The Book and the Sword


Reviewed by: sukting

September 28, 2008

Rating: one-point-five

Introduction :

First, I must confess that I don't really like this Jin Yong novel. Somehow, this might affect my judgement of the characters. If I have offended any Jin Yong fans for this novel in any way, please forgive me as I can be quite blunt in my remarks.

I had watched the all 5 versions of 'The Book and the Sword' -- the 2 TVB versions, the mainland version and also the two Taiwanese versions. Being a lazy person, I will compare most of the characters in detail in this review. So this review is more like a summary. This Taiwanese version really puts me off! Look at how they mutilate the story. Although Cheng Siu Chau's is a 60 episode version, it is faster in pace. The Taiwanese producer only knows how to waste the film in giving us a failing plot.

Story :

I can't be bothered to go through the story as it is completely different from Jin Yong's novel. I can accept if the story line is different but I can't stand it when they even change the characters' personalities. Can you believe that one of the Hong Hua clan members is actually a spy working for the Qing Court? The very sight of seeing him feeding the court officials with details really leave me frustrated.

Cast :

Males :

The casting of the males aren't too bad but a horrible script can't save them.

Chen Jia Luo - Ho Kar King

I can't accept Kar King in this role. Jia Luo should be more refined and gentle. Although Kar King tries to be more scholarly, he simply can't shed his past image as a swordsman. His big eyes really betray him and remind me every
now and then of how he makes Zhan Zao alive. When he recites poetry, I find him weird! I am too used to see him with a sword than with a fan. Jia Luo is also very detestable as a very indecisive man who has indirectly caused the deaths of his clan brothers for mistrusting Qian Long. How can he be so naive to believe
that kinship works on this Emperor?

Jia Luo is supposed to like Princess Xiang Xiang whole-heartedly in the latter part of the story. But in here, he likes both sisters from the start and there are too many scenes on how he is torn between them! This is another point that makes me hate him. Imagine that he even thinks of having 2 wives by his side!!! Well, this part is quite close to the novel in the latter part -- no wonder he achieves nothing in the end. But he is as good in acting and fighting
scenes as always. His love scenes with Lau Suet Wah are still a highlight of the serial. If you are a big fan of his, don't miss it then! It is quite a rare opportunity for both of them to act in the same serial together. But they are not that compatible in height as we know how tall Suet Wah is.

Cheng Siu Chau - undoubtedly the best Jia Luo that I have come across. Impressive, young and also charming, he makes a good Hong Hua clan leader. Right from the start, he has the miserable look of having the burden of handling the whole clan. Emotional scenes are well-done too, unlike the uncomfortable way that he acts for "Heavenly Sword Dragon Saber" (HSDS). Another plus point is he sings the theme songs well - regardless of solo or duet with Wong Ming Kuen. He is simply perfect in everything!

Pang Mun Kin - This man wears a sour expression all the time. He looks more like an underdog instead of a leader. It does not help as he is a bit chubby looking and looks like a teenager. In fact, he was only 21 years old at that time. He has no acting experience because he was discovered to act immediately in a talent contest. Poor man -- the others shine but this leader doesn't.

Huang Hai Bing - I watched it before Wu Lin Wai Shi. Being a fan of his, my friend Gin has asked me whether I have watched his 'The Book and the Sword'. I replied no at first quickly but later realised that I HAD INDEED WATCHED this 1994 version in 1996! Hai Bing is so skinny here. He also wears this annoying and sour expression that I can't stomach! No wonder I can't recall seeing him at first. The China audience response is said to be lukewarm too.

Chiu Mun Chiok - He can't surpass Cheng's acting as his acting is still raw and stiff. Still, his skilful and swift moves are enjoyable to watch. He has managed to add an air of scholarly look as a leader. Chiu shows that he has a flair for calligraphy - I am impressed when he shows ease with the Chinese brush. One thing I've observed, Mun Chiok is better received when he acts in serials with his head bald. He fails in 'Wind and Cloud', 'Hua Mu Lan' and other
serials. Why? Because he looks better without hair???

Qian Long - Shen Meng Sheng

He makes me detest this role so much with his devilish-looking eyes. An emperor should look like one in the first place! Many others have managed to impress me with their emperor looks but this man is exceptional. Qian Long is supposed to be a man ruling the country with an iron hand but this man looks so weak -- always pinning on how he loves Princess Xiang Xiang. All along, he is under the control of his Dowager mother. He tries to talk back to her but with
little results. He only knows how to frown all the time and doing nothing -- except wooing Xiang Xiang.

Although Shen is seen to shed pounds and learns martial arts for this role, his hard work doesn't compensate the horrible character. The major flaw is his looks -- he doesn't have the Emperor look so I really laugh when his fans say that he has the elegance as an emperor??? But others comment that he looks more like a eunuch instead. In fact, he acts as one in ' Xia Nu You Long' and looks
more comfortable in there! Maybe he feels better being a sidekick?

Cheng Siu Chau - an outstanding performance as the vicious and ambitious Emperor. So good that he even lands up in the same role in Taiwanese dramas when middle-aged. Cheng also acts as Fu An Kan, Qian Long's son. Many marvel at how versatile he is to play 3 characters convincingly in a serial although he pales slightly as Jian Long. Well, not many will blame him as it is not easy to balance performances for 3 characters. Cheng really makes a history for himself. Although Ngai Chun Kit does the same way in the "Flying Fox of Snowy Mountain", no one can surpass Cheng in anyway as he is still considered the best after all.

Yam Tat Wah - he is equally impressive in this wicked role. Many have said that he is the most handsome Qian Long among all. He simply overshadows Pang although he looks older in here. His acting skills show that he can really cast off his upright images. So good that he is given many villain roles to play after this.

Chen Zhao Rong - This choice is worse than Shen. He always squeezes his eyes small to pretend to be vicious with limited facial expressions. His Qian Long is too soft and can even CRY??? I hate him for meekly following all his mother's instructions. Out of all, he is the worst.

Wen Tai Lai - Ye Fei

He is one of those rare talents who can act naturally and not exaggerating. It is a pity that he plays a minor role and there are very few scenes that can show his acting. Shen should have exchanged his role with him! I don't think this Tai Lai should have so few lines to speak like an extra! No wonder no one remembers that he has a part in here! Some even forgets how he looks.

Chu Kong - he is good here as the fourth leader - firm and assertive. What a difference from the always wallowing in self-pity Lee Cam Foon in 'The Little Flying Dagger! So formidable as to why Luo Bing chooses him as her husband over a closer-to-age Yu Yu Tong.

Shek Sau - also another versatile actor which all shouldn't miss him in here! I have never expected him to play a boorish fugitive that well. All along, he is remarkable in acting as the rich and pampered-from-young swordsman. He changes my mind here showing that he is as good as in playing other roles.

Lui Leung Wai - who will have doubts in his acting? But he ages a little although his built is still okay. Still, I practically dislike the arrangement of him being killed by Zhao Ban San in the end.

Yu Yu Tong - Shao Xi

He is an unknown to me but still okay in his acting. They should have gotten someone famous to play this role to create a better impact. Sad to say, I can't even remember his face well. My friend has to remind me that he is very plain-looking - no wonder he is still unknown now.

Ha Yu - his acting compensates his plain appearance. But still, I will prefer a person who is better looking as this role is said to be very conscious over his looks.

Ng Kai Wah - Kai Wah normally looks uneasy in period dramas so there is no exception for this one. Too sorrowful right from the start! However, he does puts in effort in relating his fruitless love for Luo Bing. However, he and Mun Yee look like a mismatch as Mun Yee is older than him.(Luo Bing is supposed to be younger than him in the novel.)

Tse Kwan Ho - as the Golden Horse best actor, he shines here - or even overshadows others although he is too old for this young role! Most actors' acting ability fade after winning awards but Tse proves that he is quite different from the rest. But certain actions from him are very stage-like that look unnatural.

Xu Tian Hong - Yang Li

A great disappointment as he is not made as wise as he is supposed to be. How could he not know that there is a traitor among them after so long? I really feel like knocking sense into him as he takes so much time to narrow down his list of suspects to discover that Zhang Jin is the culprit!

Ng Wai Kok - good as the wise advisor but he can be better if he is as Yu Tong as he is handsome looking.

Liu Kai Chi - also remarkable although he isn't much taller than Sheung Tin Ngor.

Leung Wing Chung - definitely funny but I prefer if they write more on how this wise man handles crisis instead of how playful he is. He looks silly with long hair let down. Who's the weirdo who does this?

Zhang Zhao Zhong - Long Long

His splendid acting is completely wasted in this serial! Do watch 'The righteous Guard' instead as he shines as the 3rd leader in 'Zhong Yuan' agency. You will find it difficult to refrain yourself the urge of throwing eggs at him for acting in here and be won over by his natural acting there. I agree that Zhang Zhao Zhong is rotten to the core by hatching evil plans continuously. But the way the producers make him to be is simply distasteful! This man has many
plaits on his head and often tries to capture Huo Qing Tong. Why? Because he likes her and wants to make her his woman! He is definitely a villain but definitely NOT a woman chaser. No wonder Long Long is also unhappy over the change and looks listless here although he is the only one among the other actors who speaks the lines with clarity.

