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Untold Story, The - Tai Seng Entertainment Print E-mail
User Rating: / 12
Written by Ray Casta   
Sunday, 20 January 2008

"The Untold Story" Tai Seng DVD - Severed Cinema

AKA: Baat sin faan dim ji yan yuk cha siu baau, Ba xian fan dian zhi ren rou cha shao bao, Bunman: The Untold Story, Human Meat Pies: The Untold Story, Human Pork Chop, The Untold Story: Human Meat Roast Pork Buns

Directed by: Danny Lee, Herman Yau
Written by: Law Kam Fai
Produced by: Danny Lee
Cast: Emily Kwan, Danny Lee, Julie Lee, Tony Leung Siu Hung, Fui-On Shing, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang
Year: 1992
Country: Hong Kong
Language: Cantonese, Mandarin
Color: Color
Runtime: 96 minutes

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Video: NTSC R0
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0, Cantonese, Mandarin (English Subtitles)
Distributor: Tai Seng Entertainment

Along with darkly twisted humor, the very fact that this was based on actual events further makes it one of the most shockingly disturbing films I have ever seen.  Set in 1986 Macau, the film begins at a beach with a restaurant overlooking, where a mother and her two sons are gathering shells.  They stumble upon a bag filled with severed limbs that have currently washed up from the tide, which sets the tone for the rest of the movie.  Years prior, somewhere in Hong Kong, we realize that Wong Chi Hong (Anthony Wong, “Ebola Syndrome”) is a petty gambler who owed money to several people.  One person he owes confronts him, and Wong does not pay him.  Instead, he burns him alive without hesitation.  Now in hiding for the bookie's horrid murder, Wong takes charge of the 8 Immortals Restaurant.  There is a well known special on the menu: barbecue pork-buns.  The new owner of the restaurant is chopping people to pieces, grinding them, and adding them as ingredients to the selling products.  If you can stomach the movie, it will nonetheless make your jaw drop.  Surprisingly, the movie isn't as popular today as I'd think.  At the time of its initial release, “The Untold Story” was a huge hit at the box office -- critics loved it -- and it won several awards at film festivals, to begin with Wong winning a Best Actor award in the Hong Kong film awards in 1993.

After the limbs are discovered along the shore, it does not take long for the police to get called in to investigate.  Similar to the incompetent cops in Wes Craven's “The Last House on the Left,” police are not dependable in any way, as they delay doing work and dawdling in the process.  The Macau police also seem considerably small, comprised of few male detectives that are solely interested in sex -- the only female detective gets made fun of regularly -- and their Chief Inspector Lee (Danny Lee, “Dr. Lamb”) does nothing for the first half but arrive to work with prostitutes by his side.  When they work on the case, they focus more and more on Wong.  The previous owner of the restaurant and his family are nowhere to be found.  After being asked about the restaurant, Wong tells detectives that the former owner turned it over to him.  However, he has no legal paperwork to prove so.  Suspicions arise and it becomes fairly obvious Wong is behind the strange disappearances.  He is eventually arrested by the police, and since they can't get him to confess his crimes, they resort to unrelentingly torturing him until he confesses.  Since he won't confess of the murders of the owner and his family or any of his employees he has killed, the more brutal the movie becomes.

The movie intertwines a dose of ludicrous humor with graphic violence that pulls no punches; this is an effect that works only after the images sink in.  During the bits of humor involving the police, the dialogue is particularly funny, but random and unnecessary.  There is no reason I can think of for the humor to be injected, other than maybe because the filmmakers wanted viewers to be able to enjoy the film instead of being entirely disgusted by it.  Though distracting and indecorously repetitive, humor is partially necessary when you think about it.  In real life, homicide detectives are sometimes lazy or inefficient in their efforts, while there are brutal murders being committed in the world today.  Comic relief is very common with Hong Kong cinema.  Most likely, the humor may make you scratch your head at times.  What's most important, however, is that it does not undermine the severe inhumanity or lack of remorse that Wong feels, and it's a quietly subtle, chilling performance of a complex character.  He looks like a Hong Kong Ed Gein; it's no wonder why his work here was so acclaimed and praised.  Expressions on his face are convincingly scary, but at the same time, I saw a bit of innocence and sadness.  The movie is best at painting a picture of a sociopath, thanks to the unforgettable performance by Wong.

Danny Lee, who played the detective in “The Killer”, co-directed the movie with Herman Yua.  Their direction takes a rather original turn, where Wong is arrested by the police in the middle of the story.  Halfway through, Wong is thrown in jail, without confessing to any of his murders.  A confession is desperately needed, so Inspector Lee locks him up with one of his victim's relatives.  Before Wong goes to prison, you won't expect the rest of the movie to be as sick or as violent as the first half.  Most audacious is the filmmaker's singular structure, daring audience to examine a pitiful man's decrepit but calculating mind.  Lee and Yau toy with us, wondering if we will sympathize with him after the torment at the hands of the "good guys", who are cops that we're supposed to expect will do their jobs properly.  I was under the impression that Macau police rarely ever receive cases like this, which helps to explain why they are amateur and reluctant.  I would like to know if detectives that worked on the real-life case were like the ones depicted.  When they're all motivated by their Chief, the detectives are forced to adapt to the deranged violent tendencies of the man they have to beat the confession out of.  The biggest challenge of the movie is discovering how barbaric they become when the movie progresses.  It isn't anything like movies where it's natural to root for the cops that beat the antagonists.  Just as we feel the least bit of sympathy for an evil and unforgiving man, the filmmakers cut to the film's most notorious scene involving the restaurant's old owner and his family.  Not many films have made me feel as physically sick or as repulsed as “The Untold Story” did.


- Audio commentary by director Herman Yau
- Audio commentary by actor Anthony Wong
- Trailers

Presented in its uncut glory, the Tai Seng DVD may not have many extra features, except for the two separate commentary tracks, one by Herman Yau and Anthony Wong and the other by film critic Miles Wood. As far as the transfer is concerned, there are a couple scratches every now and then, but the images are normally vibrant and in the exterior scenes, you will not be displeased by the colors. I'd love to hear a commentary from Danny Lee, who appears in several of Yau's films as the same detective that he plays in this one, but what we have for now is satisfying enough. I've been wanting to hear a Wong track, but it's a pretty slow-moving track, and wasn't as interesting as I thought it'd be. You can see the trailer for “The Untold Story”, “The Ebola Syndrome”, and others.

VIDEO: 1.85:1 1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed CinemaNo Skull - Severed Cinema
AUDIO: Dolby Digital 2.0 Cantonese, Mandarin (English Subtitles) 1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed CinemaNo Skull - Severed CinemaNo Skull - Severed Cinema





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