Reviewed by: pjshimmer
One of the most popular TVB series of 1982 was the "Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils." To cash in on the success of the series, a low-budget movie with many of the same cast was quickly made in that same year. Both the TV version and the movie version feature Ken Tong Jan Yip as Duan Yu, Felix Wong Yat Wa as Xu Zhu, and Ida Chan Yuk Lin as Wang Yu Yan. Some of the new actors include Austin Wai Tin-Chi as MuRong Fu, Lam Jan Kei as Ah Zhu, Chen Kuan Tai as Duan Zheng Chun, Eddy Ko Hung as Jiu Muo Zhi, and Norman Chu (Tsui Siu Keung) as Qiao Feng.
PLOT (Spoilers! Please note, the author assumes the reader has knowledge of the basic plot and characters. To familiarise yourself with the characters, visit the author's extensive review of TVB's Demi-Gods Semi-Devils.). *** indicates plot changes
The plot is nothing new for those who are familiar with the original novel; yet many modifications exist. Inevitably, the movie being only some 90 minutes long, it would be impossible to include a lot of details from the novel. The movie ignores a great deal of the original storyline and thus this rushed production has some plot holes. The story begins with the Supreme Monk of TuFan, Jiu Muo Zhi, visiting the Celestial Dragon Temple in Dali in an attempt to usurp the manuscripts of "Liu Mai Shen Jian". Soon, we find out that Duan Yu is being chased by the men of the Wu Liang sect, who are angry at Yu for entering their territory. Yu accidentally runs into a cave where he sees the statue of the "Angel Sister" and learns the powerful "Ling Buo Wei Bu" martial arts. The Imperial Guards of Dali find Yu and bring him back to the Celestial Dragon Temple. Before the monks can heal Yu, Jiu Muo Zhi arrives and they have to deal with him. As in the original plot, Duan Yu accidentally figures out the trick to "Liu Mai Shen Jian" and Jiu Muo Zhi kidnaps him, demanding that he write the manuscript on paper. Duan Yu escapes and ends up in the MuRong Family Mansion where Jiu Muo Zhi has already informed MuRong Fu about Duan Yu.
Throughout the movie, MuRong Fu only has one thing in mind: to restore the Yang dynasty. He pressures his cousin Wang Yu Yan to convince Duan Yu to write out the powerful manuscript but Yu refuses. Wang Yu Yan lets Duan Yu leave so that he would not be killed by her ambitious and deadly cousin. The lovesick Duan Yu encounters a group of men in the woods. In fact, the leader of the Beggar's Clan, Qiao Feng, is being confronted and denounced by his peer beggars, who have just revealed his identity -- that he is of the Qidan race. This is not good news for Qiao Feng, for he has always been under the impression that he, like everybody else, is of the Han race, who hates the Qidan race. Duan Yu joins him to drink wine at a bar where they encounter and drive away Jiu Muo Zhi. The 2 heroes decide to become sworn brothers.
Qiao Feng goes to the Shaolin Temple in the hope of finding out the truth about his past. He saves a disguised monk, who turns out to be one of MuRong Fu's female servants named Ah Zhu. She has been wounded badly by the abbot of Shaolin and Qiao Feng determines to bring her to Doctor Xue. The doctor refuses to save Ah Zhu, causing Qiao to engage in a deadly conflict with the Mainland warriors. ***Qiao is badly hurt and runs to the hills of the Ling Jiu Palace, where the leader Xu Zhu imposes justice. Soon, report comes in that everyone who chased Qiao Feng is dead. Qiao immediately suspects MuRong Fu and confronts him. After a duel using the 18 Palms of the Dragon, MuRong Fu invites Qiao to stay in his mansion for a few days.
***Surprisingly, Ah Zhu shows up at Qiao's door. She explains that she is the servant of MuRong Fu and that the beggars had convinced Doctor Xue to save her. MuRong Fu also thanks Qiao Feng for saving her. Opportunity comes to cause conflict, and Fu lies to Qiao Feng that Duan Zheng Chun is the Lead Brother who killed his parents 30 years ago. Duan immediately meets Duan Zheng Chun at the bridge. Chun invites Qiao to strike him 3 times. Sadly, Qiao finds out that he has just killed his partner Ah Zhu, who explains that she is the daughter of Duan Zheng Chun.
Jiu Muo Zhi comes back to the MuRong Mansion with Duan Yu captured. MuRong Fu once again pressures Wang Yu Yan to convince Duan Yu to write out the manuscript. ***At the same time, we find out that Jiu Muo Zhi is the one who killed the people who chased Qiao Feng. ***They see Qiao Feng and the dead Ah Zhu and ask what's up. At night, they launch a surprise attack on Qiao Feng, and Duan Yu uses "Liu Mai Shen Jian" to save the day. Jiu Muo Zhi then kidnaps Wang Yu Yan and informs MuRong Fu that there will be a contest in the Xi Xia country to seek a groom for the princess. MuRong Fu is very interested.
Duan Yu sees Jiu Muo Zhi taking Wang Yu Yan away and rushes to save her. He succeeds, and Wang Yu Yan urges him to prevent her cousin from winning the contest. So Duan Yu, Xu Zhu, and Wang Yu Yan travel to Xi Xia to stop the evil MuRong Fu. ***At the contest, Xu Zhu knocks out MuRong Fu and Duan Yu defeats Jiu Muo Zhi. MuRong Fu turns insane, thinking that he has become the emperor. Xu Zhu, unintentionally, becomes the princess' groom.
Qiao Feng has been sentenced by the emperor of Qidan because he tried to prevent him from provoking war with the Mainland. Xu Zhu and Duan Yu get Qiao Feng out of the palace, but they are blocked by an army of Mainland Qidan-haters who are determined to kill Qiao Feng. At the same time, the Qidan army has arrived. Qiao Feng does his best to prevent a war, but in doing so he has offended both countries. Feeling no place under the sun for him, Qiao Feng commits suicide.
Major differences between this adaptation and the novel
First, the movie starts with Jiu Muo Zhi's entrance to the Mainland, so the first part of the plot with Duan Yu's adventures with Zhong Lin, Mu Wan Qing, and the Four Evil is missing. Second, the movie does not talk about Xu Zhu's adventures either. He is introduced as the leader of the Ling Jiu Palace, not as a Shaolin boy. In addition, many other subplots are missing, such as how Qiao Feng encountered the Emperor of Qidan and how Ah Zhu found out she was the daughter of Duan Zheng Chun. Although these subplots are not in the story, they are assumed to have happened because they relate to other events in the movie.
I was not disappointed by the modifications. Depending on my mood and feeling towards a particular work, I enjoy new plots from minor changes to an entire change. As for Demi-Gods Semi-Devils, the more changes, the better.
The new cast is for the most part acceptable, since three of them were familiar faces from the TV series. Austin Wai as MuRong Fu is almost as good as Sek Sau, but Sek Sau is simply unbeatable. Likewise, Norman Chu's Qiao Feng is not as great as Leung Kar Yan's, simply because Leung Kar Yan was a Qiao Feng who literally "walked out from the book." Unfortunately, anyone who watches this movie will be disappointed by the actress who plays the gorgeous Ah Zhu. To say the least, this actress has absolutely no charisma. Her nose is like an arch with a twisted curve. And in fact, she looks more like a man. To have such an actress play Ah Zhu is indeed a painful mistake. She would be more suitable playing one of the old women who takes care of Miss Wang's plants.
Some missing characters include:
Ding Chun Qiu
You Tan Zhi
Duan Zheng Ming
The Four Evil
Mu Wan Qing
Tian Shan Tong Lao
Wu Ya Zi
Duan Zheng Chun's mistresses
Xiao Yuan Shan
This movie is as complex as Jing Yong's original work. If you watch this movie without any knowledge of the work, you will be lost in the first ten minutes. I would recommend that you acquaint yourself with the original novel or one of the TV adaptations. If you like the story enough, give this movie a try. It has much better action sequences than the TV versions, and it is always nice to get a hold of this version if you can. It is a rare find indeed!