Shek Kin - This is what I consider a powerful performance from a veteran actor! He is so good in here and shows how Hong Hua clan is helpless dealing with him.

Yue Hua - equally convincing in this hateful role.

Guo Liang - definitely the youngest among all! The producer could have added a beard or something. But still, he is excellent although no one will believe that he is an elder as he looks close to Yu Tong's age. Many will like him the part where he dies with Yu Tong in the end.

Xin Yan - Xie Jun Liang

He always tries to talk aloud - even to his own master Jia Luo! Is this the way that a servant should behave??? Sometimes, he can be so arrogant and even tells others what to do before his master can open his mouth. And the surprising part is - all the clan members can tolerate this behaviour! Is it because he is the youngest among all of them so they spoil him rotten? I don't have the answer.

Cheung Wai Kin - he knows his limits as a servant.any have commented that he is even better than Pang although his role is minor! See how anxious he is when Jia Luo suddenly vomits blood and faints upon knowing Princess Xiang Xiang is dead? His expression is so real when he panicks to wash a whole pail of blood from him! Wai Kin starts to attract fans from this serial onwards and he really makes good use of the chance.

Feng Jue Fei - a child actor whose presence irritates us. Whenever he appears, my brothers and I will know what he will say - 'My master says ...' Yes, all of us know how invincible Jia Luo is and how he worships him like an idol but is there a need to remind us every few minutes?

Zhang Jin - Li You Lin

He is a hunchback and is supposedly to be the happy/righteous/simple person to cheer all up in the serial. But he becomes a traitor under the producer's arrangement! We always see him feeding information to Zhang Zhao Zhong openly. Yet no one discovers his movements for so long!!! No matter how well he acts, I can't imagine this likeable character to turn out like this! This is crazy!

Lo Hoi Pang - good and comical.

Cheung Lui - also wonderful in this role although he is a bit thin here.

Zhao Ban Shan - Guan Hong

No righteous look as the elderly 3rd person in the clan. He is supposed to be a wise decision-maker and peacemaker. But most of the time, I see him asking others for advice. What a puzzling change! I am quite disappointed as he is supposed to have a meatier role and is highly skilled. But what I see is the opposite.

The late Wong San - a bit old for this role. He should be younger.

Chun Wong - This is the first time that I have seen him to be so serious and yet he does well.

Wu Yue - I don't like him. Firstly, he is too young - Zhao Ban Shan should be older. When Lui Leung Wai addresses him as 3rd elder brother, I feel so uneasy! Secondly, he is the villain here to betray the rest. Thirdly, he is not vicious enough as compared to Guo Liang - he is too inexperienced to play a scheming role. You should watch him in 'The Yang Female Warriors' instead. Well, many still applaud when seeing him being killed by Jia Luo to seek revenge for Tai
Lai.

Females

This serial sure breaks the belief that Taiwanese actresses are pretty. Wonder whose stupid idea to design concubine-like headdresses for all the actresses to make them look so ugly and old?

Huo Qing Tong - Lau Suet Wah

Lau is pretty as a Muslim maiden but she is aging. I can see wrinkles on her forehead and around her neck. Even tons of powder can't cover them. If she is younger as when she acted in "The Young Dowager", she will make a marvelous Qing Tong as Suet Wah has successfully portrayed Qing Tong to be firm and authoritative.

It is a pity that many complain that she and Kar King look more like a 'elder sister, younger brother' pair. Some reviewers even shoot out ruthless remarks, saying 'hong yan tan zhi lao, sha na fang hua'. This means that she is old and her beauty vanishes very quickly just like moving the tip of a finger! How mean they can be but what to do - it is a fact!

Actually her costumes are okay and fitting -- except the one with the 'turban' on the head. One viewer even comments that she ages 10 years more and looks like Mie Jue in HSDS instead. Kar King's fans are unhappy because she looks taller than him in that dressing. However, her fans will not be disappointed with her acting as she acts the same here as in 'The Young Dowager'.

Many of her horse riding scenes are impressive -- this shows that she has done adequate homework to play her role. Quite a change from her melodic images in Qiong Yao dramas. Her tall built is also an advantage but quite a spoiler for the producers to change her personality. Armed with a dagger, she looks every inch a swordswoman that impress all. Moreover, she reads the lines herself with no dubbing which conveys the character's feelings well. What more can you expect?

