Dr. Lamb (1992)

Directed by: Danny Lee & Billy Tang
Written by: Law Gam Fai
Producer: Danny Lee
Starring: Simon Yam, Danny Lee, Kent Cheng & Lau Siu Ming

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com

Dr. Lamb started a wave of Category III-rated movies (about the same as the rating NC-17 in America for example) based on actual murder cases in Hong Kong and that rating allowed the filmmakers to go even further when it came to showing violence, blood and nudity. The most famous movies in this genre (Run & Kill & The Untold Story) has actually gotten it's fair share of good reviews and well established actors like Anthony Wong, Danny Lee and Simon Yam have appeared in them.

A photo processing lab in Hong Kong have received and developed a role of highly disturbing pictures of murdered women. The police are called in and Inspector Li (Danny Lee from The Killer) quickly suspects that these may be the women that have been reported missing over the course of the year. They stage a trap to arrest whoever comes and pick up the photos and the man who does so is cabdriver Lam Gou Yee (Simon Yam from Bullet In The Head). After intensive questioning he starts to recap the horrible story of what he did to the women...

Personally I hesitated a long before I actually acquired this movie. I'm one of those guys with a mind that will absorb disturbing imagery and find it hard to get it out of there (the sole clip I've seen from Cannibal Holocaust is a good example). I did read a couple of positive reviews for Dr. Lamb and now afterwards I'm glad that I did watch it. The events took place in 1982 and the real life killer was in the end sentenced to death but his story has apparently never quite left the minds of the Hong Kong people. The media also reported heavily on this and the details of the case which made an already horrible story, even more horrific. I won't go into details but the things done and shown here are very disturbing and shocking.

Danny Lee co-directed this movie with, another now Cat III veteran, Billy Tang (director of Run & Kill) and for the most part they succeed in making us feel horrified but I didn't think they crossed the line of being distasteful or anything. The camera rarely let's us see Lam cut directly into his victims but instead it cuts away to blood spraying etc. It's still chillingly effective and that can also be said of Simon Yams solid acting.

Simon has always shown that he is a versatile actor. Even if it's war-dramas like Bullet In The Head or a romantic story like Juliet In Love, he always brings his terrific natural presence and charisma. In Hollywood, an established actor would never go for this kind of extreme role but Simon took a risk and through that he has created a memorable part. It's when he is calm but at the same time intense, that Simon's finest acting takes place but he doesn't go over the top in my opinion, something that can easily be done with a performance like this. This characterarc has been seen in numerous movies before though, so there's nothing revolutionary original about it.

Danny Lee plays the part he can do in his sleep nowadays; a cop. He's not bad himself but it is the scenes with the police that is the weakness of Dr. Lamb. For some reason, someone felt the need to inject some silly comedy to lighten up the grim tone of this film. Hong Kong fans are quite used to this being employed but here the humour feels so out of place and isn't even funny.

Technically the movie is pretty good and first and foremost I have to mention Tony Mau's photography. Many scenes take place at night in a rainy neon-lit Hong Kong city and Tony manages to make it above average considering the cliché settings. Jonathan Wong's music is my favourite aspect though. He uses a electronic and very gothic score that is held back
for the most time but kicks in when it has to.

Dr. Lamb will disgust a lot of people and is certainly not for the faint of heart but I could appreciate it on an artistic level as well while being disturbed by it's content. After all it's a decent and interesting film and it seems to be considered one of the better entries in the genre. Without Simon Yam though, it would've been so much worse.

The DVD:

Winson Entertainment dvd is presented in approximately 1.85:1. I say that because, according to some net reviews, it has been culled from a few different sources. This is most notable in the upper widescreen matte. It's slightly opening up as the movie progresses and I had to zoom out on occasions to not cut off any picture information. Kind of annoying but the good side is that it's the least censored English subtitled version on dvd currently. The cuts amount to about 20 seconds of violent footage. Other than that the picture looks only decent with some scenes being rather heavy on print damage, and some not. Colours sometimes feel a bit oversaturated and detail is only average.

The sound comes in Cantonese and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 tracks. The original Cantonese track is very centered but works fine with music and dialogue presented well. I switched to the 5.1 and noticed that it was set a much higher sound level and it sounded like a really bad remix to me.

The English subtitles are of general high quality and didn't contain too much spelling disasters. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included.

There's no extras on the disc.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson