SERIES REVIEW >> THE GRAND CANAL




Dai Wan Ho

Date Aired: 3.09.1987
No. of Episodes: 60

"The Grand Canal" was TVB's 20th Anniversary series, featuring many popular actors now and then. It also had some new faces like Jimmy who had starred in only 2 major series prior to this production, and Wong Yee Gum and Cheng Yim Foong who had entered the one-time pageant, Miss TV. The series was shot in China under harsh conditions, but due to such effort that TVB would not dream of making today, the series was ladened with wonderful scenery and sets, and most of all, beautiful costumes.

Thanks to Ngoc Hang and her generosity, I finally got to watch this highly anticipated series recently. It didn't disappoint me one bit, I'm glad to say.

Then I thought about what I could 'possibly' write a review on. The full summary has already been done somewhere else. Plus if I were to summarize this 60 episodes-long series, that would ruin it. I don't have many pictures to decorate this section. What to do, what to do.

I guess I've landed on my traditional way of introducing the characters and the point of highlights. As for the characters, I've provided a bit of profile for some of the main ones, but it is in no way comprehensive. Forgive me if I left out some characters that I thought had little bearing on the series as a whole.

 

CAST & CHARACTERS

Kau Yim Hak | Yeung Lan Ling | Lee Jing | Yeung Gwong | Lee Mut

Cheung Chut Chun | Lee Seung Yee | Chun Wei Leung | Lee Sai Mun

Cheung Sin Mo Kau | Yeung Yung | The "Lee" Family | The "Yeung" Family | Others


ON CHARACTERS


Idy (Yeung Lan Ling)

I will never understand why someone as bright as Yeung Lan Ling was so blinded and thick-headed when it came to figuring out her brother's diabolical nature. I was very tempted to knock some sense into her head, but alas, I couldn't get into my TV. =*( Anyhow, it got so frustrating when she refused to believe that Yeung Gwong was behind all the evil deeds that took place, and kept on misunderstanding Cheung Sam Long for this. This part of her character really went against the intelligence she portrayed in the beginning of the series.

This was Idy's second portrayal as a princess. Inherently, there were some comparisons made between her character in "The Wild Bunch" and "The Grand Canal." Some described Idy as a whiner (she was) in "The Wild Bunch," while her role in "The Grand Canal" was a warrior princess. However, for the first few episodes of "The Grand Canal," I was STRONGLY reminded of her character in "The Wild Bunch." They were both forceful and obnoxious, always having to have their way. Both of them changed for the better as the series progressed, but for the most part, I really think they share some common characteristics.

Jimmy (Lee Jing)

People were skeptical of his performance in this series, but it is hard to imagine anyone else replacing this role. He was as heroic as he could ever get. Meaning, he never, EVER, got this kind of role again after the 80's. It's inherent that I treasure his role in this series so much because it was once in a lifetime performance he made, occupying much of the screen time and even getting together with a girl (the RIGHT way, NOT by harrassing).

Felix (Lee Mut)

Felix playing a villain was quite rare in the 80's ancient series. Other than this one, he was a villain in "Tai Ping Tin Kwok," "Kei Moon Gwai Guk," and "Genghis Khan." (2 of them which starred Jimmy as well, a coincidence perhaps?) Some people are convinced that Felix would never play a villain mainly because he is better known for some bigshot heroic roles like Kwok Jing from LOCH 83 or Kiu Fung from DGSD 96. Apparently, they missed this series. =_= By far, he is the nastiest, sleaziest, meanest, and the most hateable (for my liking) character in the entire series. He makes me sick basically, but the fact that he has the ability to have me feel this way makes him one of my favorite actors as well. I would've appreciated more of his acting as villains but that never pulled through after the 80's.

Lawrence (Yeung Gwong)

It's no surprise to see Lawrence as another villain in this series. I find that's what he's good at - playing evil characters that could spare him no sympathy whatsoever from my point of view. But unlike Felix playing a stealth villain, Lawrence's character is more outwardly evil. Felix surely had me fooled with his 'heroic' statue in the beginning but with Lawrence and the way he smiles connivingly after his objective is achieved, it's easy to tell that he's not a friendly character. I thought he was rather cute in this series (har har).

 

ON RELATIONSHIPS


There were three prominent love stories in this series. Tony & Idy, Jimmy & Wong Yee Gum, and Sean & Margie. There also were Lawrence's lust for many women, Jimmy's side affair with Rebecca, and Cheng Yim Foong's one-sided crush towards Tony.

Jimmy (Lee Jing) & Wong Yee Gum (Cheung Chut Chun) & Rebecca (Chun Wei Leung)

This passing romance between the two infuriated many Jimmy fans like myself. It was not too great to see my favorite character who is supposed to be righteous cheating on his wife. But overtime, I grew to understand Lee Jing more.

Chun Wei Leung, as a former princess of a fallen dynasty, could not do anything but look pretty in front of people all her life. She did not possess Yeung Lan Ling's brave nature or strength. As soon as her dynasty fell in the hands of the Yeung's, she became the paramour of the Emperor. Although the Emperor (as old as he was) was nice to her, she probably felt smothered in her environment. It would be quite natural that she would feel attracted towards someone like Lee Jing, a young and gallant person who could introduce her to a new world outside the palace (well, they were running away from the soldiers, what else could he do...).

On the other hand, Cheung Chut Chun (CCC) was quite the opposite of Chun Wei Leung. She had a rough life as an orphan, therefore, she was very independent. She was not the type who needed protection from men. Her wisdom surpassed that of her husband's and although she respected him, she was not totally submissive. She would not be the type of a wife that an average man would want back in those days.

It is very easy to accuse Lee Jing of falling for Chun Wei Leung for her beauty, but that is far from the truth. The only reason Lee Jing and CCC hooked up initially was because of responsibility (he had eloped with this gal, thereby tainting her reputation). A bit of attraction and liking was involved, but certainly not the love factor. They got married faster than the couples who pay 50 bucks at Las Vegas to get hitched, plus they were always either running away or planning things that gave them hardly any time to develop any feelings other than mutual respect. When he met Chun Wei Leung, it must've been a total shock to him because he was actually with someone who "needed" him. No, Cheung Sam Long was not being a chauvinistic pig and generalizing that all women needed to be protected by men; that was just the standard of how things were then (even in modern times for many people). It was clear that CCC was a woman who could stand on her own and Chun Wei Leung was not. Beauty had very little to do with this matter.

It seems like Lee Jing was contemplating on the definition of a "spouse." If he sought a wife that he could protect and feel like a man in front of, Chun Wei Leung would've been the one. If he thought having a wife meant having a life-long partner, someone who could physically and intellectually help him in times of need, someone who could walk in his path together and truly understand him, CCC would've been the one. Of course, Lee Jing was not an average man (a bit slow, but still bright). He had goals and ambitions to better his nation. Because of this, I was very certain that he would come back to CCC no matter what -- not because he was a moralist, not because Chun Wei Leung died, but because he knew that CCC would fulfill what was missing in him. I guess that's when you use the cliche "the missing half" or "the soulmate."

I felt that the relationship between Lee Jing and his wife was the most mature one out of all. Unlike Cheung Sam Long & Yeung Lan Ling who always quarrelled, or Mo Kau always bullying Lee Sai Mun, Lee Jing's love story was something that I could see develop in a fine direction.


Tony (Cheung Sam Long) & Cheng Yim Foong (Lee Seung Yee)

Was it love or obsession? To me, it was a mixture of both among other things. Seung Yee was not a vixen of the series, but it cannot be denied that she manipulated Cheung Sam Long's brotherly love for her in some ways. She played a key role in breaking up Cheung Sam Long and Yeung Lan Ling whenever there was a chance, knowing that Sam Long would believe her words no matter what. She did this because of her brother, but it was obvious that she envied Yeung Lan Ling for winning Sam Long's heart and felt jealous along the line.

The fact that Seung Yee came in between Sam Long and Lan Ling did not anger me, but she was a complex character to understand. She did things to harm Sam Long and his colleague, yet she always felt bad about what she did. Yet she continued following her brother's orders until she became very confused.

I began thinking that her love for Sam Long involved more than a mere man-woman relationship. Maybe she sought for his brotherly affection that she could not receive from her own brother, Lee Mut. All Lee Mut did was to use her and eventually lead her to kill herself. Seung Yee had never been given love throughout her life, so I could see why she clung onto Sam Long and was not willing to let go even if it meant hurting him. Sometimes, the extreme situations made me hate her (I especially loathed her nasally voice whenever she said "Kau dai-goh"), but for the most part, I took a great pity on her.


Sean (Lee Sai Mun) & Margie (Cheung Sin Mo Kau)

This relationship made me smile so much because it was very cute. Lee Sai Mun's gravity and Mo Kau's vivaciousness matched perfectly. Whenever Mo Kau followed Cheung Sam Long around, I couldn't help noticing Lee Sai Mun's pretending-to-be-okay-but-kinda-jealous eyes. ^_^ He even looked that way when she was playing with his brother! Sort of like, "I like her but she doesn't pay attention to me" feeling. Historically, Queen Cheung Sin was the most beloved wife of Lee Sai Mun, so it made sense that Lee Sai Mun would look at Mo Kau the way he did.

 

ON SCENES & COSTUMES


The backdrop of this series was splendid, with authentic sets and scenery. I loved the way TVB didn't use any special effects, making every kung fu move seem realistic.

I had so many favorite scenes that it would be impossible to document them all, but to name a few, I liked all of Liu Kai Chi's scenes in Tak Kuet with Jimmy. The best part was when Jimmy got on his horse and shot an arrow that hit the golden bell. Also, there was a polo game between Liu Kai Chi's crew and the Tak Kuet soldiers which was really fun to watch.

I cannot discuss this series without talking about the costumes. It is very unfortunate that the costumes in these series were all lost when TVB's wardrobe was burned down in the late 80's, because they were truly exceptional. I have never seen so many costumes being used in one series, albeit the series was 60 episodes long. I could hardly keep my eyes off of Idy's clothes -- someone counted that she had 18 different ones! I liked her white and orange costumes the best, although she looked good in all of them (esp. pink, which she wore the most often). I also liked Lawrence's silky navy blue clothes he wore in the beginning of the series. Even Jimmy and Wong Yee Gum who were known to wear only white and red clothes had different shades of white and red costumes.

 

ANCIENT HEROES vs. THE GRAND CANAL


It is inappropriate to compare "Ancient Heroes" with "The Grand Canal" because AH never claimed itself to be a true remake of the GC. It is just a spin-off of the GC which is already based on a famous story, so other than sharing some common background and characters, AH is rather different from the GC.

The cast of "Ancient Heroes" include:

Lam Ka Wah - Kau Yim Hak
Marianne Chan Mui Ying - Yeung Lan Ling
Eddie Cheung Siu Fai - Lee Sai Mun
Patrick Tam Yiu Man - Lee Jing
Jojo Cho Jung - Cheung Chut Chun
Ng Wai Kwok - Lee Mut

Liz Kong and Maggie Cheung Ho Yee also starred in this series, although I don't remember them at all. Lastly, Elaine Ho Yuen Ying tops off the cast as Eddie's younger sister.

AH focuses heavily on Eddie Cheung's character as Lee Sai Mun. In the beginning, there is a brief spark between Lam Ka Wah and Marianne, but that soon dims when Marianne is killed. I think she was a daughter of Yeung Sau, not a princess in AH. It is also hinted that Eddie was fond of Marianne, possibly in love with her.

Patrick and Jojo have a few scenes together when they initially meet. Their characters don't have much weight as Jimmy and Wong Yee Gum did in the GC. Lawrence's character is completely eliminated, which I thought was pretty odd. Ng Wai Kwok revives the nasty old role portrayed by Felix and Ng did look like nasty old Lee Mut. He is quite used to playing bad guys so I had no problem with him.

I did, however, have some problem with Lam Ka Wah pairing up with young, fresh, and supposed-to-be-cute and outgoing Elaine Ho. He looked like her father!

Overall, AH is a nice way to get someone's feet wet before trying out the longer and heavier series that the Grand Canal tends to be. It is short and somewhat entertaining. I recommend it to any Eddie Cheung fans like myself, although it's disheartening to see him not getting together with anyone.

 


-->The Grand Canal Gallery

modified on 5-05-2002
written by Clair

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