But alas, this serial doesn't make her as heroic to be. Most of the times, she is defeated in almost ALL the duels or battles. Is she so stupid??? And also always running in vain from Zhang Zhao Zhong and get caught by him in the end! But still, she manages to make us believe why Jia Luo is torn between her and Xiang Xiang. Pretty, intelligent and also understanding, she is actually superior to her in all areas!

Wong Ming Kuen - she makes a good choice of making 'green feather, yellow dress' -- Qing Tong's nickname come alive. She is headstrong and is a good leader. Wong's acting powers is so clearly shown and she matches well with Cheng. The only flaw is when she stands beside On On, On On is too tall and nearly overshadows her. This makes her character a bit vulnerable and not that formidable.

Law Mei Kuen - as her debut serial, she can be raw at times but still good, showing that she is talented. Her image is outstanding too and Mei Kuen has the look that commands attention. Although Pang is a bad choice, she is the perfect right one.

Wang Jin Hua - This mainland actress is too frail looking for this strong role.

Kwan Wing Ho - some may suspect that Wing Ho will make Qing Tong to be too old before watching the serial. Surprisingly, she looks youthful here and acts very well as the strong woman. Pleasantly looking, she is at her best than in any other periodic drama. Her fans shouldn't miss her in here. The only flaw - who's so crazy to apply bright yellow eye-shadow under her eyebrows?????

Princess Xiang Xiang - Fu Juan

This is my most hated character in the novel. How can someone who is so pure and innocent exist? I really tear my hair when she declares in front of everyone that she likes Jia Luo! Can't she see that her poor sister, Qing Tong is heartbroken when she tags around him? Sigh -- she is the most insensitive creature who has not spared any thought for anyone. And also her not knowing of martial arts like the rest of her family members puzzles me. Doesn't she know that she ends up being a big burden for them to protect her ???

I am very puzzled with the choice. When she first appeared, I can't contain my disappointment! Why get a plain Jane to act as Princess Xiang Xiang? Regardless of Manchurian or Muslim clothes, the princess is STILL plain looking. No amount of good acting can make up the big deficit. Moreover, Fu Juan always gives us a sulking and frowning look that we hate so much! She worries for Qing Tong, Jia Luo and also her clan. Please, the princess is supposed to be jovial and ignorant of the vicious side of man. Fu Juan has made her to be over worrying, mature and old! Her princess is also as sickly as Lin Dai Yu that gives so much trouble. Wonder how she can make two men to fall for her - love is sure blind.

The Taiwanese actress that I have in mind for this role is Yu Xiao Fan. Those who have watched 'The Four Lads from Peijing - Jin Cheng Si Shao' may agree with me. She is very pretty in there. There are many dancing scenes of her that really show her beauty well. Moreover, she looks drop dead gorgeous in the Muslim dress in two scenes, with Sally Yeh Sin Mun's 'wandering not in vain -- xiao sha zou yi hui'. All of us will be convinced on why 2 brothers fall for her there. Moreover, I find her appearance resembling Suet Wah so she is convincing to act as her sister- why isn't she chosen? She makes such a fine choice!

Yu On On - She is the best Princess Xiang Xiang that I have seen. With her mixed parentage look and sweet smiles, she is a perfect choice. Despite of her young age, her acting capabilities are at par with Cheng and Wong. The only flaw is she is too tall and doesn't make the princess as demure as claimed. Some fussy ones even complain that the princess should look natural without having any make-up. To me, she is still the best as she has shown her kind and naive personality well.

Leung Pui Ling - Hong Kong viewers have complained that her acting skills are poor and her looks are ordinary. But I find her acceptable in here as she has tried her best. Her cast of Princess Xiang Xiang is quite close to the novel. Her dressing does bring out her elegance and beauty. My only complaint is she is too dark - the princess is supposed to be fair.

Yang Ya Na - She makes the princess to become an idiot! I agree that Princess Xiang Xiang is simple-minded and gullible but that doesn't mean that she is a scatterbrain! This mainland actress has definitely gone to the wrong side of the road for acting.

Ngan Wing See - She does have the mixed look. At first, I am skeptical on how she will act as she is a complete unknown. And in the trailers before I watch this serial, she looks very modern and her stances aren't traditional! But she turns out to give us a surprise. Unlike those who are raw in the debut serial, she is quite good and shows the princess's demure/cute side well.

Luo Bing - Jin Yu Lan

Another plain looking actress who is hardly believable that Tai Lai and Yu Tong can fall for her. She is as moody as Princess Xiang Xiang and you will not like her too. As Tai Lai's wife, Luo Bing is supposed to have wits and a daring personality but this woman has none. She is timid all the time - forbidding the clan members to do this and that! What's the point of having her around since she objects to everything?

