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Dr. Lamb (Unearthed Films) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Dr. Lamb (Unearthed Films) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Unearthed Films
    Released on: August 9th, 2022.
    Director: Danny LeeBilly, Hin-Shing Tang
    Cast: Simon Yam, Danny Lee, Kent Cheng, Pik Yu Chung, Si-Man Hui, Eric Kei, Emily Kwan
    Year: 1992
    Purchase From Amazon

    Dr. Lamb – Movie Review:

    One of the better known Category III horror films of its day, 1992’s Dr. Lamb is based on the ‘The Rainy Night Butcher’ that happened in Hong Kong a decade before, perpetrate by a man named Lam Kor-won, a taxi driver who had a nasty habit of picking up female passengers and strangling them and then dismembering them.

    The movie, co-directed by star Danny Lee and Billy Hin-Shing Tang, opens with a prologue wherein a young boy watches, through a hole in the bedroom wall, his mother and father having sex. He gets caught and is punished. From there, we cut to the modern day where a group of police officers, led by Inspector Li (Danny Lee), come into possession of some lurid photos that were handed off to be developed featuring women that look very much to be dead in various explicit poses.

    Wanting to get to the bottom of this, Li and his team start poking about for clues and are soon able to identify some of the women in the photos to some recent murder victims, their cases still unsolved.

    The cops immediately arrest the man who dropped off the photos, Lam (Simon Yam), a taxi driver and presumably the man who took them in the first place. Lam, once in custody, clams up and simply will not talk to the cops, which probably doesn't help his case much, particularly as in an effort to get him to spill his guts, the proceed to beat the crap out of him. It works, to an extent, and soon Lam starts confessing to the murders, which we see play out in graphic flashback sequences and which also serve to explain the motives behind the killings.

    Bearing quite a few similarities to The Untold Story (the two films share the same screenwriter, feature Danny Lee as the cop in charge of the investigation and revolve around some sexually charged murders), Dr. Lamb is quite well made and makes for a pretty tense watch despite the fact that it doesn’t really have any likeable characters in it. The cops in this film are abusive and only too happy to beat up a suspect in order to get a confession out of him. Of course, the fact that their suspicions are correct and that they get a serial killer off the streets does vindicate them to a certain extent but they really do a number on Lam once they get him into custody, making it impossible for the audience to see them as heroes. The parts are played well by the different actors, as there’s less goofy comedy here than there is in The Untold Story, and at times it actually makes you feel a bit sorry for Lam…

    ...until it doesn’t. Yam is great as the killer, and the scenes where he strangles and then does horrible things to his victims’ corpses, which are frequently shot using some interesting primary lighting gels and which are a fair bit more stylish than you might expect, allow him to portray his character as the sick lunatic that he really is. Yam’s work in the film is intense and it’s hard to imagine another actor doing as good a job as Yam does here.

    The film’s tone is, sometimes, a bit uneven. Although there’s less oddball comedy here than in The Untold Story there’s still enough of it to, at times, take you out of the movie a bit. For the most part though, Lee and Tang keep the tone dark and the mood seedy. There’s solid character development here as well, with Lam given enough of a backstory to make him more than just a typical movie psychopath. It also doesn’t shy away from exploitative content, with quite a bit of gore, nudity, violence and dismemberment on display, not to mention a bit of necrophilia as well. The movie does take a while to hit its stride, the buildup in the first half going on a bit longer than it probably needed to, but once it picks up steam, Dr. Lamb proves to be an effective blend of horror and character study.

    Dr. Lamb – Blu-ray Review:

    Dr. Lamb arrives on region A Blu-ray completely uncut in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and taking up just over 23.7GBS of space on a 50GB disc. Taken from a new 2k scan of uncut 35mm elements, the picture quality here is a big step up from previous DVD editions, even if it isn’t perfect. Minor print damage – small specks and scratches – are noticeable throughout the duration of the film and there are spots where the compression isn’t the best. That said, detail is generally pretty solid if not quite reference quality and the colors generally look really nice, especially those scenes where some very stylish lighting is used.

    Audio options are offered in Cantonese and Mandarin language options in 16-bit LPCM 2.0 Stereo with removable subtitles provided in English only. No problems here, the audio sounds fine, with both tracks properly balanced and demonstrating a decent amount of depth. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion worth noting.

    Extras on this release include a new commentary track featuring Bruce Holecheck and Art Ettinger. They talk about how the prologue scenes sets the tone and sets up things to come in the movie, details of the case that the movie was based on (they go into a lot of depth on this and it's quite interesting), how the film may have been named to cash in on the success of Silence Of The Lambs and how serial killer stories were en vogue when the movie was made, the history of the Category III rating, how they came to discover the film, details on the different cast and crew members that pop up in the picture, the depiction of police brutality in the movie, similarities and differences between this movie and The Untold Story, how Category III films were still very often heavily edited, the film's release history, the importance of preserving Category III films given what's happening in Hong Kong and China right now on a political scale, where the influence of Italian genre films and American pictures like Taxi Driver work their way into Dr. Lamb, the boom years of Hong Kong cinema and how things have changed since the late nineties came around and plenty more. It's a good talk, quite interesting and informative and very listenable.

    As far as the featurettes on the disc are concerned, Lamb To The Slaughter: An Interview With Filmmaker Gilbert Po Who Initiated The Dr. Lamb Film Project runs for twenty minutes. In this piece, Po goes over his Hong Kong roots, getting a job with Danny Lee, the rise of Category III films during this period, working at Magnum Films and coming up with story ideas, getting the idea for Dr. Lamb when a friend in television was working on a piece about serial killers, Lee's initial hesitation to do the movie, how Lee and Tang came to work together on the picture, thoughts on the real case that inspired the movie, thoughts on the cast in the film, research that was required for the project, the film's success, the importance of remastering classic Hong Kong films, how difficult it is to make horror films in Hong Kong and some of the recent horror pictures he's enjoyed in the last few years.

    Three Times The Fear: Film Critic James Mudge On The Golden Era Of Category III is a twenty minute piece where Mudge goes over the basic history of Dr. Lamb, other credits that Tang was involved with and some of the themes that his films tended to explore, similarities between Dr. Lamb and The Untold Story, the importance of Simon Yam's work in this film and other Category III movies, the film's semi-sequel (Trust Me You Die), the poor modern state of Category III movies in Hong Kong since the handover and why Dr. Lamb remains one of the most iconic Category III movies.

    The disc also includes an Atomic TV Interview With Simon Yam that runs for eight minutes where he speaks about some of the different roles that he’s played over the years, almost getting killed on the set of Bullet In The Head, certain American films that he appreciates, his love of Jim Carey, why he hasn’t ever made the move to Hollywood like some of his fellow Chinese actors have and some of the charity work that he does.

    In Cut And Run: Film Academic Sean Tierney Aka The Silver Spleen Remembers Dr Lamb, we spend sixteen minutes with Tierney as he shares details of the real case that inspired the movie, how he first came to see the movie on DVD and the notoriety that surrounded the film in cult movie circles, how the film defied his expectations, his thoughts on Yam's performance (which are surprisingly negative), movies from Yam's filmography that he feels are much better, thoughts on the other cast members in the movie, how the film shows what life in Hong Kong can be like, how Hong Kong audiences have different expectations than western audiences, the strength of the visuals in Dr. Lamb, the film's success and importance in the annals of Category III movies.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are a trailer for the feature as well as bonus trailers for The Untold Story, Evil Dead Trap, A Serbian Film and Premutos as well as menus and chapter selection options.

    As to the packaging, Unearthed Films provides a slipcover with this release and, inside the Blu-ray keepcase alongside the disc, we also find an insert booklet containing a four-page essay on the film by Calum Waddell that goes into quite a bit of detail about Simon Yam’s work on the big screen and his place in Hong Kong movie history. Most of this material was taken from a 2008 interview that the author conducted with Yam t the 2008 Cannes Films Festival.

    Dr. Lamb – The Final Word:

    Dr. Lamb holds up well, a nasty Category III serial killer picture with some strong acting, great direction and plenty of exploitative elements to keep things interesting. Unearthed Films has done a nice job bringing this one to Blu-ray, finally uncut, and with some decent supplements complementing the feature attraction.


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