"The following is actually a comparison between the 1994 version [Taiwan] and the 2000 version [TVB]. You'll find the same review in the TVB series section under the title Heaven Sword And Dragon Sabre 2000"
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
Heaven Sword And Dragon Sabre 2000 VS Heaven Sword And Dragon Sabre 1994
Cheong Mo Kei - Lawrence Ng
Chiu Man - Gigi Lai
Chow Chi Yuek - Charmaine Sheh
Yeung Siu - Eddie Cheung
Yeung But Fui/Gei Hiu Foo - Joyce Tang
Mit Chuet - Wai Ying Hung
Yan Ye Wong - Ngai Wai
Yan Tin Jing- Guk Fung
Che Soon - Lok Ying Gwan
Young Cheong Mo Kei - John Tang Yat Kwan
Yan So So - Mi Xue
Cheong Chui San - Damien Lau
Grandma Kam Fa - Kong Yan Yin
Siu Chiu - Kong Hei Man
Chu Yee - Cherie Chan
Cheong Mo Kei - Steve Ma Jing Tao
Chiu Man - Cecilia Yip Tung
Chow Chi Yuek - Cathy Chow Hoi Mei
Yeung Siu - Coco Shuen Hing
Yeung But Fui/Gei Hiu Foo - Joy Pan Yi Jun
Che Soon - Lau Dan
Young Chow Chi Yuek - Jin Ming
What's the difference between the two?
Apart from the ending and how some of the stories were told, well the biggest difference would be the version 2000 was produced by TVB and was in the Cantonese language whilst the version 1994 was a Taiwanese production and was in the Mandarin language. And the castings and costumes were as different as day and night. By the way both set at the end of Yuan Dynasty, before the founding of Ming Dynasty.
I am not going to talk about Version 2001 and Version 1994 in terms of storyline. You can read them both at www.spcnet.tv one under Taiwan and another under TVB or read the one in E-Buzz. But I am going to talk about the basics and the differences.
First of all, this was a Jin Yong adaption of his rather famous work. Both versions had the same set of colourful characters, both talked about the undying love that Yan So So and Cheong Chui San and how Cheung Chui San killed himself for guilt of what his wife Yan So So did and how Cheong Mo Kei was made an orphan in a matter of seconds. We also get to see the friendship between the rather tragic character Che Soon, his relationship with Seng Kwan, how Cheong Mo Kei was badly hurt by two bad guys whom we later know worked for the Mongolian government, how his sifu took him to the SHaolin temple to seek helped only to be rebuffed and how Cheong Mo Kei met the sweet and innocent Chow Chi Yuek. And that was when the differences began.
We see a younger guy playing the supposedly 16/17 years old Cheong Mo Kei instead of Lawrence Ng. Face it, if Lawrence Ng played this younger Cheong Mo Kei I think I laugh myself to death. Anyway, he met Chow Chi Yuek who was amazingly 15 and played by Charmaine and she was running away from the enemies who had killed her entire family. Made an orphan and travelling with Cheong Mo Kei who was going somewhere that I can't remember, she gave him encouragement and they became fast friends. Do take note that this scene is rather important, because years later when Cheong met Chow again, he will forever remember her as the sweet young thing and to him, she was never capable to evil deeds because of her kindness. We were not really told where she went later on when they parted ways and in his journey to find a cure for his fatal illness, he met devious people who wanted to use him to find Che Soon and the infamous Dragon Sabre, he met the flamboyant Yeung Siu and also his secret lover, Gei Hiu Fu and Yeung But Fui, he met the daughter of Grandma Kam Fa who later grew up to be the ugly Chu Yee, the daughter of Yan Ye Wong who is actually Cheong's uncle so that make her his cousin. He will be trapped inside a cave where he found the Kau Yeung Kung Fu and cured himself of his illness, learned a great kung fu and grew up to be Lawrence Ng. We were never told the timeline but I assume about 4-5 years later and what a change it was. From so young and dead to so old and dead. How he met Chiu Man were all the same except for the ending and the logic behind Chiu man's betrayal of her own Mongolian people.
We see a really young Cheong Mo Kei who was made an orphan in the same fashion. His parents were played by the same actor who will play the adult Cheong and Chiu Man. We then see how his sifu travelled with him for years in search of a cure, how his sifu, Cheong Sam Foong almost begged the Shaolin monks for help and how Cheong told his grand-sifu that he rather die than to have his grand sifu suffer such humiliation, how he met Chow Chi Yuek whose father was falsely accused of a crime he didn't commit and how both of them were hauled into court, almost died as a result but saved in the nick of time. How she encouraged him and how they parted ways where grand-sifu took Chow to Ngo Mei and how later Cheong met Yeung Siu who was a devil may care kinda guy who already had a Yeung But Fui by his side. How Yeung Siu trapped Cheong in a small dark tunnel where he grew up years later and was let out by But Fui and how he went on his own way and met many many more people, Chiu Man for instance.
Basically, the rest like how he met his god father Che Soon again, how he became Ming Sect leader, how he went against the Mongolian armies, ALL THE SAME except for some minor points.
Why Chiu Man Betrayed Her People
The reason why Chiu Man betrayed her own people was rather juvenile. You see she loved Cheong but at the same time pressured to kill him by her respected father (played by Lau Dan). Torn between her love for Cheong and her love for her family, she wanted to sacrifice her own self but the father let her and Cheong go. But Ming Sect wanted to kill her and because of this, Cheong gave up his Ming Sect leadership and went far far away with Chiu Man.
Why I say juvenile is because of this.
In Version 1994, we get to see a more sophisticated reason as to why.Chiu Man was always arrogant and a proud Mongolian who loved her people and her family. She was a princess and I believe in Version 1994 she was the Emperor's daughter whilst in version 2000 Chiu Man was the daughter of a relative to the King. If I am not mistaken. Anyway, in version 1994, she was repeatedly told how cruel her people was towards the Han people but she couldn't believe them. But once she walked out of the palace and travelled alone, having betrayed her people for her love for Cheong, she saw how oppressive the Mongolian army were and suddenly she felt ashamed of her own heritage and for once her proud resolve melted and she was an ordinary girl crying for help. And of course Cheong came and shielded all insults with his body. You see people were throwing fruits at her. Anyway, how she left her Mongolian Princess life is even more realistic. Her father forced her to choose and she couldn't and she was asked to drink a poisonous drink. She drank it and Cheong came to see her dead. The father told Cheong to take her away, since she was dead but it turns out that daddy didn't give her poison. It was a test of faith and she passed. She rather die than to betray her father or kill her lover. And so they were both free to live happily ever after, and Cheong didn't even care about politics. He felt happy and lived in seclusion with Chiu Man.
In Version 2000, the story was a bit less sophisticated. We know Chiu Man loved Cheong but could love be the only reason she would so gladly lead an army against her own people? In Version 1994, she did it because she felt her people wasn't honourable and the land should belong to the Hans, good people and all. In version 2000, she did what she did because of love and nothing more. I find that rather shallow. The only moment of weakness that I saw in Chiu Man in version 2000 was when she was in jail, about to be beheaded for being a traitor in the Mongolian's eyes. And there weren't much of emotions involved. But version 1994 had a rather emotional scene, where we see Chiu man from someone proud and egoistical to someone broken, someone feeling absolutely hopeless. I find the characterisation in Version 1994 for the character of Chiu Man much more sophisticated and satisfying.
The Character Of Chow Chi Yuek
Everybody hated this character in both versions but most disliked the ending for her in Version 2000. I must agree with the general masses, except that I absolutely enjoyed the character of Chow in both versions but I must agree, I find the ending in Version 1994 more satisfying.
In an attempt to make us forgive Chow and to redeem her nice qualities and to justify how nice she actually was, Version 2000 gave us a crappy ending, luckily I was spared from such an ending since I missed the ending. I was told due to depression she lost all her memory and kung fu, became her nice good self again and was happily married to Sung Cheng Shue, a man who truly loved her.