Lee Si Kei - she is okay in the role and matches well with Chu Kong.

Chan Mun Yee - passable as the mature wife but not good in portraying the playful side of her. Shek Sau seems to shower more feelings out than her when both act as a couple. Actually, TVB should choose a younger actress as Luo Bing because she is about 15 years younger than Tai Lai. That is why Tai Lai feels that he is a bit old for her while Yu Tong feels that he is just right for her!

Ma Li - this mainland actress is made to be an auntie who talks too much.

Chen Xiao Xuan - also natural in acting out Luo Bing's playful side and she does look much younger than Leung Wai. But some still complain that she looks too old.

Lee Yuan Zhi - Huan Huan

Her image is cute but she also frowns more often like the others. Why? I prefer to see a cheerful Yuan Zhi in here. A pity that she is short and looks too childish so she isn't convincing in man clothes. However, she does display her playfulness well. Moreover, she has such a soft voice - oh my - who can't see through her disguise immediately? I really laugh at the scene when Qing Tong thinks that she is molested by her. One is so tall while another is so short?
Her size is about the same as the late Yung Mei Ling. Wo will believe it?

I also wonder why so many people like this trouble maker. If not for her, Jia Luo's jealousy will not be aroused and chooses Princess Xiang Xiang instead of Qing Tong due to the misunderstanding. How can she not know her limits when she impersonates as a man and still behaves so intimately with Qing Tong??? Well this is another joke -- Jia Luo should know that it's impossible for Qing Tong to choose such a short and sissy man that doesn't fit her personality. His jealousy
is spent on nothing.

Wong Suk Yee - She is quite remarkable as the mischievous Yuan Zhi. Her matching with Ha Yu is so good that both play as Wu Ji's parents in HSDS later.

Lai Mei Han - She is one of the best so far. Cheeky, fun-loving and also sensitive, she simply slips into the role fast! Her tall built also makes her look like a real man! She also has chemistry with Kai Wah. Although not as pretty as in 86HSDS, she still makes a powerful presence in here.

Lao Ying - also quite good as Yuan Zhi but not outstanding.

Sun Li - she is so good in here as the playful woman - in making fun of Qing Tong when she impersonates as a man. But she can be so detestable at times to foil Qing Tong's attempts to retrieve the Quran. Also in order to satisfy her curiosity to see Jia Luo taking over the Hong Hua clan, she finds all ways to lure the members out. She's really mad! Yet she doesn't deserve to be killed by Zhang Zhao Zhong in the end.

Zhou Qi - an unknown actress

Same comments as for Jin Yu Lan. Also not cheeky or vocal at all. She talks in such a soft voice - I can't believe that this is the loud, frank and reckless person who is made out to be.

Ko Miu See - looks too weak too.

Sheung Tin Ngor - She is a very good choice. No wonder she beats Lau Kar Ling during the selection phase. Maybe many are won over by her Ah Ke role, which is a shrew in '84DOMD' with Tak Wah and Chiu Wai. So they also like her in this serial. She is also pretty in here, she makes everyone like her immediately with her forward personality.

Zhong Qin - At first, I can't tolerate her period dressing as I find her ugly too. But after watching on, she has managed to convince me that she can act better.

The old dowager - Chen Sha Li

Thumbs up for her acting. She makes this vicious woman comes alive. No wonder Qian Long is so afraid of her and has nothing to hide from her. Although she isn't that old, her eyes and her expressions look so stern that the Emperor has no choice but to spill all the beans. I still find the beauty in her in a way. Another plus point - she reads her lines well, unlike the other actresses who mumble or try to act cute. You will know what she is talking even without looking at the screen.

Heung Yee - She is equally impressive as the authoritative mother who controls her son with an iron hand. The way she chides Tat Wah is simply an eye-opening experience!

Cheng Pei Pei - Cheng is not good in here. She is getting stage-like and too exaggerating to produce the anger. The make-up is also horrible indeed.

Yu Ru Yi - an unknown

A short introduction on this role. She is a courtesan but works as a spy for Hong Hua clan. Her role has few scenes and yet important because she uses her beauty to trap Qian Long so that Hong Hua clan can escape from danger or capture qian Long as a hostage. Although this actress is an extra, she manages to make this courtesan flying her kisses to make Qian Long fall for her.

Deborah Li - she is charming and with her lustful eyes, she is a good choice for the role.

Chek Mei Chun - many have wondered how she has done it!!! All along, Chek often play weak, willful or childish young women. But in here, she changes so much that many are won over by her elegance and smiles. She must have done a lot of homework - so much that she simply upstages Mei Kuen and Pui Ling with the limited scenes in here.

