Just bought the VCD series Legend of Condor Heroes (She Diao Ying Xiong Zhuan) 射雕英雄傳, by Jin Yong 金庸.

This is a production from mainland China, after a string of adaptations from Hong Kong and Taiwan, since 1983. Seriously though, I have not watched any China-produced TV series for a long time, always having the impression that they are usually of inferior quality – which may have been true even as of 2-3 years ago. However, I was utterly stunned and impressed by the quality of production – camera, special effects and acting – with this series after having watched just 1 episode!

While the story is familiar (also to most Chinese born after 70’s, I would hazard a guess!), what impressed me most was the attention to details: on the sets (almost all shot outside of a confined studio), the costumes, or even the simple kitchen items in a country kitchen. The scenery and some of the historical buildings are simply breath-taking.

The story so far has remained quite faithful to the original work, as opposed to some of the more annoying movie and adaptations from Taiwan and Hong Kong in the past. Not really sure if this was intended as a TV-release because the budget seems very much larger than the past productions, with many many on-location shots and also large-scale fighting between opposing armies (anything less really does not do justice to the book in my opinion). Also, it is difficult enough to see just one horse in a Hong Kong or Taiwan production, but can you imagine having up to a hundred horses in one scene? The wide-screen format of my set of VCDs is also a little misleading.

The one slight annoyance so far is the opening song which I found to be somewhat lacking, maybe due to differing musical tastes!? Also, some of the shifty camera work I found to be actually distracting and not adding to the flow of the story. However, it must be said that the special effects have not been over the top, but just enough in most places.

By the way, just found this review on the net and I tend to agree with most of her comments, except for the sound-track. Note that there are some spoilers, so it’s your call!