But TVB forgot one thing. In one scene, where we get to see Chow suddenly took her hairpin in an attempt to cause serious hurt to the Vampire, and Chu Yee said something quite true that however nice and innocent Chow Chi Yuek may be, she was actually quite a evil hearted person, perhaps small minded because only a person who has such qualities could be so innately cruel, however nice she projected herself to be. So the ending of her being nice again is illogical, because Chow is innately evil, capable of evil things, thanks to the miseducation of her sifu, Mit Chuet, a person equally as cunning, stubborn and small minded. We get to see the wedding scene that was stopped by Chiu Man and how angry she was. We also know she wanted both Cheong and the secret to the Dragon Sabre and Heaven Sword. Why she would do so is still unclear. Perhaps she was using Cheong to realise her sifu's death wish or perhaps she really thought she could get away with murder and still be married to the man she loved. Interesting character but spoilt by the sugar filled ending. Illogical.
In version 1994, we see an almost the same Chow Chi Yuek, sweet kind, but forced to doing evil stuff thanks to her sifu's death wish. She was torn between her respect for her sifu, and her love for Cheong. When Cheong ditched her, she knew she had nothing more to lose and so did all the evil stuff to realise her sifu's dream by creating a web of deception and killing people. We know how evil she could be when Chiu Man showed to us her body, scarred by what Chiu Man said was Chow's undoing. We know she became like her sifu at the end, stubborn, evil, small minded and unreasonable. She loved Cheong and yet the more she loved him the more she hated him the more she wanted Chiu Man dead. The last scene between Cheong and Chow was one of the highlights. Cheong told her he still remembered her when she was young and he was grateful for what she had done for him but if she ever hurt Chiu Man, he will kill her. And so she went away and what happened to her thereafter was of not much importance. They became enemies for life but Cheong didn't really want to. I find this characterisation of Chow Chi Yuek in the Version 1994 more satisfying and much more logical. By the way, in Version 1994, she never once looked at Sung Cheng Shue and if I remembered correctly, she never married him.
The Character Of Cheong Mo Kei
Same in both version, except one looks like a Cheong with migraine and another a sex symbol Cheong Mo Kei. Oh come on! Didn't you see when Cheong Mo Kei in Taiwan version broke out of his prison he was bare chested? And most of the time he was bare chested! Whilst in version 2000, nope, you don't even get to see his neck!
The Character Of Yeung But Fui
We see more of the love story between But Fui and Yan Hero No. 6 in Version 2000 than Version 1994. In fact I can't even remember her story in version 1994. She was a minor role.
The Character Of Chu Yuen Cheong
I specifically remember in Version 1994 Chu was a beggar clan guy who became the first Ming Emperor. In Version 2000, we have a Chu who was a Ming Sect General. Quite unbelievable. By the way the first Ming King was called Chu Yuen Cheong and was said to be bloody ugly, with a protruding jaw and scarred face.
Version 2000 had very few good scenes except for when Cheong Chui San died. Yan So So if died a bit faster would have been nice. However you must agree the young Cheong Mo Kei, a fine young actor but that Cheong Mo Kei was so stupid!
Version 1994 had some good scenes. One that I particularly liked was when Cheong Sam Foong took Mo Kei everywhere looking for a cure. Such closeness and very poignant. And every time Chow Chi Yuek appeared.
Frankly, the acting in Version 1994 is better than in Version 2000. The problem with version 2000 is wrong casting decisions.
I felt the best female performance was Cathy Chow. I really like her Chow Chi Yuek, her stare, her suppressed anger, her stubbornness, but admittedly she was not pretty enough to be Chow Chi Yuek.
The best male performance was definitely the rather manly and suave Coco Shuen Hing as the debonair Yeung Siu. He was perfectly cast and though Yeung Siu is actually a nice guy, but you really wouldn't want to cross his path when he is angry.
The best supporting performance for a female actress had to be both Joy Pan who played both Gei Hiu Fu and Yeung But Fui and also Jin Ming who played the younger Chow Chi Yuek. Joy Pan as Gei Hiu Fu was much older, much more serious and looked sad but as Yeung But Fui she was playful, energetic and sometimes a bit too childlike. We see a great contrast between these two characters by the same actress but not too much. You have to see the mannerisms and you would agree, Joy Pan gave a fine performance.
Jin Ming though had a minor role she did the role like she did all her roles; with great precision. I just wish she never grew up!
Ma Jing Tao was surprisingly tolerable. After seeing his worst in so many series I think this actor is capable of restrained acting and he is at his best when he simply whispers instead of shouting. He was the first Cheong Mo Kei I have seen and I feel he did quite a good job as the nice, naive, innocent and yet honourable Cheong Mo Kei. He is admittedly rather dashing and good looking in here and he is very believable when he starts doing the kung fu fighting. His best scenes were always with Cathy Chow, how his Cheong couldn't believe Chow Chi Yuek was ever capable of evil deeds, how he tried to reason that perhaps everybody was wrong about her.
The worst performance had to be Cecilia Yip Tung. Many said she was a fine actress, because she won awards and all but frankly, I always thought she overact to the hilt and the worst scenes had to be when she was crying. I have never seen an actress who did so badly when it comes to crying scene and I saw one in her and I feel Yip Tung was and still is an overrated actress. She was simply inadequate in here though looks wise, she looks believable as the more plain Chiu Man compared to the ravishing Chow Chi Yuek.
The best performance had to be no one at all. Everybody was mediocre, even the veterans were mediocre. Let us examine one by one.
Damien Lau would be quite ok as Cheong Chui San. I mean he knows great kung fu and we all know it takes years to learn kung fu so his age might be logical. So no comment but frankly, when he died, I did shed a tear. I find it very funny that he killed himself not because of pressure by the so called honourable good sects but because he felt guilty for what his wife did and he couldn't believe he married the woman who caused his own "brother's" misfortune (paralysed) . So out of guilt, and to give an answer to the people and to stop them from asking questions about Che Soon's whereabouts, he killed himself. That was the only scene that I thought was well done and very sad.
Mi Xue was ok as Yan So So. She did well when she was confronted about what she did years before, her rather cruel naughty self who killed without mercy. But frankly, everytime I saw Mi Xue who was very pretty even in her 40's or 50's, I mean she really looked good, in this series she was simply too old to be Yan So So. I kept seeing her neck and her wrinkles. I can't help it. No matter how good she may have been, I cringe everytime I saw her acting childish because she is too old. But she was quite ok as the much matured Yan So So later on.
Gigi Lai was ok as Chiu Man. I thought she was effective, very pretty but if you notice carefully, her performance was adequate but not groundbreaking. Reasons? One, she had a poorly reasoned role in the first place and secondly, her acting was rather stiff. She seemed too smart most of the time, that even in the times of crisis she stood like she owned the world. Perhaps Chiu Man was like that but I feel she could have done more with her facial expressions rather than her "I am arrogant" looks.
Eddie Cheong is a fine actor but miscast as Yeung Siu. I can't see the debonair part. I was thinking.."Kong Wah..Kong Wah..Kong Wah" because his hairstyle looked so much like Kong Wah's Ha Suet Yee in Crimson Sabre.
Joyce Tang could be said to have done a good job. But frankly, she was too sulky as Gei Hiu Foo and much too playful and noisy as Yeung But Fui. Too wide apart simply to illustrate how different her characters were. I think I enjoyed Joy pan's interpretation more.
Wai Ying Hung was quite ok as Mit Chuet but too young. I feel the 1994 version had a much better Mit Chuet and definitely a much more honourable Cheong Sam Foong.
Ahhhh..Lawrence Ng. How was he? Close your eyes and just listen to him deliver his lines and you would agree with me that he has a rather calm and soothing voice. But you have to open your eyes to watch this series. The moment he appeared I was laughing like a mad hyena. I told Seagull my theory how come Cheong Mo Kei was so old looking. I said since both parents were so old, perhaps there was a genetic defect somewhere that gave Cheong the old look!. His hairstyle was laughable, his dressings nothing spectacular, his worst scenes was when he start doing the Kung Fu (but I really really really like the drum sounds accompanying his kung fu scenes, creates an illusion that his kung fu is great), his best was when his parents were insulted and his eyes looked hurt, angry, pained. But i don't like this Cheong at all. He seems so wishy washy, I mean he seems to undecided. His love affair with Chiu Man was unbelievably illogical, I mean how they started? How he started to love her? My sister commented why he always had that migraine look on his face, like he has so much worries, even when he was smiling. The truth is I believe Lawrence gave his finest performance in this series in his entire career, because he really looks like he is really trying and sometimes I thought he was bearable, if you believe a black man can play a white man. I can't. Whenever I saw his face I laughed. I thought his performance were adequate but still missing the extra oomph and I thought he looked rather silly in his hairdo. No no, he is not my idea of Cheong Mo Kei. But he could be the older, much much much older Cheong Mo Kei. I was actually hoping he plays one of the villains. Yep, he lacks that heroic look.