Yu Li - many know that she is a good actress and of course, she doesn't disappointment us in here. However, there is one complain - the China studio should have got her better costumes to make her prettier.

Xu Lu - she is another actress who can really act. Especially when her big eyes really send out luring messages to men! Too bad all her currents are wasted on Chen Zhao Rong who can't act.

Most Favourite Character

None - although I will like to choose Qing Tong, her character is still a little weak and as much as I hate to admit, Suet Wah is really too old for the role .

Most Hated Character

Zhang Zhao Zhong - you will be dismayed by the way he turns out to be in here. Not just his personality but his hairstyle also puts me off.

Songs

This nice song is completely wasted in this serial - it is sung by Wang Jie - 'wu hui wu han - no regrets. ' It is a very heroic song. Normally, Wang is known to sing sad songs. It is surprising that he can also sing heroic songs well.
Unlike other compositions with modern music, it is a very traditional piece with the flute and other Chinese instruments. The sub theme song is sung by Pan Yue Yun - 'lai shen xiang shou - be with you in the next life'. It is a sentimental song with slow music and Pan's flawless voice with definitely move you. I feel that the standard is almost catching up with Cheng's versions - don't miss them!

Cheng Siu Chau and Wong Meng Kuen are perfect as a couple in acting as in singing. They sing 5 songs in all. Cheng's theme song is still popular today. Unknown to many. the late Roman Tam sang it first and TVB took turns to air their versions when playing the serial because the Hong Kong viewers like Cheng's version too. Wong Ming Kuen also sings the song but her version is too soft to me.

He also sings 'sending off - xiang song' with Wong. Wong sings 'what to ask in life - ren sheng you he qiu', 'green waves in water - lu shui qing bo', 'choose a male companion - xuan lang'. All are very nice songs, which I have them on CDs. The last one is very memorable as it is played in the scene on how Princess Xiang Xiang chooses her lover - and of course her choice of Jia Luo breaks Qing Tong's heart immediately.

Lau Sek Ming and Fong Hiu Hong's 'dream of the Manchurians and the Hans - hu han meng' isn't that well-received. This song simply lacks the punch that other serial theme songs have.

Mao Ah Min and Yu Long's 'red flower companion - hong hua hong yan' is quite pleasant to listen to. This song fits the serial well.

Very heroic song as compared to the others as it has a rock feel and yet can be traditional. 'Feng yue xiao ping sheng - the experience smiles at the ordinary life' is sung by a China lun hui - reincarnation rockband. I really like the song very much. There are three themesongs. Two are 'si nian - miss' and 'le xiao yao - love to be carefree' by wang zheng. Another is 'xue hui - learn' by newcomer Xu Hui Xin. I prefer the opening theme as it has an attractive start. The subtheme songs are too soft.

Interesting facts - some of the things to share on the 5 versions behind the camera.

Cheng's version of 'The Book and the Sword' was shown in Mandarin in Singapore but his Mandarin version of the song wasn't out in the market! The TV station manager, Mr Lin Xing Dao had no choice but to sing and record his version down. Many teased that he can imitate Cheng's voice. They only used Cheng's version when it was ready.

The whole 1976 cast nearly fainted of heat stroke when promoting the serial in Hong Kong. All gave up midway and being professionals, Cheng and Wong were persistent to stick to each other till the end. No wonder both became the pillars of TVB because of their professional working attitude.

Many actors and actresses fought for the main roles of new TVB 'The Book and the Sword'. Even Tak Wah was willing to shave himself bald and return to TVB despite of their 'frozen' relationship if he is being asked to. He nearly went crazy over this role after reading the novel! The others eyed for the main roles in desire too as they want to boost their popularity too. During the 80s, whoever gets cast in the leads would get the most attention. But it came as a shock to all when the producer announced that he wanted new faces to act as the lead. Many could not hide their disappointment when the three newcomers were chosen. But still, they tried their best in the supporting roles and many did better than the leads.

Kai Wah's confidence is shaken upon seeing his bald look in the mirror. He finds himself too thin and unsuitable to act as Yu Tong. Mei Han tries her best to comfort him and he slowly slips into the role.

Pang Mun Kin and Leung Pui Ling were criticised for their poor acting. Surprisingly, Law Mei Kuen escaped from the torture as they find her okay in her acting.

The Taiwanese crew films non-stop and Suet Wah finds it hard to adapt at first as she has not filmed period dramas for a long time. However, she is quite eager to act this role. Why? Because she complains that she looks weak to Taiwanese viewers as a submissive and pitiful woman who only knows how to cry non-stop after so acting in so many Qiong Yao dramas. She is actually
strong-willed in real life and jokes that many have forgotten about her acting as the strong 'The Young Dowager' before.

