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Written by Joanne Lee


"However a bunch of semi-main characters, the ‘good’ ones, were killed and/or tortured throughout the series. Something like 80% of anyone who mattered ended up dead. Good drama, yeah, but the death rate was unnecessarily high."



SPOILERS ... SPOILERS ... SPOILERS


Chinese Title
劍魔獨孤求敗

Released In
1989

Main Cast
Felix Wong Yat-Wah – Lam Hong
Maggie Shiu Mei-Kei – Lang Zhi Yin
Hugo Ng Doi-Yung – Baak Seng Jung
Law Lok Lam – Duk Ku Tin Fung
Lily Li Lai-Lai – Yim Hiu Ching
Man Suet Yee – Lau Ngo Seung
Carrie Choi Ka-Lei – Lau Ngo Suet
Gordon Liu Ka-Fai– Gung Zan Hung

Summary
Law Lok Lam is Duk Ku Tin Fung, who is regarded as the head of one of the ‘evil’ clans in the martial arts world. He and his pregnant (and going into labour) wife (Lily Li) get pursued by the ‘good’ clans and in desperation, Lily Li swaps her newborn baby with the newborn of a local peasant couple before she falls down a well and Law Lok Lam gets captured.

The baby grows up to become Lam Hong (Felix Wong), who is sweet, honest, and filial. Felix lives with his elderly mother in a small home and sells tofu for a living. Lang Zhi Yin (Maggie Shiu) is a disciple of Lily Li’s, and she becomes hurt on a mission and is saved and nursed back to health by Felix. They rather quickly fall in love and get married, but eventually Maggie knows she can’t avoid her former life so they part ways.

Felix is taken in by the father of Baak Seng Jung (Hugo Ng), who’s whole family then gets killed by Lily Li (obviously with the exception of Hugo and Felix, who escape by chance). Felix and Hugo then get taken in by Master Lau, and they befriend Master Lau’s two daughters Lau Ngo Seung (Man Suet Yee) and Lau Ngo Suet (Carrie Choi). Felix and Hugo secretly follow Master Lau to the mountains and discover that he is the one who captured Law Lok Lam all those years ago and kept him as prisoner. They help him to escape after requesting that he teaches them martial arts since Master Lau had only been getting them to do basic chore-like jobs. After escaping, Law Lok Lam refuses to teach them anything and then goes to seek revenge on Master Lau (unsuccessfully) before reuniting with his wife and her small band of followers.

Hugo eventually becomes impatient at taking so long to get revenge for his parents; misunderstandings and accusations ensue. He then grows to seek more than revenge; he wants martial arts dominance and will stop at nothing to get it. Meanwhile, Felix left Master Lau after copping some accusations and consequently having to openly save Maggie, a disciple of an ‘evil’ clan, after Master Lau had kidnapped and tortured her. Felix then took up with two new masters; they had retired from the martial arts world but were known to be highly skilled. They were also involved in abit of a quirky love triangle with the local healer, who had taken Man Suet Yee as a student after seeing her talent and dedication.

Master Lau’s eldest daughter (Man Suet Yee) chose to support Felix throughout the series, even when all evidence of a crime seemed to point to him. Hugo married the younger daughter (Carrie Choi) so he could become part of the Lau family, even though the one he had always loved was Man Suet Yee. He first, however, pretended to be the long lost son of Law Lok Lam and Lily Li, gaining their trust and powers. When the truth that Felix was the true son came to light, Hugo then claimed that he was only pretending to be the son so he could gather information and then attack the ‘evil’ clan from the inside. Felix, however, was then chased by all the ‘good’ clans for being the son of the evil and ruthless Law Lok Lam. Eventually the truth that Hugo was the one who had committed crimes came out and led to the final showdown between the two.

Performances rated
Felix Wong as Lam Hong
Lam Hong is helpful and nice to everybody. He is a hard worker and a quick learner. He also has a stubborn streak however, and he is completely on the good side for the fight against good and evil. Felix is the most ideal choice for this role. He was suitably nice and loveable at the beginning, and his gradual change into a powerful righteous young man was subtle and believable. Although I am curious to see Felix playing an evil role someday, don’t think that’s ever happened before.

Maggie Shiu as Lang Zhi Yin
Lang Zhi Yin is a cold-blooded murderer, but strangely enough, she would still be one of the protagonists in the series. She starts off going around killing random people, but partway through you realize that she’s been trained as a killing machine and she listens faithfully to her master because she’s so grateful that her master took her in and raised her. She was a great character, strong yet gentle, and quite understanding. Maggie, like Felix, was a good choice. She was impressive in Kim Mo, capturing the different facets of the character; however having watched some more recent series, I noticed that her acting abilities have actually further improved and grown since. She’s really young and beautiful in the series as well.

