windows, one of which lets him see his future. Sit Yun Gwai sees himself defeating a Ha Mai general and then a tiger spirit flies out of his forehead and leaps in attack at him. The tiger transforms into a man and shoots Sit Yun Gwai in the heart. The Hell King tells Sit that he will die by the arrow of his own son, Sit Ding San, one day. Sit Yun Gwai awakens and still weak, he and the troops are trapped inside the fort. An imperial draft is set up to find a general who can lead reinforcements to save them.

Meanwhile, Sit Ding San (Felix Wong Yat Wah) gets premonitions that something bad will happen to his father and wants to leave but his master does not allow him because the time is not yet right. Sit tries to sneak out but accidentally knocks over a container that holds an evil spirit, Yeung Fan. Yeung Fan escapes and becomes a powerful general at Ha Mai country and is predicted by the taoist that he will bring destruction to the Sit family. Sit Ding San is finally allowed to leave and given three treasures: an armor that is unpieracable and protects against fire and water; a great spear; and the KunLun sword that wraps around like a belt. He becomes general after defeating his sister, who in disguise as a man, in the draft duel. He reunites with his mother and sister and together, they set out to save Sit Yun Gwai.

Along the way, bandits led by Mimi Kung Chi Yun and her brother attack. Mimi falls in love with Sit Ding San at first sight. She captures him and his sister with a magical rope and demands that he marry her. Not wanting to be late in saving his father, Sit agrees to marry her after winning over the West and she and her brother tags along with the army.

Sit Ding San frees the fort and happily announces that he is Sit Yun Gwai's son. Once hearing this bit of news Sit Yun Gwai is wary of his son at all times and appoints him to watch over the army kitchen. Everyone is confused at such a waste of talent and Lao Kam Fa is especially sad to see her husband treat their son so coldly. They all think that Sit Yun Gwai is jealous of his son and does not want to share any of the glory but in actuality, Sit Yun Gwai does not want his son to bear the crime and guilt of killing his own father.

At the same time, Fan Lei Fa (Chan Man Yee) is ready to leave her master and return home to her country, Ha Mai. Her master gives her a fragrant pouch and tells her that she is fated to marry someone named Sit Ding San but that they will have a lot of complications before getting married. Fan Lei Fa's father is a general at the Ha Mai court and is accused of corruption by Yeung Fan. The whole Fan family is to be beheaded. As Fan Lei Fa is on the way home she catches the eye of Yeung Fan who is impressed by her beauty. They have a fight and Fan Lei Fa defeats him utterly! He then saves the Fan family with the deal that Fan Lei Fa will be married to him. When Fan Lei Fa knows about this, she refuses but her father is adamant.

The Tang army advances to the fort that the Fan family is defending. When Fan Lei Fa hears that it's led by the Sit family, she's eager to go out to battle to catch a glimpse of Sit Ding San. However, Sit Ding San is still stuck in the army kitchen so it is Chun Hon who leads the army. Fan Lei Fa demands to fight Sit Ding San and Chun Hon claims that he's Sit. They duel and she defeats him easily and returns very disappointed that Sit Ding San is such a low quality of a man.

The Tang army attacks again the same day and Fan Lei Fa goes out to battle again. She defeats the next leading general but is so elated to hear that the person she defeated previously was not Sit Ding San--so happy that she could not hide a grin throughout the whole fight. The next day, Sit Yun Gwai leads the army and duels Fan Lei Fa. She calls him an old man and slashes him on the arm with her spear. When she goes home and hears that she just hurt Sit Ding San's father in the spar, she is so worried. The Tang army hangs out a cease-battle flag and the army is demoralized. Sit Ding San sorely wants to go out and avenge their losses but his weapons are held by his father. They manage to steal his weapons out and he finally meets Fan Lei Fa in battle. They duel and Fan Lei Fa is impressed by both his looks and skills and leaps away. Their army is forced to retreat and her father chastises her for not using her full strengths against Sit Ding San.

The next time Fan Lei Fa and Sit Ding San fight in battle, she captures him and says that he has to marry her by that month since her marriage date with Yeung Fan is approaching. Sit Ding San thinks she's up to some trickery and pretends to agree after swearing that if he refuses, he'll have to hang in mid-air. She releases him. When she goes home to announce that she will marry Sit Ding San, her family is shocked that she wants to marry the enemy. On that day, she is tricked into getting into a marriage carriage going to Yeung Fan's place. She leaves in anger and tells Yeung Fan that she will only marry Sit Ding San. Going home, she waits all day in her wedding gown for Sit Ding San's carriage but of course, none came. The next day, she goes alone, geared up in her war outfit and spear, to demand to see Sit Ding San. They fight and she captures him again--he having to hang in mid-air. She gets another promise from Sit Ding San that he'll marry her in 3 days time after seeing her want to kill herself and swears that he'll drown in the sea if he goes back on his promise. Yet again, Fan Lei Fa waits all day for the carriage that never came. Sit Ding San pretends to be sick when Fan Lei Fa comes demanding to see him again. Everyone thinks that every time Sit Ding San and Fan Lei Fa duel, he defeated her, but in actuality, no one witnessed the results of each of their battles and Sit is too proud to admit it. This time, Mimi Kung duels with her and learns of Sit's promise to her. She throws a fit and Sit Yun Gwai demands that Sit Ding San kill Fan Lei Fa to prove his innocence with her.

