Friday, August 12, 2022

DR. LAMB (1992) (Unearthed Films Blu-ray Review)

DR. LAMB (1992)

Label: Unearthed Films
Region Code: A
Duration: 90 Minutes 
Rating: Unrated 
Audio: Uncompressed Cantonese and Mandarin PCM 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: Danny Lee, Billy Hin-Shing Tang
Cast: Danny Lee, Simon Yam, Kent Cheng, Emily Kwan 

The notorious Cat. III shocker Dr. Lamb (1992) is based on a true-crime case that occurred in Hong Kong in the early 80s, where a serial killer that was dubbed 'The Rainy Night Butcher' killed several women in gruesome fashion. This movie tells a fictionalized account of those events, at the center of it is a disturbed taxi driver named Lam Gor-Yu (Simon Yam, Naked Killer) who cruises the streets of HK in his taxi in the evenings, occasionally drawn to act on his murderous impulse during downpours, urges which dates back to a traumatic childhood event. His nocturnal activities results in the strangling deaths of several young women, but the killer is eventually tripped-up when he makes an error in judgement, dropping off roles of undeveloped pictures he has taken of his victims at an overnight photo shop, mistakenly assuming the pictures would be developed by automated machinery and not seen by human eyes. When the shocked lab technicians see the grisly photos as they develop they call the cops, lead by Inspector Lee (Daniel Lee, The Untold Story), who sets-up a sting operation to nab the culprit when he returns to pick up the sicko pictures. Sure enough the killer shows up and Lee and his officers sping into action. The investigating   officers include Buffalo Hung (Parkman Wong, The Killer), Fat Bing (Kent Cheng, Crime Story), Eric (Eric Kei, The Night Rider) and Bo (Emily Kwan, The Untold Story), they apprehend and interrogate their suspect for several hours, their interrogation techniques are not above board by any measure, they're absolutely abusive, but Lam never confesses. It's not until the cops leave Lam alone with his father (Siu-Ming Lau, Righting Wings), brother, and sister - who have just been informed that not only is their family member a cold-blooded killer but also offering photographic proof that he sexually abused his very young niece. His family members nearly tear him apart when left alone with the sicko, which finally pushes him to the breaking point, the killer admitting his guilt, but he's not yet done toying with the cops. From this point Lam recounts his crimes to the officers and we get a series of flashbacks that tell the macabre tale of how Lam cultivated his rainy day predilection for violence against women, as we experience him strangling his first victim after being sexually frustrated, then attempting to perfect his homicidal craft by studying anatomy books to better butcher the next victims, leading to the deranged psycho staging and photographing the women's corpses, desecrating their bodies and eventually unleashing his pent-up psycho-sexual fury in a disturbing ritual of necrophilia. 

It's a well made flick, the psychological weirdness and gruesome killings are captured with an artful eye, bathed in moody, multi-colored lighting that brought to mind both Italian gialli as well as the seedy atmosphere  and psycho-sexual character study of something like William Lustig's Maniac. We also get some interesting recurring visual flourishes like seeing Lam through rain-covered windows, and an electronic score punctuated by a sleazy sex-sax accompaniment. The movie does share a few common threads with The Untold Story, both are Cat. III films based on notorious true crime cases, both were penned the same screenwriter, and Danny Lee stars as the lead officer investigating the heinous crimes in both, but this was the first one to hit the cinema's beating the other by a few years. I personally prefer The Untold Story and it's quirky vein of blacker humor, I find it has a more interesting antagonist, and while this is more serious-minded it still has some moments of red-humor. Simon Yam's performance feels a bit underplayed at times, a bit too subdued, but in the end I think it only served to set-up the later scenes that are more unhinged and deranged. 

Its a Cat III flick so you can count on some good kills, they are quite brutal, first we get the visceral stranglings and then when he gets to his savage butchery of the women by way of butcher knife, scalpel, and a meat-chewing circular-saw that send torrent of blood everywhere! Perhaps the most notorious scene is the hacking off of a breast - its stomach-churning stuff and not for the squeamish, not pulling any punches as it explores Lam's psycho-sexual darkness and desires to the nth degree.

Audio/Video: Dr. Lamb (1992) arrives on Blu-ray from Unearthed Films as part of their Unearthed Classics (#8) line-up, presented in 1080p HD widescreen (1.78:1) sourced from a new 2K scan of uncut version of the film from 35mm elements. It's not HD perfection but is generally a pleasing presentation marred only by minor instances of print damage by way of scratching and white speckling, they're noticeable bit not too distracting. Colors look quite nice  throughout, but grain levels tend to fluctuate a bit, looking more course depending on lighting conditions, but looking organic nonetheless with some nice depth. Audio on the disc is Cantonese and Mandarin PCM 2.0 Stereo with optional English subtitles. The tracks are clean and free of distortion with the dialogue, score, and sound effects being well-balanced and non-problematic. 

Unearthed offer up some terrific extras, starting with a new Audio Commentary From Art Ettinger (Ultra Violent) And Bruce Holecheck (Cinema Arcana) who cover a lot of ground on the lively track. As usual they come off as well researched fans and are quite likable in their banter back and forth. Topics covered include the tone of the film, the true crime origins of the story, the cast and crew, Cat III censorship issues, and plenty more. 

There are also a handful of High Rising Productions produced interviews, beginning with the 20-min Lamb To The Slaughter: An Interview With Filmmaker Gilbert Po Who Initiated The Dr Lamb Film Project wherein Po talks about the inspiration for the project, how he came to work with Danny Lee his thoughts on the film, the difficulty of making a film Hong Kong. 

The 20-min Three Times The Fear: Film Critic James Mudge On The Golden Era Of Category III gets unto Dr. Lambs place in Hong Kong cinema and the state of Cat III films after the handover, the sequel and highlighting Simon Yam's performance.Cut And Run: Film Academic Sean Tierney Aka The Silver Spleen Remembers Dr Lamb is a 16-min piece gets, Tierney gets into the real life case that inspired it's critiquing Yam's performance against several of his other films, and its visual style. This is a fun interview' he's quite humorous throughout his assessment. In the 16-min Atomic TV Interview With Simon Yam the actor talks about various film roles including a near fatal incident on the set of Bullet in the Head. The diisc extras are finished up with trailers for trailers for The Untold Story, Evil Dead Trap and this film. The single-disc release arrives in a standard keepcase with a one-sided wrap, plus we get a first-pressing only slipcover and an eight-page Collector's Booklet containing writing by Calum Waddell that gets into Simon Yam’s other film work in addition to his turn here. 

Special Features:
- New 2K Scan Of Uncut Version!
- Audio Commentary From Art Ettinger (Ultra Violent) And Bruce Holecheck (Cinema Arcana)
- Lamb To The Slaughter: An Interview With Filmmaker Gilbert Po Who Initiated The Dr Lamb Film Project (20 min) 
- Three Times The Fear: Film Critic James Mudge On The Golden Era Of Category III (20 min)  
- Cut And Run: Film Academic Sean Tierney Aka The Silver Spleen Remembers Dr Lamb (16 min) 
- Atomic TV Interview With Simon Yam (16 min) 
- Collectors Booklet
- Unearthed Films Trailers: The Untold Story (3 min), Evil Dead Trap (1 min), Dr. Lamb (3 min) 

Screenshots from the Unearthed Films Blu-ray: