Monday, 8 August 2016

Yang's Saga 1985 review


Directed by Johnnie To, Raymond Lee and Siu Kin-hing, “Yang's Saga” is star-studded with important actors and actresses, minus my dear Barbara who passed away around the time of the filming or editing of this movie. Even the first scenes in Heaven had Dodo Cheng as Immortal Woman Ho, Mr Cheung Ying-choi (Master Ma Yu in LOCH 83 and the Emperor in CLH 84) as Royal Uncle Cho, Chow Yun Fat as Lui Tung-ban (Lu Dongbin), and Maggie Cheung Man-yeuk (Chang Man-yi) as the Divine Lady of Nine Heavens. We have Lisa Lui as Empress Li of Song and Margie Tsang as Tony's apsara girlfriend who was banished to the Earth because she was dating Tony Leung the Thunder Boy. Michael Miu was the Fourth Young Master Yang (Yeung Yin-fai, Yeung Sai-long), Mimi Kung (Wah Jan-Jan in CLH 84) played as his Song wife. Felix Wong was the Fifth Young Master Yang (Yeung Ng-long). Any Lau was the Sixth Young Master Yang (Yeung Yin-Chiu/Yang Yanzhao). Tony Leung was the Seventh son (Yeung Chat-long). Michael Tao was one of the brats in the nemesis Poon family. Kent Tong was the Eight Prince of the Song (Prince Bat Ying, or Zhao Defang). Chan Wing-chun (Wu Tit Fa in CLH 84) and Chun Wong (Old Imp, LOCH 83) were the two Yeung generals. Check this Wiki link for other casts.


I tried to write the episode synopsis, but the DVD that I bought didn’t clearly divide up the episodes. All I know, it’s supposed to be only 6 episodes, but the DVD chapter screwed it up to more than 15 episodes. Hence, I have no idea which episode ends where. I did view it in Cantonese for most part, with English subtitle, which was great, cos the first episode had Mandarin dub and (badly done) Indonesian subtitle, which was a total palm/face.

The opening scene was the murder of Zhou Kuanying, the first Song emperor (this character also appeared in the 2009 Li Hou Zhu series with Nicky Wu and Liu Tao). Upon Zhao Kuanyin’s death, the Jade Emperor of Heaven (Kenneth Tsang) sent one Crimson Dragon to punish the Song Empire (she would reincarnate as a grown up Empress Dowager Siu (Empress Xiao/Jingzong). The Star of Pang/Peng (Yeung Chak-lam, Auyeung Fung 1983) was sent to help the Song as Master Yang Ye (Yeung Yip). The Sixth Yeung Son (Andy Lau) won the hands of Princess Chai (Carina Lau) in a fight for husband. The Seventh Yeung Son (Tony Leung) met his darling (Margie Tsang as To Kam-ngor) when she, dressed as a tai-hap, assisted him during a fight. 

The Poon family received message from Heaven (hahaha! The messengers were too funny!) that they had to assist the Khitan Liao Dynasty in dethroning the Songs. The same messengers (Benz Hui and Kwok Fung) then offered their service to Empress Siu of Liao (her useless husband was played by Lau Kong, Wanyan Honglie in LOCH 83).

Sixth Son (Andy Lau) vs Fifth Son (Felix Wong) in practice

Liao attacked Song, hence the Yang boys wanted to be sent to the frontline. Seventh son ended up marrying Margie Tsang's character (Tony and Margie also dated for a while in real life), who was the daughter of a female bandit (Lee Heung-kam, the Abbess Ruthless in HSDS 86). Seventh son wanted to attend the tournament for the battle leadership (Song vs Liao), but his bros prevented him from doing that. Newton Lai's First Son and Michael Miu's Fourth Son even stopped him in an authoritative way (Michael did it without uttering a word, but effective). 

First Son (Newton Lai) warning Seventh Son (Tony Leung) not to go

...and Fourth Son (Michael Miu) added with his silent warning

But Seventh Son still sneaked out, got into a fight to defend an innocent man, and thus accidentally killed Poon Pao, one of the Poon sons. The Yeung Brothers then tried to evacuate Chat-long from the Yeung Mansion, but eventually they resigned it to the Court. Sixth Bro asked Eight Prince to appeal for Seventh Bro. However, persuaded by Consort Poon (Poon Pao's sister), Emperor Taizong of Song sentenced the Seventh Son. It went that bad that the Emperor ordered the death sentence of all the Yeungs!!!

