The Duke of Mount Deer

Reviewed by: Moinllieon

April 01, 2007

Rating: five

"Duke of Mount Deer" (Lu Din Ji) is the last book Jin Yong wrote and one can make the argument that it is his best. The story is so utterly different than all his other books, it literally pokes fun and ridicules the ideas and values that was so prevalent in his other stories. And was there ever a character like Wei Xiaobao, the perfect anti-hero? There have been many adaptations of this classic farce. But out of all of them, the TVB version that was produced in 1984 starring Tony Leung and Andy Lau is probably the best.

The series follows the book fairly closely. The only detractions were mostly cutting out some parts that has nothing to do with Xiaobao while getting him involved in certain things that he wasn't involved with in the book. Such as the whole "History of Ming" thing that started this whole mess. Unlike the 2000 version, this version did not make Xiaobao to be more than he is: a coward who happens to be the luckiest man on earth.

Now to the actors. The acting in this series is superb all the way around. The pairing of Tony Leung and Andy Lau as Xiaobao and Kang Xi respectively was a stroke of genius on par with casting Barbara Yung as Huang Rong. Tony Leung was perfect for Xiaobao, everything about his portrayal is great. I would comment more on his acting ability, but that would be just repeating that he did a great job over and over again. Same can be said about Andy Lau's Kang Xi. In my opinion, Kang Xi is a much harder character to play than Xiaobao, because during the course of the story, Kang Xi goes from being a immature kid to one of the greatest kings in Chinese history. Not many actors can pull of such a radical development of character, yet Andy Lau pulls it off effortlessly. By the end of the series he really looked like a great king.

Not only did the two stars absolutely nail their respective characters, but their on screen chemistry was magical. Andy Lau and Tony Leung have got to be great real life friends for them to have such comradery on screen. Whenever just one of them is on screen, the attention is automatically focused on him. However, they play off each other so well that their screen presence do not get in each other's way. It is easy to see why Kang Xi and Xiaobao did so much for each other.

As for the 7 wives that Xiaobao ended up with, they are mostly great with a few glaring exceptions. Most of the actresses were great, portraying their characters very much like the book as well as looking the part. The main sticking points is the wife of the leader of the Sacred Dragon Sect and Ah Ke, they are just not pretty enough for the part. Ah Ke can be excused in that she was supposed to be the prettiest girl in the world, and it really is expecting a bit much, but Su Feng is another story. I know this seems like a very minor point but it is one of the few flaws in an otherwise very well done series, therefore it sticks out very prominently. It is hard to believe that TVB could not have found another actress that looked more of the part than who they chose. But I guess when one has 7 wives it would seem unfair if all of them is that pretty. Maybe TVB felt like making Xiaobao seem not as lucky as he is.

As for the rest of the cast, no complaints here either. Everyone looked the part and played the part right. It is really boring to keep on complimenting this series at every step, but there is not much flaws in the series to pick at either. The whole series is just very well produced and directed. The comedic moments are funny as hell; and the serious, dramatic moments are handled with class.

Maybe if this serious was more flawed there would be more to write about, but alas, even the theme song is just about perfect. When slowed down, the theme is very moody and emotional; but when sped up, the same tune becomes very playful, very much an embodiment of the story itself. My only complaint is that there is only one theme for the whole series, it wouldn't have hurt if TVB composed a substitute theme as well. Once again, I am reduced to picking at the little stuff.

All this makes me wonder why TVB can't produce more series of this quality, they certainly have showed they have the ability, but somewhere along the line they mess up. Overall, Duke of Mount Deer is one of the best series TVB has ever produced, if not the best. The only other series that can compete is Legend of Condor Heroes 1983. I recommend this series to anyone and everyone, it is worth every penny to get.

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