One Sword


Reviewed by: Ian Liew

July 28, 2004

Rating: five

One Sword
一劍鎮神州
Yi Jian Zhen Shen Zhou (Yat Kim Zhan San Chao)

(Note: For the casting, I've used Mandarin pinyin for the character names as they're much easier to romanise, but I've used Cantonese for the actor names since they are more well-known)

Main cast:
Nangong Yi - Fung Bo Bo (Wu Zetian in ATV's Wu Zetian)
Yu Cuicui - Cecilia Wong Hang Sau (Sun Xiuqing in TVB's Lu Xiaofeng, Jiangnan Yan in Chu Liuxiang)
Sage Yuan Chen (Xiao Panzi) - Lau Dan (Hong Qigong in LOCH 83 and 94)
Sage Li Gou - Adam Cheng (evergreen actor - Zhang Wuji in HSDS 79, Xu Yongbang in Cold Blood, Warm Heart)
Bai Luotian - Kwan Hoi San (evergreen actor - Zhang Sanfeng in HSDS 79, Ye Sheng in Cold Blood, Warm Heart)
Mrs Bai - Chan Kar Yee (Frankie's mother in King of Yesterday and Tomorrow)
Bai Rushuang - Wong Oi Ming (Tianshan Tonglao in DGSD 82, Qing Ying in ROCH 85)
Yi Lan - Ou Yeung Pui San (Huang Rong in ROCH 85)
Wu Ming Ke (Nameless Guest) - Chan Hung Lit (I have never heard of him)
Situ Zhenyu - Shek Kin (Xie Xun in HSDS 79)
Nangong Jing - Fung Shui Fan (comedian mainly in movies, the devil in You Only Live Twice)
Fang Yuan - Wong Sun (Zhao Banshan in Book and Sword 76, Zhao Min's father in HSDS 86)
Chong Ling - Cheung Mut Yao (Song Yuanqiao in HSDS 79)
Huangpu Ji - Kam Kok Wai (Zhao Zijing in ROCH 85)
Ling Jizu - Wong Yan Choy (Hua Manliu in Lu Xiaofeng)
Yu Duxing - Pak Man Piew (Eagle King in HSDS 79, Liang Ziyong in LOCH 83)


Synopsis:
This rather excellent but unoriginal wuxia serial was shamelessly plagiarised off two wuxia stories - Gu Long's Wan Hua Xi Jian Lu ("WHXJL"), and Jin Yong's Xiao Ao Jiang Hu ("XAJH"). My original feeling towards the story was not very good, especially since the beginning imitates WHXJL almost to the letter (and because I had just bought (and watched a bit of) WHXJL starring Leslie Cheung). It is a tribute to the acting skills of the cast that the series turned out to be one of the most enjoyable I have seen in a long time.

For those unfamiliar with the plot lines of WHXJL and/or XAJH, or even just for those who want to know roughly how the stories are linked, here is a rough plot outline. Beware the spoilers:

A man calling himself the Nameless Guest arrives in China and carries with him a strip of paper on which is written the names of several esteemed martial artists. He challenges them one by one, and kills them all using a slash between the eyebrows. Several people carry the bodies of their teachers and fathers to the Nangong Aristocracy, where "Qing Ping Swordsman" Nangong Jing examines the bodies. Nameless Guest arrives and Jing's students challenge him, during which Nameless Guest slashes at a piece of wood bark and asks them to bring it to their teacher. Jing loses confidence after seeing the power behind the slashing of the bark, and makes his final arrangements, asking his students to go and warn the other sects. He entrusts his fourth student with going with his son, who is currently training at the Buried Sword Mansion, to deliver a letter and the piece of bark to the Sage Li Gou, China's No. 1 swordsman. Jing then accepts Nameless Guest's challenge and loses (although he survives).