Nice, Emperor. What a waste of the Yeung loyalty! By the way, this emperor was the younger brother of the deceased Zhao Kuanyin, the first Song emperor, historically famous for being the possible killer of his own brother.

To Kam-Ngor and her band of brothers rescued the Yeungs to no avail. At least that reunited Kam-Ngor with her husband. At a crucial moment, a new order from the court arrived. Judge Pao (Bao Zheng, yeah the famous judge, though he was actually born after General Yeung's death) insisted that the case was reopened (this judge was actually the Star of Megrez). They then found that Chat-long had been telling the truth, about the accident and the projectiles that Poon Pao used in the tournament. Because of that, the Emperor withdrew the death sentence and demoted the Yeungs to the border to defend the Song against Liao. During the departure ceremony, a Taoist priest (Wong Wan-Choi) came to tell Mr and Mrs Yeung that, "Seven sons go, six sons return".

Ehm...what's the point of saying that if he can't actually prevent it??

But Seventh Son still got time to properly wed To Kam-Ngor, which was nice. He admitted he was an idiot here.

Margie Tsang and Tony Leung as Seventh Couple

Anyway, Emperor Taizong of Song was then besieged in Youzhou. Seventh Son was sent to defend that city, but he wasn't granted entrance to the city by the Poons. Forced to defend the four gates of the city, Seventh Son then was almost killed had his brothers not shown up to rescue him.

The Liao Empress sent an armistice invitation to Emperor of Song. To protect the Emperor, First and Second Yeung sons were sent to impersonate the Emperor and the Eight Prince, while the Third, Fourth, Fifth and Seventh Sons impersonated the guards. It was an ambush which killed the Liao King, 1st, 2nd and 3rd Sons, and separated the other brothers. I still got to see Michael Miu’s Fourth Son with his spear fight tho, so it was precious (I think Michael worked best with spears like in LOCH 83, or bare hand like in CLH 84). Fourth Son was attacked by Liao, but Princess Ching Lin (Jaime Chik) rescued him. Fifth Son was rescued by Liu Fa, the monk he met in the earlier episode.

Princess Ching Lin (Jaime Chik) couldn't bear to kill Michael's Fourth Son

General Yeung and Sixth a Son were about to deploy help when they were attacked by the Liaos. Seventh Son came to ask for reinforcement to Marshall Poon, but he was poisoned. The Poons shot him with arrows, but Chat-long remained alive. That is until Poon somehow realised that Chat-long was the God of Thunder. In a horrid scene, Poon Hung slashed Chat-long's forehead and thus killing him. Seriously, the 11 years old me remembered this scene well to this date.

News of Seventh Son's death independently reached Sixth Son and his father. General Yeung finally committed suicide by ramming his head against the Li Ling tablet. Sixth Son swore revenge. Monk Liu Fa shaved Fifth Son's head, tonsuring him as a monk, hence the Liao soldiers couldn't find him. Poon wrote to the Emperor, saying that the Yeung family colluded with the Liao.

Sixth and seventh daughter in laws looked for Chat-long's body on the beach and found him (both actresses actually dated Tony Leung at different times, with Carina Lau eventually marrying him). Kam-Ngor also learned from Goddess of Huashan (Liza Wang, the singer for CLH themes) that she was actually a heaven maiden and was cast to the Earth due to her love with Thunder Boy. After a series of trials by Judge Kou Chun (played by Ha Yu played as Qiu Chuji in LOCH 83, Brother Cheung in Dik Ching 85), Poon Hung was proven to be guilty. Kou Chun made some brilliant scenes as an incorruptible official here. No wonder Judge Bao recommended him. By the way, Kou Chun was the reincarnation of the Star of Nunki in this story.

Sixth Son killed Poon Hung with the assistance of Fifth Brother, who had assumed the identity of Monk Fa Ching. Taizong flared again for Sixth Son disobeyed the court order (Poon Hung was only meant to be sent to the border). Sixth Son then was sent to the border to defend it against the Liao, but he was trapped in a Celestial Formation. 

Fifth Son (Felix Wong) detached himself from wife (Shallin Tse)


It's now up to the female Yang warriors then to work their ways to protect the Song. They also needed to retrieve General Yeung’s Golden Sabre and the Dragon Wood Stick to break Lui Tung-ban’s Celestial Formation.

Yeung Bat-mui (Sharon Yeung) met her Fourth Bro again

Eight Sister (Sharon Yeung, Yeung Yin-kei/Yeung Bat-mui) sneaked into the Liao Palace to retrieve the Golden Sabre. She was almost caught, but her ex-husband Yang Kang, I mean, her Fourth Bro rescued her and retrieved the sabre for her. Fourth Son actually stayed in Liao to be a Song mole there. Later, he went to the Song camp to see his mother with the help of Chin Ling, his Liao wife. Fourth Wife (Mimi Kung) was of course supremely vexed to learn that her husband had taken a new wife, a Liao nonetheless, but somehow Michael, I mean, Fourth Son managed to talk her out of her bad mood (he has that thing with women...).


Poor Mimi Kung, I mean, Fourth Wife...


Yet, Fourth Son didn't return to the Liao, which made Ching Lin looking for him in the Song camp and was captured by Fourth Wife. I think Fourth Son experienced a milder version of the Stockholm Syndrome, for he indeed fall in love with the Liao Princess Chin Ling. He begged his Song wife to set Chin Ling free, in which she tearfully did.

Fourth Son begged Fourth Wife to release his Liao wife

After receiving a visit by his former wife, Fifth Bro delivered the Dragon Wood Stick to the Yeungs. Eight Sister Yeung (Pan Pan) collaborated with Bro Five to break the Celestial Formation of Lui Tung-ban (Chow Yun Fat). It was nice to see Sharon in action for a change, for she did make a treat with her Mu Nianci/ Mok Nim Chi in LOCH 1983.

Sharon (right) in action

The rest of the series went off in a rather boring fashion. Empress Siu of Liao was captured and almost killed by Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Sons had Ching Lin not begged the pardon. 

Fifth (Felix), Sixth (Andy) and Fourth (Michael) Sons against the Liao

Here they are again...

In the midst of the argument, the Liao Princess was killed because she protected her husband from a Liao attack. That was touching on its own, particularly because Mimi Kung's character had to see her husband walking away with second wife's body later (poor Mimi, she didn't get Michael in CLH, and she didn't get Michael here either...).

Ching Lin died for Fourth Son...


But then! Then Heaven had to intervene by one of the Eight Immortals chastising Chow Yun-fat's Lui Tung-ban for siding with the Liao. Lui Tung-ban (Lu Dongbin) just gleefully went ahead with his teacher to return to Heaven. As Fourth and Fifth Sons were about to kill Empress Siu, Heaven intervened again by saying that it wasn't for them to kill her, thus she got away. The series ended with Fourth Son retiring to roam the Jianghu alone, Fifth Son returning to his monastery, and Sixth Son accompanying his mother and sisters to retire to their ancestral village, wherever that is.

And thus, my palm/face...


Impressions:

Contrary to other reviewers' opinions, IMO "Yang’s Saga" is the second 80s series that I rewatched since last year that I am not impressed with (the first one being the Return of Condor Heroes 1983). "Yang's Saga" is an okay-ish series to watch over the weekend or when you are not feeling well (like me right now with my sore neck) and hence just need to past time. This series is definitely not for a serious consumption, at least not to me. 

Surely Yang’s Saga was star-studded, almost akin to watching Who’s Who of Hong Kong 1980s. It was pleasing to see Kent Tong as the righteous Eight Prince than his usual evil ones (he was admittedly convincing as a baddie in ROCH 83 and The Foundation 84). It was also pleasing to see Michael Miu, Andy Lau and Felix Wong in the last fighting scene. It was also nice to see Andy playing the likeable Sixth Son instead of the whining Yeung Gor (Yang Guo) in ROCH 83.

BUT! The xian-xia Heaven Intervention theme totally ruined the Yang's Saga series IMO. This series would have been much better without the deities flocking the scenes and making decisions for humans. I mean, having the Red Dragon reincarnated as Empress Siu to punish the Song Emperor (who murdered his brother, Zhao Kuanying) and then sending other deities to help the Song was a bit too over the top. Granted, the Song Emperor needed to be punished, but it can be executed in a more subtle manner, perhaps, like him slowly losing the favour of his subjects due to his unbecoming decisions?

