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Lost Souls (1980)

Directed by: Mou Tun-Fei
Written by: Yip Tung-Yau
Producer: Runme Shaw
Starring: Yen Hung, Chi Feng, Chen Ming, Eric Chan, Chan Shen, Jenny Leung, Chiang Yang & Hung Fung

Reportedly having his basic idea for Lost Souls greenlit without a finished script in need to be presented before any of the Run brothers, Mou got free reign to create the most harsh exploitation film during his Shaw brothers run (released the same year as his martial arts movie A Deadly Secret and Haunted Tales which he directed the second segment out of). Now known as a social commentator and war historian through movies such as Men Behind The Sun, for viewers wanting track the thought process and mood from the filmmaker, Lost Souls is a place to begin. Not for as honed social commentary and bringing attention to grave crimes because this is more out of control anger rather than delivering a focused picture of its problem. But boy is it engrossing, distressing anger.

Voice over tell us that a new immigrant policy made a lot of people having immigrated to Hong Kong register as card holders so that's a lucky minority. The unlucky majority is what we follow here as a group of Mainland immigrants attempt to sneak into Hong Kong. They evade the police but are captured by human traffickers (led by Chan Shen) who rape and torture the women (AND men) before the women in particular are sold off as prostitutes in Hong Kong. An uprising and hope for riches once they finally get out of the clutches of the captors is the only glimmer of hope.

It's an aggressive story even if not tuned theme-wise. You can sense Mou's feelings of right and wrong and wanting to give audiences a super close up of events going on in their backyard almost but he would get better at that as he focused on war atrocities. Lost Souls is not all excuse for torture, depravity and sexual degradation in a thrilling sense however as Mou's direction results in several reels of very distressing and unpleasant celluloid. Seeing the Mainlanders lured in by fake kindness only to fall victims to greed and selfishness is bad enough but for several long stretches, the very non-studio bound time at Shaw Brothers produces unpleasantness of the effective kind.

The men and women are cattle essentially, being kept in a barn and at a moment's notice will be victims of grave sadism, rape, callousness and by making the character's witness each other's breakdown, Mou forces our eye lids open as well. It's not so much to the point of repetition but clearly the desire by the filmmaker to create awareness and such human and creative instincts are to be applauded.

Working very well with veteran Chan Shen as the limp leader Hok, he brings a quiet and way more scary sense as a leader compared to the overacting henchmen but Lost Souls ultimately immerses across the board. Everything from said veteran presence to amateur actors either being forced to be game or being very receptive to an underlying theme of false hope, Lost Souls is exploitation you never knew existed at Shaw Brothers. I don't think the higher ups AT Shaw's knew it either but it was left alone, shot out and still exist as a key puzzle piece that eventually led to Mou Tun-Fei's more tuned sense as a historian, humanitarian and exploitation filmmaker.

 

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson