Monday, March 14, 2011
Dr. Lamb : Cat III Part 3
Dr. Lamb is along with The Untold story, the most infamous movie from the early 90's golden age of Category III films. Based on a series of real murders that happened in Hong Kong in 1982. The movie stars Simon Yam as a psychotic Taxi Driver and Danny Lee as the police inspector investigating the case and was co-directed by Danny Lee and Billy Tang.
Dr. Lamb opens with a brief look at the childhood of the psycho, presumably to show some cause and effect for what he becomes later on but it isn't very effective and it just delays the real start of the movie. When the film really begins we great some great night time shots of Hong Kong, that are very atmospheric and clearly inspired by Taxi driver. The atmosphere created throughout is probably the strongest element of this film.
The police have been tipped off by a photo developer about some unusual photos a client has had developed, the police stake out the photo store waiting for the owner to pick up his pictures. Once they have him, they try to get a confession from him, slowly they learn through their investigation that he has killed four missing women, taking photos of their corpses. Lamb doesn't want to confess so we get some police brutality to help him change his mind, utilising hammers to the chest and sticks on the soles of his feet, its pretty unpleasant stuff. When he eventually does confess, we have flashbacks of the murders that are intercut with the ongoing investigation, where the police are finding more and more evidence of Lamb's atrocities.
The confession comes around half an hour into the film, and from there Dr. Lamb takes a turn for the bizarre. During the first flashback, he picks a woman up in his cab and he is perfectly normal, irritated by her but normal, all of a sudden thunder starts on the soundtrack and Simon Yam begins an incredibly strange transformation, its like a 1940's werewolf or Jekyll and Hyde movie but without any makeup, he starts twitching and stretching his hands out, as though claws are going to appear, but no actual physical changes are made. Lamb then starts to howl and sniff like a dog or wolf at the woman in the cab before actually killing her. The screen cap above is of his sniffing, it isn't very clear as the dvd was terrible. I found the whole sequence hilarious, somehow I don't think that is what the filmmakers were aiming for.
Simon Yam's performance is actually pretty good throughout the movie, some strange choices aside, considering the lack of character development he has. Danny Lee seems more subdued than is usual for him, maybe it was the pressure of co-directing. A special mention must be given to the actresses who played the victims, particularly the first and last ones, they are real troopers.
Dr. Lamb was not as gory as I anticipated, although the Hong Kong dvd I saw is cut in quite a few of the gorier sequences. As I already mentioned the HK dvd as well as being cut for violence, has picture quality that is barely better than a vcd and also has its cantonese swearing bleeped, I don't ever recall seeing an HK disc bleeped for language before. It also some very funny subtitles caused by too literal a translation in some spots. If you want to know details of the cuts from the dvd go here
The feel of Dr. Lamb is completely confused, as a fan of Hong Kong cinema sudden shifts in tone are nothing new, but as this film is so repugnant and scummy right from the start, the mixture of slapstick comedy, unintentional comedy and general queasiness of the subject matter, don't mix well at all. As a result of that though, it makes the comedy all the funnier, for those of you who have seen the film the scene in the screen cap above is one of the funnier moments, but the funniest of all is near the end when the cops are watching the video with the breast being removed and Kent Cheng feels his own man boobs in sympathy, screen cap below.
Ultimately the comedy waters down the more horrifying aspects of the movie, and so doesn't really work for me as a horror film, I'm not really sure what it actually is, the Dr. Lamb character isn't developed enough for it to be a character study as some claim, and I don't think I could class it as even the blackest of comedies given some of the scenes in the film. The only category I could put Dr. Lamb in is Cat III, which is what its for I suppose!
It really is strong stuff in places and even with the BBFC's change in attitude in the last ten years or so, I still don't think Dr. Lamb would be given a video certificate, certainly not without cuts and possibly at all.
Overall while it would be difficult to say I enjoyed it, I did appreciate many aspects of it, as I mentioned earlier the photography is very good and the atmosphere is very strong even with the comedy. I don't think it is something I will forget in a hurry but I don't think I will be in a rush to watch it again very soon either.
Next up for Cat III : The Untold story. Finally some Anthony Wong!