Fourth student meets up with his martial brother Nangong Yi at Buried Sword Mansion, and together they go to seek Li Gou. Li Gou has retired from the pugilistic world, but upon seeing the bark his interest is kindled, and with one stroke he thrusts seven holes in Yi's shirt. He then tells Yi to seek Nameless Guest and challenge him to a duel by the seaside. Yi rushes off and finds Nameless Guest at Wudang, locked in mortal combat with priest Chong Ling, the head of Wudang. He interrupts the fight, and shows Nameless Guest the shirt. Nameless Guest is excited, and leaves Wudang for the seaside. Chong Ling and his close friend the Shaolin Abbot Fang Yuan (who was watching the fight worriedly) know that without Yi's arrival Chong Ling would have been killed, and from then on always have a fondness for the boy.


Li Gou and Nameless Guest fight, and Li Gou wins, after which he gives some sagely advice on the principles of swordsmanship. After taking Li Gou's advice to heart, Nameless Guest accepts defeat and promises to return in 7 years for a rematch. After he leaves Li Gou reveals that although his swordplay was superior to the Nameless guest, the Nameless Guest had immense internal power, and during the fight his internal power had mortally wounded him. Li Gou dies beside Fang Yuan and Chong Ling after telling them that the only two others who can hope to match Nameless Guest are his martial brother Sage Yuan Chen and the Ling family swordplay. He also sends his daughter Yi Lan to the Jade Flower Palace to seek a new teacher, and also gives the Jade Flower Palace head custody of his martial arts manuals, specifying that Yi Lan is not to learn the arts because she lacks the talent and correct attitude.

The story up to here follows WHXJL with Li Gou as Ziyihou, Nameless Guest as the White-clothed man, Nangong Jing as Bai Sankong, and Nangong Yi as Fang Baoer. The story now switches to XAJH for the majority of the series.

The Ling family are brutally massacred by the Qingcheng Sect who demand their Ling family sword manual, but one survivor, Ling Jizu, manages to flee with his life after his parents sacrifice themselves to save him. Ling makes his way to Yangzhou where he tries to hide from the Qingcheng people.

Yi is a student of Buried Sword Mansion, which, together with Jade Flower Palace, Kongdong, Qingcheng and Hengshan form the Five Sects, in parallel to XAJH's Huashan, North Hengshan, Songshan, Taishan and South Hengshan. After the seaside battle, Yi is asked to meet his teacher, Bai Luotian (Yue Buqun's clone) at Yangzhou where Martial Uncle Wen of Kongdong (Liu Zhengfeng's clone) is retiring. Along the way he meets the dying old master Ling, who gives him a message for his son, Ling Jizu, before he dies. Yi then meets Ren Boguang (Tian Boguang's clone, played by a very young Lee Kok Lun) molesting Wei Lin (Yi Lin's clone) and saves her using his wit, gets injured and is left for dead, but is saved by a mysterious man. Uncle Wen fails to retire peacefully as his martial brother Situ Zhenyu (Zuo Lengchan's clone) arrives and massacres his whole family until his friend from the Bairi (Sun-worshipping) sect arrives to save him, but both are mortally wounded. Yi was actually saved by the Bairi elder (Qu Yang's clone) and the two old friends finish composing their song before Situ's martial brother arrives to kill them. A masked man saves them and kills the Songshan elder, and the masked man is identified by Yi as his father. Nangong Jing flees and the two old men give Yi the music score before committing suicide together. Bai Luotian saves Ling from Qingcheng and brings him back to Buried Sword Mansion with Yi. Yi is in love with his daughter Bai Rushuang, and his wife is the sister of Yi's mother. Yi then gives the message to Ling, citing that the ancestral home in Luoyang is never to be demolished. As punishment for associating with the Bairi clan elder, Yi is punished by having to spend a year up in the "repentance cliff". There he meets an crazy old man Xiao Panzi (Little Petal), fleeing from Ren Boguang, but Yi saves him, and Petal takes an immense liking to Yi. He stays with Yi, and teaches Yi some swordplay, mainly by playing games and challenging each other for the solitary bowl of rice which is sent up every day. Yi's martial arts improve tremendously. When Yi's year has passed, Petal leaves and urges Yi not to use his swordplay for real fights, and not to tell anybody who taught him.

Situ Zhenyu stirs up trouble by supporting old ousted Buried Sword disciples to take over Buried Sword Mansion from Bai, but Yi arrives in time, and manages to wound the leader of the separatists, but Yi is wounded badly by the internal energy and is bed-ridden. Bai decides to leave the mansion for a while and visit Ling's family in Luoyang, leaving Yi behind with a martial brother, Cai, to care for him. Rushuang steals her father's internal energy book Zixia Shengong for Yi to heal himself, and asks Cai to read the book aloud to Yi every day, but Yi refuses to take the stolen book, and leaves after immobilising Cai. However, when everybody returns, the book goes missing and Cai is found dead. Yi is implicated and no longer trusted. The sect takes Yi along, reaches Luoyang and stays with Ling's family. Because of Yi's improved swordsmanship, Bai and Ling's family suspect that he had stolen the Ling manual from Ling's father, and they search him and find the score. Suspecting the score to be a manual, they take the score to the Bamboo elder, a musician, to check if it is really a score. Bamboo elder passes the score to his grandmother, and she confirms it is a score, and plays the music. Everybody feels bad about Yi and leave, but Grandmother has a gentle word with Yi, and they chat for quite a while. Both develop a strong friendship for each other as the days pass.

Bai takes Ling to the Ling ancestral home and manages to help Ling find his family manual. The whole sect then leaves for Buried Sword Mansion again. On the way back Yi meets a lot of weird people who respectfully offer him aid for his wounds, but none can really help him. Bai is disgusted with the company Yi is in, and disowns him. Grandmother meets Yi again, and she asks Yi to leave because of enemies coming. Yi refuses to leave without her so she follows him on condition that he does not look back at her. On the way they are attacked and Grandmother is forced to fight to save Yi, and is revealed to be a beautiful young girl, Yu Cuicui. She has fallen in love with Yi and wants to help him, but Yi is dying from his wounds so she takes him to Shaolin and asks Fang Yuan to save him. In return, she will offer to stay in Shaolin for 10 years. Fang Yuan accepts, because Cuicui is an elder of the Bairi Sect, and daughter of the former master Yu Duxing (Ren Woxing's clone).

Yi wakes up and Fang Yuan offers to accept him as his disciple and teach him Shaolin's Yigen Jing, but Yi refuses even though he finds out that Bai has officially disowned him. He leaves Shaolin and meets Petal, who takes him to Plum Mansion, and tricks him to swap places with the prisoner hidden beneath, Yu Duxing himself. Yu Duxing then heads to Shaolin to rescue Cuicui, who leaves as Yi is no longer at Shaolin and Fang Yuan failed to deliver his part of the bargain anyway.

In the cell is a manual which allows Yi to recover from his internal injuries. On his way out he meets some Jade Flower Palace disciples, led by an elder nun Qingling, being attacked and saves them, but Qingling is killed. He then saves the leader of the JFP, Qingjing, and they expose Kongdong as the mastermind behind the attacks on the JFP. To offer them protection, Yi accompanies the JFP disciples home. Yi Lan, who has been with the JFP all this while after her father died, likes Yi as well, but Yi has no feelings for her as she is obnoxious and proud. In any case his heart is given to Rushuang. Yi Lan is evil and tries to get Rushuang killed but Cuicui saves her, knowing that Yi loves Rushuang and she wants to do what will make him happy. Yi Lan is furious with Cuicui, but isn't skilled enough to kill her.

Yi returns home and Jing tells him to stop a youth tournament which Bai is organising at Shaolin. Yi then meets Petal and Yi realises that Petal had tricked him into Plum Mansion so that he would find the manual and cure his internal injuries. He is grateful to Petal and Petal asks him to sabotage the youth tournament as well, as he fears some disaster on that day.