Compared to Johnnie To's other works (LOCH 1983, The Foundation 1984 and Chor Lau Heung 1984), this series pales in comparison. In fact, I think this is the first Johnnie To work that I know of that included too much Divine Intervention. Granted, I don't see many of his works, but I hope he has since steered away from this xian xia theme. Keep it pure wuxia or wuxia-gong (pugilists and palace intrigues), instead of wuxia combo xian-xia (immortals genre). The story of the Yang Warriors is good enough as a standalone wuxia genre without being mixed up with the xian xia (immortals genre) through the interventions from Jade Heaven Emperor etc. It's not that I detest any divine-intervention genre (my life has its own share of divine interventions too!). When it's proper, then divine intervention works (see Mahabharata for an example from the Indus Civilisation). Yet, Xian-xia and divine intervention did no service to a historical drama as substantial as the Generals of the Yang Clans.

The OST 勇者無敵 (Yung Tse Mo Tik, Peerless Courage) sung by Leslie Cheung was wonderful, but I guess that's what you expect from one Leslie Cheung. If I have time, I will translate the song. Or I will post the translation here if someone else has actually translated it. Here's the OST with some screen shots of the series (Tomoyo is indeed an amazing MV maker!):




In Yang’s Saga, we see much more about Sixth and Seventh Sons and their love stories, granted because both of them were actually the main characters. But I'm glad Johnnie still gave Michael and Felix enough screen time. I wanted to see the process of Fourth Son falling in love with Princess Ching Lin, but we were not shown that. We were just given the result. We saw though, how Fourth Son actually loved his second wife more than his first wife, for he totally walked out of the Yeung’s life at the end of the series.

Here, Michael still had those sprinkles in his eyes and demeanours. His silent disapproval of Chat-long's impulsive behaviour was delivered perfectly for me. Love Michael's short interaction with Sharon Yeung's character as well. How strange that they played as lovers in LOCH 1983, and now I see them in 1985 series as siblings, and they just looked like that. Siblings.


The bald Fifth Son (Felix Wong) from Vkool.net

Felix was admirable in his monk persona. He nailed those Shaolin-style movements with his stick. I do agree with Shallin Tse though; how come you could be so heartless?? I think you missed the Buddha's detachment with the absence of compassion there... It was nice to see Michael and Felix as brothers though, here. They didn’t interact a lot in the series, but surely they shared their jokes off screen (and also grieves when later they learned about Barbara’s death).

Shallin Tse (Felix’s wife here) was again a pretty woman with not enough in-depth character. Sure, she cried just like her Chiyan in Dik Ching 85 cried when the titular hero fell in love with Kitty Lai’s Seung Seung, but there was something wanting there that Shallin didn’t deliver enough.


Tony Leung and Margie Tsang, from Tonyleung.info


Tony Leung was charming as the naughty and impulsive Chat-long. I think I liked this character much more than his Chung Mokei (Zhang Wuji) in HSDS 1986. I also like him with Margie Tsang, though I have to say that Kitty Lai was still a better actress than Margie.


Fifth Son (Felix Wong) and Sixth Son (Andy Lau) from Vkool.net

Andy Lau was the main star for this series, and I can see why ladies fell head over heels for him here. Since my heart belongs to Michael these days, I just thought Andy's Sixth Son as admirable, and that's that. I have to say though, Sixth Son was a much better character than Yeung Gor (ROCH 83). Above here I inserted a photo of Andy with his uncle Kwok Ching, I mean, his Five Tigers mate Felix.

Jaime Chik as Princess Ching Lin looked different here compared to her current self. Not in a bad way, not in a good way either. Just, different. She was very pretty though, Jaime. Petite and pretty. But I feel like I see the current Jaime and Michael as separate people from them back then. Michael/Barbara fandom might have caused that, and also 30 years of not seeing Michael in action. In my mind, the 1983-1985 Michael was still frozen in time, as if the current Michael was his big brother or so.

Speaking of Barbara, Wiki stated that this series was aired in September 1985, which is four months after Barbara's death in May that year. It might be that she was just not in the cast for practical reasons, not because she had passed away. Like Kitty Lai wasn't in this series either for Johnnie might have to sieve through some talents for the game. Though, having Susanna Auyeung and Lisa Lui as big guns here, I wonder why Babs wasn't here, if not for her death... (By the way, I wanted more of Lisa Lui, but she was just in the first episode or so, for a few minutes...)

My guess is that Barbara passed away around the time of the filming. The Chinese Wiki site states that this series aired on 21 October, not September. The Battlefield, the last series that Barbara was in, aired in August 1985, and it was still filming when Barbara died in May 1985. They seemed to be quite quick with editing those days. So, assuming 4 months of editing, then Yang's Saga would have wrapped filming in June 1985. That was a mere month after Barbara's death. So, she might not be in this movie for other reasons (having a break from Kent Tong, perhaps? Didn’t feel like taking part in a production for just a few minutes, perhaps?), for she would still be alive back then when the cast was selected. But when the series was still filming, she died. That must have been a blow for Michael, and also for Felix and Kent...


Update:

Wina dug the vault for me and found this article by LL's Musings about Lee Tim Sing, a famous TVB producer (thanks a lot, Wina!). There, Tim-gor mentioned about the fact that Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Sons were actually Five Tigers (I didn't notice the sequence, but it was actually chronological to the Five Tigers' ages!). Except for Kent Tong, who is also one of the Tigers, but he was not playing as a Yeung because he was mourning Barbara Yung. 


With the popularity of the 5 Tigers at the time, it made sense that they would be recruited to play major roles in the production: “Michael Miu, Felix Wong, Andy Lau, and Tony Leung were arranged to play the roles of the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th Yang brothers, all of whom carried much of the storyline – the personalities and mannerisms fit perfectly.” (Kent Tong did not participate because he was on hiatus due to Barbara Yung’s passing).

I guess it means that Barbara already died before the filming of Yang's Saga, and that Kent was "relegated" to be the Eight Prince, thus he could be filmed a bit later after taking a break, perhaps in July 1985 or so.  I guess it was LL who wrote the sentence about Kent Tong not participating. I mean, it was not Tim-gor who spoke of it. But accepting it at face value (LL is a fan of Five Tigers, and she has more knowledge than me on chronological events), then Yang's Saga was filmed somewhat after the death of Barbara. It means, that it was a grave situation indeed where Michael, Felix and Kent had to play "all's fine" whereas they had just cremated Barbara's body...

5 comments:

Anonymous :] said...

Hey!

It's Kimberly again! I remember this series. This was one of my favorites because of the cast, of the great "Five Tigers" at the time. I forgot all the plots and the exact story lines, but I remember I watched this after LOCH, ROCH, CLH, and a few other series featuring the Five Tiger. So I was a big fan of this.

I wish Barbara was alive for this. She would have fit in so great with the cast, and stole the light. I don't think many of the other female actors at the time had such charm like she did. She was so beautiful and had those round eyes!

Anyways, I might have to dig this up and watch it. Netflix has a series called the "Saving Yang" and it's also a movie about the Yang family. :)

Hope all is well with you!

Icha said...

Hi Kim! So nice to hear from you again. It's been a rather rough week, so it's so soothing to hear friendly messages...

Netflix also has Chinese series/movies? Netflix USA perhaps is rather superior in its collection. Not sure about the Australian one... I like Red channel but it's hard to get it in Australia.

I hope you're not too disappointed with my review. I used to looooove Yang's Saga when I was a kid. But upon viewing it again a few weeks ago, I was disappointed cos I wanted something more. But it's still nice to see the Five Tigers together, no doubt!

And yes, I've been wondering how Barbara would fit into the series. She might be paired with Kent Tong perhaps, hence she'd be Eight Prince's wife or so... Pairing up with Lisa Lui (the Empress) again as sisters/confidants perhaps, like in the Foundation? I love Barbara's eyes... So gorgeous, so alive...

Anonymous said...

Hi, Aku suka Yang's Saga karena ada Five Tigers & aktor/aktris terkenal Hongkong '80 an lainnya, oh ya Kwok Fung itu suaminya Susanna Au Yeung, awet sampe sekarang.
Felix Wong terlihat ganteng disini juga Michael Miu, Andi...eh semua Five Tigers ganteng deh lol. Salah satu yang kusuka di seri ini persaudaraan antar Sixth Son (Andy) & Seventh Son (Tony), They looked so cute.... Aku suka Tony Leung as the naughty and impulsive Chat-long, juga suka as Cheung MoKei, He Played each characther with different charm hehehe....
Michael Miu & Sharon Yeung memang kelihatan seperti saudara, berarti mereka memang aktor & aktris profesional, Jaimie Chick keliatan cantik banget disini.
Wina

kimberly ly-c said...

Hey Icha,

I recently googled and I think CCTV or some mainland tv production also remade a Yang Warrior movie. I believe Hu Ge was in it with his friends, I was trying to watch it on Viki, but it wasn't subtitled. ): I might have to check back to see if it ever gets subtitled.

Aloha,
Kimberly

Icha said...

Yeah, I think I know what you mean... I don't have time to watch it right now, gotta resume some MB projects I have abandoned due to LOCH 2017... but thanks anyway for the info!