Notice that Kar King has NEVER taken part in any Qing period drama? That's because he's as vain as Jiao En Jun and is simply reluctant to part with his hair. However, he practically JUMPED at this chance as he has loved reading Jin Yong's novels all along and is longing to work with Suet Wah. They have not worked together before although they came from ATV. The rest of the cast marvel
in surprise (or in confusion) when both speak to each other in machine-gun Cantonese off screen!

All the actors try very hard to hide their bald heads as they find themselves looking ugly. However, Kar King is so mischievous when reporters come to interview them. Shen Meng Sheng and Long Long are sitting down and discussing over the script in a corner. Kar King stands behind them and removes their caps unexpectedly after removing his own. Then he places his hands over their heads, hugs them close to his chest and stand in the middle to take a pose. The two men
do not know whether to cry or laugh when cameras start clicking!

The Taiwanese station has initially wanted to film the whole serial in China. But after calculation, they decide to film in Taiwan instead. They manage to find rural places to shoot the scenes beautifully. This is an appropriate move as money will be wasted on this lousy work.

The whole cast sacrifices their mid-autumn lantern holiday. The director is the strict kind who dislikes using extras for fighting scenes. The artistes have to handle the difficult scenes on their own. Many are really tired after filming - Kar King even says that earning money is sure difficult for this serial. However this is not a big problem to him as he has acted in so many period dramas before. But they have no complains, though as they do not wish their ratings to be affected by Ma Jin Tao's HSDS or Yip Tong's 'Madam White Snake'
which will be shown by different stations at the same time. Which ins in the end - I believe everyone knows - it's HSDS.

The TV station is sure ambitious. They have placed this serial at the 8 p.m. slot to achieve their no. 1 viewership target and also getting 'the golden bell' award aim. One episode costs Taiwan $ 120 thousand. The cast has about 40 people - from Hong Kong and Taiwan. The fighting scenes are very movie-like, which I completely agree. However, the war scenes take up too much of the budget so they have to replay most shots. Sad to say, they didn't manage to win any award in the end if I am not wrong.

Shen Meng Sheng tries very hard to lose weight and learn martial arts to be the highly-skilled Emperor. He wants to have a different taste of each character to prove that he is versatile but too bad his hard work is not appreciated. Many simply criticise him which make him upset. He even shuns from acting from period dramas for a year. He has shaved his head bald for nothing.

There weren't actual figures in viewership ratings in Taiwan. There are even arguments over it. Some claim that the ratings are outstanding. While others say that the ratings aren't that good as expected. Although the TV station has wanted to make viewers hooked to period dramas again, many have read Jin Yong's novels, know the story too well and thus not interested to follow a long serial.

But surprisingly, the Singapore audience took it well - maybe because it was screened at 12.45 p.m. afternoon time when few could watch it. That's why it was spared from being criticised. Some students even requested for a later slot so that they can catch it after school. Isn't this weird? This serial is well-received in China as many fans come from the same province as Suet Wah and they give her their full support.

Even in Hong Kong, its ratings was 75,000 when shown in ATV which was only a quarter less than TVB's 100,000 viewership. TVB was showing "Legend of Condor Heros' at that time. ATV has initially intended to pit against this serial but it changed its mind to pit against another serial. What a correct choice made -- otherwise, the viewership could have turned poor because of its terrible plot. But the viewership is still so terrible towards the end that ATV does consider putting a stop even before finishing it. Luckily, it decides to save Jin Yong from embarrassment. So its fate isn't that drastic as Qiong Yao's 'the plum stories - shui yun jian'. This story is really a tearjerker that no one can tolerate and has to put to a stop.

The Hong Kong viewers' complaints - No. 1 - mutilated story line and terrible additions. No 2. Good characters turn vicious. No. 3 - too dragging in important scenes that deviate from the novel. No. 4 - main cast keep on talking and doing nothing. It is funny that they complain but still watch it after all!

Puzzling arrangement - Why take out on righteous characters to become villain roles? I presume Taiwanese producers always like to create stories on their own without Jin Yong's consent. There shouldn't be any spy in Hong Hua clan. No wonder Jin Yong is enraged after watching this 'the Book and the Sword' version. To him, 'The Book and The Sword' is his first novel and he has special feelings
over it. He is disappointed with the ways that all Taiwanese versions turn out to be.

Chiu Mun Chiok, Kwan Wing Ho, Zhong Qin and Guo Liang were in Singapore to promote 'The Book and the Sword' serial. It is amusing that besides playing the theme song from this new version, they kept on replaying Cheng's version! I wonder if they have asked copyrights from Crown Records before they do it. Or even in promotion, they have no confidence and need to use Cheng's song as a backup? Even on television for its' trailers instead of the new song. Although I
enjoy listening to Cheng's humming of the music every now and then, I wish that Ch U can be fairer to the singers who sings the new song. Another thing was there was a technician who resembles Ngai Chun Kit in looks in charge of the sound system at the promotion. Seeing two 'Chen Jia Luo' on and off stage can be quite amusing!

At first, Channel U gave us posters of the serial and wanted us to only to let them sign on them. If readers know me, I am a persistent and rebellious person who often breaks the rules - just as thick-skinned as to get Jiao En Jun's autograph the other time he came to promote 'Madam White Snake'. I not only made them sign on the poster but also in my autograph book as well! Luckily the working staff didn't throw me downstage. The two actresses were very cheerful and looked good although Wing Ho's make-up was a bit too thick. A pity
that they didn't dress in the traditional drama clothes to meet us.

The only puzzling part is the treatment shown by the actors towards me and my friend, Gin. Gin has overheard Guo and Chiu saying that autograph signing was a chore for them - as if they were forced to do it and both guys didn't smile at her. She dislikes both of them from then onwards. However, both actors were quite nice to me, shaking my hand and didn't complain about signing double. Chiu
even signed on a fan's magazine with him as the cover surprisingly when she was about to leave the stage in disappointment, to her delight. Is it because the other fan and I showed our eagerness too obviously on our faces???

Anyway, because of the lesson learned from Taiwan, Li Guo Li makes a few cuts in the serial to make it faster paced. The Taiwanese love longwinded love scenes but we prefer more action.

Zhong Qin always burst out laughing when filming with Wing Chung as he is very comical. Guo Liang is very scared to see Mun Chiok and Wing Ho when it is time to rest. Mun Chiok is always interested to spar with him - even after his morning jogs and Wing Ho wants to play badminton with him as she is too bored. He wonders why these two are still so energetic after so much work???

This is the first time that Chen Zhao Rong acts as a villain and he is glad to receive hate mails, showing that he has succeeded. The rape scene against Princess Xiang Xiang sends Ngan Wing See to laughter because he looks hilarious to her with his moustache. They take 4 NGs to complete the shoot. Chen laments that he hasn't taken much advantage - the scene ends with the curtain falling to leave viewers to imagine what will happen next. However, his spoken English
improves as he is forced to speak it with Ngan Wing See.

Ngan Wing See grows up in Australia and is only fluent in English and Cantonese. She has a quarter of Pakistani parentage but she doesn't know how to speak Mandarin. Chiu jokes that she is more like a foreigner. As she has problems reading the script, the producer gets her a translator. Seeing that she has no knowledge of the characters, Chiu lends her Cheng's version's vcds. Wing See finds that Yu On On acts very well and learns a lot from her. Especially in
the way she tries to move Qian Long is like having patience with a spoilt child. However, she declares that her acting ways are different from her.

The ratings aren't good at first when it is first released in Taiwan. They talk too much on political affairs. Only when Tai Lai is being captured and Luo Bing gets worried over his safety do they get interested. Chen Zhao Rong doesn't know whether to get happy or upset as this serial wins over another serial that he also acts in when both are shown at the same time!

The producer kills 3 quarters of the clan members despite seeing complaints flooding in. I wonder why he doesn't learn from his previous mistake. In 'The Yang women warriors', his 'killing' of Zhong Bao and Yang An brings so much displeasure and he still wants to try it out again??

Comments

Don't ever watch it if you are an ardent Jin Yong's fan. This production is not worth your time although it has Suet Wah and Kar King as the lead. I feel so cheated as I watch it because of them. And I have no choice but to continue watching it so as to give a fair review. This shows that popular artistes may not necessarily make a serial work. However, they are not responsible for breaking the serial. I don't remember any one mentioning about this serial as it
is too easily forgettable.

They claim to get a famous cast. But I only recognise about 5 to 10% of them! The only consolation is the scenery. Many of the scenery (especially on the waterfalls) are tastefully done. With limited budget, they have managed to produce a nice picture. But if you are yearning for war scenes, this serial has little to offer. The new Taiwanese version will satisfy you more instead.

Sukting's ratings :

On themesong : * * * * * (Scale of 5)

On acting : * * * (Scale of 5 - mostly for Suet Wah and Kar King's sake)

On story : * 1/2 (Scale of 5)

Sukting's Rating: * 1/2
(Scale of 5)



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