Everyone meets at Shaolin and Qingjing is killed. Everybody suspects Situ firstly as he wanted to unite the five sects under one banner, and Qingjing was against it, and while secondly, because he was behind the earlier attacks on the JFP elders Qingling and Qingjing. Qingjing, with her dying breath, appoints Yi as the new JFP head with Wei Lin as a witness. Chong Ling and Fang Yuan ask Yi to challenge Situ for leadership of the united five sects as Situ is looking to unite the five sects under one banner.

Yi tries to stop the tournament but fails. During the tournament, Bairi sect, led by their current leader Huangpu Ji, arrive and plant gunpowder all over Shaolin and threaten to blow everybody up if they didn't surrender to Bairi, as Jing and Petal had predicted. Luckily, Petal sabotages the gunpowder, while Yu Duxing arrives to clash with Huangpu Ji, as Huangpu was responsible for ousting him and incarcerating him beneath Plum Mansion ten years ago. Huangpu flees but Yi is further associated with Yu Duxing and Cuicui.

The tournament finishes as Yi Lan and Ling meet in the final and Yi Lan wins. When Bai returns to Buried Sword he exposes another disciple as the thief of the "Zixia Shengong" and the murderer of Cai, but still refuses to forgive Yi for associating with unorthodox people.

The five sects unite and Situ uses Yi Lan (bribing her by offering her help to recover her father's manuals) to injure Rushuang so that Yi spends the whole night healing her, and he has no strength left to challenge Situ. Surprisingly it is Bai, not Situ who wins in the end, but Ling notices that his swordplay is not Buried Sword, but Ling manual. Ling seeks Yi's help, and Yi challenges Bai the next day to test the skills. Yi almost beats Bai, but Bai offers him Rushuang in exchange for throwing the match. While Yi is considering, Bai beats him, but Yi is also now convinced that Bai's swordplay is not Buried Sword.

Situ uncovers that Bai is responsible for killing Qingjing (since he was the only other candidate, and he knew he didn't do it), and he and Yi Lan try to expose Bai during Yi's wedding, but Bai has hidden the evidence well. After their wedding night, Yi and Rushuang agree to help Ling recover the second manual in Bai's hands, and they succeed while Bai is distracted killing Situ. As Yi and Rushuang are leaving, Bai sees them, and tries to lie to them that it is a special hidden skill of Buried Sword, not Ling manual. Ling stands out and accuses Bai, and Bai tries to cut him down. In the chaos, Bai accidentally kills Rushuang. He goes berserk and charges out the mansion after Ling and Yi is left to grieve with Mrs Bai.

Yi needs a break, and goes to visit Cuicui, just as her father is planning to storm Bairi and reclaim his position as sect leader from Huangpu Ji (Dongfang Bubai's clone). They disguise themselves, sneak up Bairi, and attack Huangpu's two concubines (semi Yang Lianting clones). They kill one and wound the other before Huangpu arrives. Unfortunately for the heroes this is where the XAJH parallels end. Huangpu kills the second concubine himself to prove that he was just using them, and proceeds to kill Yu Duxing and his two henchmen. Yi and Cuichui barely escape with their lives, and Huangpu recognises some of Yi's swordplay as that of his old enemy, Sage Yuan Chen.

Yi and Cuicui meet Petal, who then discloses that he is Sage Yuan Chen, and that he has lost all his inner power because of a trap set by Huangpu years ago. He freed Yu Duxing and set up Yi to attack Bairi together because he wanted to use their combined strength to kill Huangpu for his own reasons. He begs forgiveness, but Yi and Cuicui hold no grudge as Huangpu was evil. Petal then offers to train them in a dual sword formation which can defeat Huangpu.

The five clans, led by JFP and Kongdong, in Bai's absence, managed to find evidence of Bai's murder of Qingjing, but Bai has gone insane and they can't find him. Apparently the Ling manual is a very unorthodox swordplay and when the original creator had realised how mad he was becoming, he forbade his family from learning it and hid the manual in the ancestral home before running away and dying alone. Bai and Ling hence both become insane while learning the swordplay.

Huangpu decides that with the death of Yu Duxing, he has no worries and invades the five sects. Hi first target is Buried Sword Mansion. Petal, Yi and Cuicui arrive just in time to save Mrs Bai, and scare Huangpu away from Buried Sword Mansion by pretending that Petal has regained his internal energy. Huangpu changes targets and Qingchen, Kongdong and Hengshan fall. Fang Yuan and Chong Ling try to convince Huangpu that Nameless Guest is the largest threat, and that they should join forces against him when he comes, but Huangpu refuses to be played against the Nameless Guest. He then kills the remaining Qingchen and Hengshan leaders and the rest flee. Huangpu then plans an attack on Shaolin. Fang Yuan goes to Japan to look for Nameless Guest to inform him that Li Gou is dead, and not to come to China anymore to kill as the seven years are almost up and there is nobody in China able to match him. His younger martial brother, Fang Zheng (played by Kwok Fung) and Chong Ling successfully trick Huangpu into retreating from Shaolin by pretending to be Monk Kuqing, who is the only other fighter Huangpu fears. Kuqing has been dead for years but the two of them clash palms with Huangpu through two holes in the wall, and Huangpu is fooled into thinking that Kuqing is still alive. Fang Zheng and Chong Ling are badly wounded, though. Huangpu then takes out his anger on the JFP, massacring everybody including Wei Lin. Yi is devastated, but cannot face Huangpu because his formation with Cuicui is not complete. They both rush to Shaolin to reinforce the monks in any case. Yi Lan is also at Shaolin and begs Fang Zheng and Chong Ling to train her properly and they agree, since they need all the help they can get.

Huangpu sees through the deception because one of his spies in Shaolin sees Kuqing's bones, and Huangpu launches a new assault. Yi and Cuicui are training in Kuqing's crypt while the monks try to hold off Huangpu with the 18 Lohan formation, which is broken. Huangpu then scares Yi Lan who, despite her bravado, chooses to flee and leave Fang Zheng and Chong Ling to deal with Huangpu alone. Both lament that a great man like Li Gou would end up having such a cowardly daughter.

Yi and Cuicui cannot seem to make the formation work because they lack the oneness in spirit due to Yi still missing Rushuang, and he is unable to move as one with Cuicui. However, in his frustration, he finds Kuqing's written testament, in which Kuqing laments that he had loved two women, and when one died he hid in his grief, although he loved the second as well. Eventually, the second one couldn't wait any longer and became a nun, taking the name Qingjing. He regretted, but it was too late to do anything but repent and die alone in his cell. After reading the testament, Yi wakes up and finally manages to master the formation with Cuicui. They arrive just in time to save Fang Zheng and Chong Ling, and Huangpu is driven away.

They then carry the fight to Bairi itself, and attack. Huangpu is crafty and cowardly in nature, and will not face them. He sets a trap in which Cuicui falls into a hole and he faces Yi one on one while Cuicui can only watch through the metal grille above her. Yi is about to get killed when Cuicui sees Huangpu standing on the grille above her, and she thrusts her sword up through his foot. Unbalanced and in agony, Huangpu is defenseless as Yi kills him. Now the only remaining threat to the martial arts world is the Nameless Guest who is due back anytime now. The hope of China rests on Yi and Cuicui's formation, and Petal then teaches Yi a single stroke within which is contained the essence of the entire formation's 18 movements, and asks that Yi use this one stroke to beat Nameless Guest.

Will Yi beat Nameless Guest? Will Yi end up with Cuicui? What will become of the cowardly Yi Lan, insane Bai Luotian and Ling Jizu? Don't forget the missing Nangong Jing, who makes a few appearances to stop the conspiracies plotted by Situ and Bai - where does he fit in? Sadly, when my VCDs arrived from Hong Kong, all boxes were sealed apart from this one, and the last VCD was missing. I suspect that the Malaysian customs did a random check to see if the VCDs were as declared, and forgot to put the VCD back in. They never answered my faxed query to them... so if anybody has the answers I'll be grateful.. =(


Analysis:
Despite the unoriginal story, One Sword was one of the most enjoyable series I have watched in a long time. One of the most enjoyable things was the classic soundtrack - Adam Cheng sings the themesong composed by Joseph Khoo, and it really sets the mood for the entire series "Raising the sword as the way, I'm willing to go to sabre mountains and fiery seas, the blade of the sword spits out justice, anger and pride." (or thereabouts, please correct me if I'm wrong) and the second song "The undefeated is the most lonely, the most painful". Both songs are absolutely great, and in tandem with this series really lifts the entire experience. If only they could write and sing songs like these in modern times...

In terms of acting, the cast did a tremendous job, and unlike many 70s series (and even some 80s and 90s) there's always something happening. The viewer is never left bored by a draggy pace and the whole story is gripping (even if we already know it). Fung Bobo is an amazing actress with her portrayal of Yi, and Yi grows to become a very likeable hero. Not quite as rebellious as Linghu Chong or as bitter as Fang Baoer, Nangong Yi nevertheless never feels out of place when put into the shoes of these two characters. Fung is also very good at swordplay and does most of the fighting scenes herself.

I first watched Cecilia Wong in Lu Xiaofeng, but she didn't really get to shine much. In Chu Liuxiang, however, as the villain Jiangnan Yan, she was allowed much more freedom of expression and her naughtiness and beauty made me like her very much in that series, but sadly she was a villain. In One Sword, she retains a lot of the rebellious streak, and puts on a stellar performance. Yu Cuicui is strong yet sensitive, intelligent yet emotional, merciless yet kind-hearted, proud yet considerate - everything you could dream of in a woman. She is also a very graceful figure in the wuxia dresses, and frequently does a lot of fighting scenes herself. She's witty, charming, lovable and never puts a foot wrong in the series - it's impossible to not like her.

The third star of the show would be Lau Dan, cast in a fairly elderly role as compared to his Hong Lianhua in Ming Jian Feng Liu. Petal is completely bald on top, with long hair growing around the back of his head from ear to ear, so it makes him look very old. His acting is terrific, though, and the wit and charm with which he plays around with Yi is enjoyable, and towards the end when he finally becomes serious about everything he still maintains the charm. You can tell why he would have made a perfect Hong Qigong even during this series. His also has some very nice sword fighting scenes, and whoever it was who choreographed the fighting scenes for One Sword was very artistic.

The sword fighting is done is slow-motion sometimes, but nowhere near as bad as other series from this genre. Many of the fighting scenes are fast-paced, and do look very dangerous. Lau Dan, Fung Bobo and Cecilia Wong look very natural with their skills and look very comfortable with their weapons. Same with Shek Kin and Kwan Hoi San but these three fight a lot more, and it's all done very well, and very artistically.

Au Yeung Pui San's Yi Lan was well-portrayed, and the selfish, arrogant, brattish qualities are well captured. Yi Lan thinks that because she is Li Gou's daughter she is to be the natural successor to her father's mantle of the No. 1 sword in China, but her talent is weak and her attitude is bad. No matter how many people tell her (including her dying father) she refuses to accept it, and finally when faced with the great villain Huangpu Ji she shows her weakness and accepts Huangpu's offer of surrender and flees. In my mind I was thinking "Serves you right" and she'll probably die in the last VCD - Au Yeung Pui San portrayed her in a way that you really dislike the character, which is good, because she's not meant to be liked.

Adam Cheng, Kwan Hoi San and Shek Kin gave performances which you would expect from actors of their calibre - Adam is proud, cool, calm, controlled and wise, and although he only lasts 2 VCDs he really portrays the 'daxia' feel properly. I couldn't help thinking what a shame it was that he was so young and they had to give him such an old role, when in Meteor Butterfly Sword he was really too old to be given those flashback roles. It shows great versatility on his part as an actor, though. Kwan's Bai Luotian was well-casted as the 'gentleman' head of the Buried Sword Mansion. His straight demeanor at the beginning makes you look at him like a man to be relied upon, and when he turns evil you almost feel sorry for him. When he is insane you can see the pain in his eyes, and when he killed his daughter you can hear his voice really crack with emotion. Shek Kin is perfect for any brash, oppressive villain role, and Situ Zhenyu is as oppressive as they come. Poor "Uncle Kin" had to emcee a lot of the fighting competitions and had to announce without a microphone - he performed admirably with his roaring voice.