Hugo Ng as Baak Seng Jung
Baak Seng Jung is annoying and rude at first, a rather childish young man. Then he matures, gets much smarter and becomes downright evil; the scheming, sly type of evil. That is until the very end when he essentially goes insane. This may be the first series I’ve watched with Hugo as one of the leads, and he was excellent. At the beginning when it was a little lighter, his comic timing was spot on, and as it got more dramatic, he displayed a commanding intensity.

Law Lok Lam as Duk Ku Tin Fung
Duk Ku Tin Fung is one power-crazy man. He’s almost borderline insane sometimes, and incredibly ruthless. Law Lok Lam is a capable actor who’s been great in everything I’ve ever seen him in, particularly ancient series.

Lily Li as Yim Hiu Ching
She may be evil, but she cares deeply for Maggie as a disciple. That is until her husband turns up and continuously ‘tests’ and uses Maggie, and Lily does *nothing* to defend her faithful disciple. Sure, she brings her soup to aid Maggie’s recovery, but if she had defended her in the first place then maybe it wouldn’t have gotten so bad. But then I guess it is a little hard when her husband is crazy. And why was she so against Felix at the beginning, anyway? She had missed and loved her husband for so long, she should completely understand how Maggie was feeling. But then again…I did like the character in a strange kind of way; like Maggie, she also had her more gentle and caring moments. Lily Li is a veteran actress who honestly I find a little unappealing in modern series. She always strikes me as rather stiff and she says her lines in a robotic way. All of that is acceptable though, for an ancient series. Especially for her ‘evil’ character; I’ve always found evil characters in ancient series need to be a little dramatic in an ever so slightly comical way.

Man Suet Yee as Lau Ngo Seung
She is a sweet loving girl, and you could say that this makes her the perfect match to Felix. But somehow I find them too alike which isn’t really good for a couple. She is infinitely smarter and nicer than her sister though, which means she gives lots of advice throughout the series, all of which her sister doesn’t listen to. Man Suet Yee wasn’t bad, but the character didn’t have much depth. She was nice and all, but sometimes it seemed as if she was nice because she knew she should be, not because she truly wanted to be.

Other characters
- Gordon Liu as Gung Zhan Hung – Gung Zhan Hung was another disciple of Lily Li, he was madly in love with Maggie, and quite open about it, but on the whole, he respected Maggie’s decisions and helped her whenever he could. He was another one of those ‘evil-but-good’ characters and his ending was rather unfortunate.

- Carrie Choi as Lau Ngo Suet – Carrie Choi was cute, but Lau Ngo Suet was highly annoying. Her character was gullible, disobedient, rather dimwitted and stubborn. She kind of deserved her ending.

- Felix’s two masters and the healer were very interesting characters. The two bickering masters provided most of the comic relief and it was done tastefully. The healer was clever and willing to help, understanding but also decisive and strong when she needed to be. They provided a good back-story when the main Hugo/Felix battle story needed a break.

- Master Lau has to be the dumbest character in the whole series. He, like his youngest daughter, was gullible and stubborn. He was also extremely arrogant, overconfident, selfish and greedy. He should have died way earlier in the series.

Comments
- How could Felix love Maggie *so* much and then instantly disown her and badmouth her when he found out she was from the ‘evil’ clan? He had seen her when she was good, and then when she constantly saved him, he never even thought that it was her.

- Throughout the series, they seem to really advocate the Felix/Man Suet Yee pairing. You almost get the feeling that they are implying that Maggie is the third party. Why? She married Felix first. Actually she’s the only one who married him at all.

- I’m not familiar with Jin Yong novels, so I had never heard of Duk Ku Kau Pai, but after having done some research, I do think they could, and probably should have strayed away from the typical 80s martial arts series mold and created something a little different…

- So why did they kill off Gordon? He was such a good character and such a great guy, he so didn’t deserve it.

- One point that they keep reiterating in the series is that bad people will have a bad ending. True as that might be, it seems as if good people also got the same ending. If not worse. I distinctly remember one man who became an accomplice to Hugo – he had his ear chopped off, and if I recall correctly, that was it. However a bunch of semi-main characters, the ‘good’ ones, were killed and/or tortured throughout the series. Something like 80% of anyone who mattered ended up dead. Good drama, yeah, but the death rate was unnecessarily high.

- Why did the two masters and the healer die? They were the epitome of good. They had retired from the martial arts world and were seeking to live a peaceful life. The second they half step back into it, they get embroiled in the mess and end up dead.

- The ending was a let down. It was so typical and so many people died towards the end. Maggie’s ending was incredibly disappointing; one minute they’re feeling her pulse and saying ‘she’s alive!’ and the next, she’s apparently not. And they didn’t even really specify, Felix and Man Suet Yee just had a small conversation about it and that was it. And they didn’t really seem upset at all, even Felix, who really should have been.

Overall
I don’t usually enjoy ancient wuxia series all that much, but one in a while isn’t so bad. The rating went down a little because of the ending. The ‘flow’ of it wasn’t so good either, some parts moved way too fast and some parts dragged on and on. But it was quite enjoyable on the whole once I got to the good parts.

Rating


Some screencaps
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