Dr. Lamb (1992)
By: Craig Villinger on March 11, 2002 | Comments
Winson (Hong Kong). All Regions, NTSC. 1.78:1 (Non-anamorphic). Cantonese 2.0, Cantonese 5.1, Mandarin 2.0, Mandarin 5.1. Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, and English subtitles. 89 Minutes
The Movie
Credits
Directors: Danny Lee, Billy Tang
Starring: Simon Yam, Danny Lee, Kent Cheng, Lau Siu-Ming, Eric Kei
Screenplay: Law Kam Fai Music: Jonathon Wong
Country: Hong Kong
AKA: Gao yang yi sheng
Year: 1992
The story starts when a Hong Kong film processing lab calls in the police to investigate a batch of photographs which appear to feature dead women in various poses. Using some interesting and highly advanced investigative techniques, the police are able to determine that the women in the photographs are indeed long past their use-by date, and led by Inspector Li (Danny Lee) they set out to find the killer.

Their search quickly leads them to Lam Gor Yu (Simon Yam), a taxi driver who lives in a cramped apartment with his father, his sister, her husband and her daughter (and who, despite the title of the film, appears to have no medical qualifications whatsoever). A brief search of the Lam residence uncovers some incriminating evidence, and the entire family are quickly carted "downtown" for interrogation. At the station, Lam Gor Yu is taken to a separate room where he proves to be a tough nut to crack, even as the police dish out an interesting variety of brutal beatings (with the good old phonebook featured prominently) in order to obtain a confession. In another room, the members of the Lee family are prodded for information, but nobody will 'fess up until inspector Li shows the sister several disturbing photographs of her daughter that were taken by Lam Gor Yu. This evidence of child abuse proves to be the final straw for the family, who are taken into the main interrogation room and left alone to dish out their own savage beatings, until Lam Gor Yu finally breaks down and confesses. We then see in a series of flashbacks the atrocious actions he committed as he recounts all the details of his crimes, which include murder, mutilation and necrophilia!

This film opened up the floodgates on a wave of increasingly nasty true crime "Category III" shockers that were churned out by Hong Kong in the early to mid nineties, although none (with perhaps the exception of The Untold Story) were able to top Dr. Lamb in either their style or their ability to make the audience feel sick. Director Danny Lee (with Billy Tang) pulls no punches in showing us the graphic nature of the crimes committed by the central character, and as a result the film was either censored heavily or banned outright in just about every county that it was released in. The grim tone of the film is lightened occasionally by touches of slapstick humor which appear to be a mandatory addition to any Hong Kong film, although thankfully the goofiness is kept to a minimum, and actually manages to produce a couple of laughs along the way. Simon Yam is cast perfectly as Lam Gor Yu, and turns in what is perhaps one of the greatest serial killer performances ever seen. The range of emotions his character expresses is amazing, and Yam manages to keep his more outrageous moments of psychotic behavior from appearing over-the-top, which is something that has hampered many other Hong Kong productions (Red to Kill being a good example). Danny Lee is as reliable as always, and Hong Kong film regular Kent Cheng does a good job of providing the comic relief as police officer Fatty Bing. Also worth noting is the musical score from Jonathon Wong, which is at times extremely atmospheric, and adds impact to the films more brutal moments.

This movie is certainly not for everyone, and those who are shocked and easily offended should steer well clear of it. We are treated to scenes that Hollywood would never dare show, and some of the more mainstream serial killer flicks such as The Silence of the Lambs and Se7en are made to look quite tame in comparison. If you are in the mood for some stylish yet harrowing filmmaking, then you can't go wrong with Dr. Lamb. Recommended, despite the fact that its subject matter does at times make it awkward to sit through.

It should be noted that Winson have been unable to obtain the full uncut version of the film for this DVD release, however there is still plenty of splatter on offer and the films 89 minute running time means it is a far more complete version then has been seen previously in many countries (Australia in particular as our theatrical version was passed by the OFLC with a running time of 81 minutes!)
The Disc
The film is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio which oddly, seems to open up to around 1.60:1 midway through the film. Colours are rich, and actually appear to be slightly over-saturated early on, although thankfully this is fixed before it becomes a distraction. The transfer looks to be free of any noticeable artefacts, although there is some obvious damage to the source material, which proves to be very annoying during a couple of moments throughout the film. All things considered, the transfer actually looks decent enough, especially when you compare it with many other Hong Kong films of its age. Widescreen television owners will not be pleased by the news that this transfer does not feature anamorphic enhancement, but apart from that, there isn't all that much to complain about. The audio selection consists of a Cantonese 2.0 surround track, a Cantonese 5.1 channel track and Mandarin language tracks in both 2.0 and 5.1 channel sound. None of the audio tracks is extremely impressive, and the Cantonese 2.0 track actually seemed to sound better then the 5.1 surround track. There is certainly some room for improvement in the audio department, although things could have been a lot worse. It should also be noted that the Cantonese language track appears to feature some censoring, in the form of load "bleeps" which make one of the violent interrogation scenes appear reminiscent of an episode of The Jerry Springer Show. Luckily, the occurrence of these "bleeps" is minimal, and ultimately does nothing to alter the enjoyment of the film.

This is a bare bones disc with very little on offer in the extra features department, although since this is a foreign language film, the inclusion of clear and easy to read (optional) English subtitles is a welcome addition for those of us not fluent in other languages.
The Verdict
This is a fantastic film that has a lot going for it. The DVD presentation by Winson certainly isn't top-notch, but considering the fact that this disc can be picked up for around sixteen Aussie dollars at some online retailers, it is well worth the purchase if you think you can handle the heavy going.
Movie Score
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