Ahhhhhhhhhh....Charmaine Sheh. Some said she gave her best in here, some said her worst. No no no, she wasn't THAT bad, in fact I would say she is my idea of Chow Chi Yuek, LOOKS WISE. You see, when she first appeared, I thought she looked simply ravishing. She was glowing and her make up were perfect though her hair could have been less severe. When later she became evil, she had that purple colour tone in her make up and dresses and still she looked ravishing. My idea of Chow Chi Yuek, sweet looking, innocent and almost virginal. BUT the problem starts when she becomes evil Chow Chi Yuek. You could see all her weaknesses. She does not have consistency. One minute she is evil, next she is teary eyed, almost a bit of regret in her eyes and yet, not quite so. I still think she is a scene per scene actress and she has never quite grasp the idea of her character AS A WHOLE. She could definitely stare, and the scene where she was driven to desperation and she had to eat dried leaves to survive was quite ok but yet something was terribly missing. I feel she did a better job in Crimson Sabre than in here though in here she did a far better job than all her earlier works. No no, she was great and she wasn't bad. If I had to choose the worst performance, it had to be a tough fight between the old guy who played Cheong Sam Foong the monotone old man, the dead looking monotone John Tang and the scarred faced guy who delivered his lines like the Monkey King. I can't decide but what I am sure is the worst wasn't Charmaine Sheh but didn't give a good performance either. She gave a bad performance, and now that I think back, she didn't have much role in here! I really enjoyed watching Chow Chi Yuek but if this role had gone to a more accomplished and capable actress, like.....like....like...Xiao Qiang or perhaps....like..like..like..in TVB...like....oh my God, I can't think of one pretty enough!! Wait got one. If this role had gone to the younger Ada Choi it would have been better but Ada Choi is not pretty enough. Oh God, TVB desperately needs new talent. I really can't think of one to play Chow Chi Yuek!! Yes I got one. Cecilia Cheung. But her voice.....
Both as draggy but I was spared the earlier hysterics surrounding the love between Cheong Chui San and Yan So So in 1994 version because when I switched on the TV, they were already killing themselves. So I guess my preference is a bit biased.
Avoid Version 2000. Too long winded and the costumes, except for Gigi and Charmaine were poorly done. Just look at Joyce Tang. And their hairstyles very very over the top, the Kung Fu bloody boring and the story much too illogical.
Give Version 1994 a try. You could rent the Cantonese version. I liked the dress code in that series, where Ngo Mei would have a certain dress code, though Chiu Man's dressings were a bit plain and ordinary for a princess.You could see some good performances in here, except for the irrittaing Yip Tung. And though the ending will have you screaming, I thought it was quite ok.
The Book's Ending
I was told by SC that the ending in the book was quite different from both versions. Cheong was writing a letter to handover his leadership to Yeong Siu as he was about to marry Chiu Man when Chow suddenly appeared and reminded him that he still owe her one wish. And at that moment he was afraid she might as him to leave Chiu Man on their wedding day. The end.
A Logical Complaint
A friend of mine once complained that why, Cheong Mo Kei having been blessed with great kung fu skills would in the end use his hands to draw his wife's eyebrows?! She saw the 1994 version and in a way I agree. A nice guy like Cheong will be a liability if he becomes a King. You can't blame the Ming Sect for wanting Chiu Man dead. I would want her dead because she is Mongolian. But he reasoned we have nice Mongolians and bad Mongolians. Yes, true but she is the Mongolian princess and how do we know she will truly give up her Mongolian roots? In both version they both gave up Mongolian roots and even Cheong gave up his Han roots. A happy ending but rather depressing don't you think? All the skills in the world and in the end all he wanted was to hug his wife, draw her eye brows when he could have been so much more. Wasted talent.
So Who Wins? There Was A VS Above Right?
Ahhhh yes. Well, I would say in terms of storyline, performances, casting decision, the costumes, the Kung Fus, the dialogues, I would say HSDS 1994 wins.