Again, Sit Ding San loses, gets captured and locked up in a prison--but not before getting a dunk in the sea. Yeung Fan tries to kill Sit Ding San off and even captures Sit Kam Lin who attempted to save her brother. Fan Lei Fa frees the two of them and the grateful Sit Kam Lin notices her good side. She advocates Fan Lei Fa to the family and Sit Yun Gwai considers the advantages of marrying Sit Ding San to Fan Lei Fa--this way, they can easily gain the fort and recruit a powerful warrior as Fan Lei Fa. They send Ching Au Kam as messenger to negotiate the wedding and Fan Lei Fa's father wavers since he is being controlled by Yeung Fan. Wedding plans are made but Chun Hon, who turned traitor, lets Yeung Fan know that the Fan family wants to turn over to the Tang side. A few days before the wedding, Fan Lei Fa's father discovers a fake letter on Fan's desk from Sit Yun Gwai telling her that in order to marry Sit Ding San, she has to kill her father and brother. He and her brother start a fight with Fan Lei Fa and as they are chasing her in a forest, she hits both on the chest. When Fan takes a closer look, both are dead!

In angst, Fan Lei Fa attempts to commit suicide but her mother persuades her from wasting her life. The wedding plans proceed but on the wedding day, two coffins are sent during the ceremony with the corpses and a cloth saying that Fan Lei Fa is the culprit. When Sit Ding San demands to know whether this is true, Fan Lei Fa admits to accidentally killing them and Sit refuses to marry her. Back home, Fan's mother commits suicide at so much sorrow and Fan leaves the fort to see her master.

Along the way, Fan Lei Fa encounters a Tang soldier (Chen Wing Chun) who follows her around claiming as her son after he lost to her in a duel. Fan's master tells her that she and Sit Ding San are destined to suffer many obstacles before getting together because they are punished gods from Heaven ('kam tong yuk liu'). When Fan Lei Fa leaves, she meets Yeung Fan again and learns that he is behind killing her father and brother. Yeung Fan had already killed them with his evil palm and then as Fan was running away in the forest, he threw the two bodies at her so that she thought she killed them. This is confirmed when she digs the corpses out and sees the red blood palm on their chests. Returning to the Tang camp, Fan lets everyone know that she is innocent but Sit Ding San is the only one who disbelieves her. Discouraged, Fan goes to a nunnery and awaits to become a nun.

Meanwhile, the Tang army advances further and is pressured by the Prince (Ng Chun Yu) to make haste. Sit Ding San is trapped in a magical obstacle and the only person who has such powers to save him is Fan Lei Fa. She is finally persuaded to go save him by Lao Kam Fa. The Prince is asked to be a middleman and arranged the marriage between Fan Lei Fa and Sit Ding San. This time, Chen Wing Chun comes during the ceremony saying he is Fan's son and Sit Ding San is enraged. He doesn't believe Fan's innocence and refuses to marry her even though it is a royal edict. The Prince has Sit imprisoned and to be beheaded.

Fan Lei Fa returns to the nunnery. Chen attempts to make amends and convinces Sit Ding San of their innocence. On his way to tell Fan the news--so that she can persuade the Prince to let Sit go--Chen is killed by Yeung Fan. His body and a faked letter from Sit Ding San is returned to Fan.

Sit Ding San is released after Fan Lei Fa convinces the Prince. As she is leaving, Sit clears up that he did not kill Chen and both suspect Yeung Fan. She leaves for the nunnery again. Sit Ding San sets out to save Sit Yun Gwai's troops in battle. Yet when he encounters Sit Yun Gwai, he notices a tiger about to pounce on his father. Sit Ding San shoots at the tiger, which is really his father, with his bow and arrow, and fulfills the prophecy that he would kill his own father. Sit is stripped of his rank by the Prince. The Prince wants to recruit Fan Lei Fa as the new commanding general for the Tang army but she refuses him. In anger, he mandates that Sit Ding San must ask her for forgiveness and hand in marriage. To convince her of his sincerity, he must 'kneel 3 times, kowtow 9 times' all the way to the nunnery.

When Sit finally gets there, Fan is cold to him and recounts all the times he rejected her. Sit gets angry and leaves and she is sorry too for being too prideful when he leaves. The second time he goes back, she fakes her death. Sit Ding San rushes to her in shock and tearfully declares his love and admiration for her all along--he was just too stubborn and arrogant to admit it. When she awakens, he is overjoyed. They get married this time with no complications. Fan Lei Fa is also pregnant soon.

With Fan Lei Fa's help, Ha Mai is finally taken. However, during the final fight, Yeung Fan's spirit flies into Fan Lei Fa's womb! At the end, Sit Ding San marries Mimi as his second wife.

"General Father, General Son" is called "Sit Ding San Jing Sai" in Chinese, meaning that Sit Ding San conquers the West. However, "General" is a story that really showcases Fan Lei Fa and without her, the West could not have been won over. She is the most powerful and talented fighter in the story and overshadows everyone--Sit Ding San is only the second most powerful fighter. Fan Lei Fa's prowess is similar, if not superior, to Mok Gwai Ying's (in ATV's Heroine of the Yang) and like Mok, she is a woman warrior who commands the show.

Chan Man Yee as Fan Lei Fa is superb. She handled the fighting scenes with the spear quite well, managing to look very skillful. Chan must've put a lot of effort into practicing her moves because she handled the spear with ease. Chan's conveying of the different emotions required of her character--hopeful, disappointed, excited, happy, sorrowful, bashful, and angry to name some were all very natural--it's surprising that she was not in more 80's TVB martial arts series. Chan also wore the cutest outfits throughout the series. When she is fighting for Ha Mai, her outfits all have little pom-poms of furballs, along with her head gear, making her look quite adorable.

Sit Ding San is probably the most stubborn man put on this earth--or rather, written up. He refused to accept Fan Lei Fa so many times and as a main character, not too likeable in many instances. For instance, he agrees to marry Mimi Kung, but not with good grace since he was forced and would always be very impatient with her. He swore twice to marry Fan Lei Fa and backed out on it. He is too full of pride to admit that he lost to Fan Lei Fa or to admit his feelings for her. Actually, we only get to catch a glimpse of his affections for her after she saved him from the magical obstacle. All the other times, he's grouchy or angry that he's caught or tricked by her--though it was quite embarassing that she tied him up in a pink sash!

As Sit Ding San, Wong Yat Wah fits the bill and portrayed him adequately. Sit's streak of stubbornness and pride is easily brought out by Wong Yat Wah. Of all the generals, he did look the most impressive--it's no wonder that when Fan Lei Fa sizes up Sit Ding San on their first encounter that she would be satisfied too!

Ha Yu's Sit Yun Gwai is also not a disappointing follow-up from Alex Man Zi Leung's portrayal in its predecessor. However, the character of Sit Yun Gwai itself is disappointing. While he is the tough guy in "The Legend of the General Who Never Was", here he gets beaten almost every time. Supposedly, his time is now up since he is getting old but there was nothing of the old glory to glimpse of here. Sit is also easily deceived here, countless times actually--given, he's not supposed to be the brightest of fellows though. His wife, Lao Kam Fa, must also be the most forgiving and understanding wife ever. Her husband leaves for 10 years to fight a war, then when he comes back, he shoots their son off a cliff accidentally, then leaves for another 7 years to the battlefield again. One has to pity this poor woman who spends most of her life worrying and waiting for her husband.

When Sit Yun Gwai was in Hell, he saw himself killing Yeung Fan and then Sit Ding San came out and shot him with an arrow. However, it is Fan Lei Fa who ends up defeating Yeung Fan. So why did the future shown by that window only tell half the truth? TVB goofing up?

Freaky or what, I remember when I was writing the review for ATV's "Reincarnated", I found news that a new one by Wu Jing is coming out. Then for "Legendary Fok", a new one by Zhao Wen Zhuo was in the news then that was in the making as I wrote that review. And now, TVB is making "Fan Lei Fa" starring Jessica Hsuen Huen as Fan Lei Fa and Joe Ma Duk Chong as Sit Ding San! It's now hard to imagine anyone else putting up a better performance than Chan Man Yee as Fan Lei Fa though Jessica Hsuan is a fine actress.

This is actually a trilogy, with a part III about, you guessed it, Sit Ding San's son, Sit Kong. The chinese title is called "Sit Kong Fan Tong" which translates roughly into: Sit Kong overthrowing the Tang [Dynasty]. In "General Father, General Son", the evil spirit of Yeung Fan has entered the womb of Fan Lei Fa so his spirit is in Sit Kong. Sit Kong brings the downfall of his whole family and later becomes the general who helps to overthrow Wu Ze Tian, the infamous woman emperor of China who usurped the throne. Lau Ching Wan plays Sit Kong while Law Mei Kuan is the main female character and his love interest. I was initially going to rent this series too but after reading about so many deaths to these characters, I figured I'd rather not depress myself.

*Notice also the cool screenshots of the series--taken with the new digital camera of yours truly--from old musty VHS tapes. Mostly Chan Man Yee's scenes are taken as I think she really stole the show!

Screenshots: Captured by SPCNET

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