Two other characters who deserve special recognition are Wong Sun and Cheong Mut Yao who play Fang Yuan and Chong Ling (clones of Fang Zheng and Chong Xu). These two heads of Shaolin and Wudang are supposed to be really old friends and the two actors portray that perfectly (they might be really old friends in real-life, though). There is never a dull moment when the two of them are on, and their double act kept me smiling all the time. Their chemistry with each other was just excellent and the banter and sarcasm exchanged was absolutely delightful. Maybe it's not becoming of the two heads of the largest sects in wulin to speak so casually, but it was great fun nevertheless, and I enjoyed every moment of them.

Another couple of people I'd like to mention are Li Gou's two maids - Qing Feng and Ming Yue. Both were pretty, witty and intelligent and it's a shame they disappeared after Li Gou died (presumably retrenched since their boss had died). It's a shame as they managed to hold their own against Chong Ling and Fang Yuan in banter, and you will like them even though they only have cameos (I don't even know if they went on to bigger careers). It's understandable to make them so resourceful because they were based on WHXJL, where Ziyihou had two talented maids named Zhu Er and Ling Er. Judging by the fate of those two maids towards the end of WHXJL, I suppose it's a blessing that Qing Feng and Ming Yue didn't have any further part to play after Li Gou died, or it would have been sad.

The were a few weak points in the show e.g. Fung Shui Fan - I don't know how he survived the clash with Nameless Guest since nobody else ever did. His acting was also a bit wooden, and was different compared with his other more casual roles. Perhaps he looks better in modern roles (where he is a real class act) but somehow as Nangong Jing he felt a bit out of place. It wasn't that bad for the role was very very small, unlike that of Pak Man Piew's Yu Duxing.

Pak Man Piew started off with big roles like Yu Duxing, and Eagle King in HSDS, but towards the 80s he was supplanted by other actors, and relegated to smaller roles. I think this is a reflection of his acting ability - he has a pleasant demeanour, but he doesn't have the class you would expect from a sect leader. Lau Siu Ming in XAJH 86 just had this pompous air about him as Ren Woxing, but Pak Man Piew just does not impress at all - he tries to be witty but just tends to be annoying. He lacks the powerful voice, gripping stare and general posture to be a great wuxia master - whereas people like Kenneth Chun Kong, Yeung Chak Lam, Lau Siu Ming, Bao Fong, Lo Lok Lam, Wong Wai (although none of these were probably with TVB at that time) etc just command respect the moment they appear on screen. This was quite a sad miscast, but thankfully the role isn't very big.


Summary:
Two words - "watch this!" If you have the impression (like I had before watching this) that 70s series are all slow and dull, you will be very pleasantly surprised. Everything from the powerful opening song, to the scenes they chose to fill that song (which was sadly very very short - only the first verse was sung), to the sets, to the outdoor scenery, to the costumes, to the acting, to the swordplay and choreographed scenes - everything just oozes class, and I wonder why this series wasn't more popular. Perhaps it's because it's a "XAJH clone" or a "WHXJL clone". It may be both, but if I compared this to Leslie Cheung's WHXJL or Chow Yun Fat's XAJH, I'd say One Sword comes out better than both of them.

I'm not sure how the series ends, and if it was bad and sad I might downgrade the rating a bit, but up to the second last VCD it's a 5-star performance (a weak Yu Duxing, but the role is not major at all). Fung Bobo, Cecilia Wong and Lau Dan alone would have made this series worth watching. Add to them the solid other members of the cast, grand soundtrack and choreography and this show is living proof that skill, hard work, and a lot of talent can make a show good enough to last through the decades no matter how much technology evolves.


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