The Untold Story [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Unearthed Films
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (25th February 2021).
The Film

"The Untold Story" (1993)

Hold on to your hats, fans! Do I have a winner of a film here! Unearthed Films has been nice enough to send me a copy of their over the top crime drama, The Untold Story and even though I have seen the film previously, it was on a dupped VHS tape back in the 90’s. This time around the film is presented on Blu-ray from an unnamed source but the transfer is first class: AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. Minus any types of flaws due to major compression and extraordinarily little print damage. If you plan on owning this one, then this is the version that you will want to have. A word of warning is necessary before we continue on: this film contains nudity, sexual overtones, rape, and cannibalism. It also features some harsh examples of on-screen child violence that may be hard to take.

This film is based on a true crime: in 1978, in Hong Kong, a ghastly murder takes place. Eight years later, on a beach in Macao, some children discover the severed hands of a new victim. An investigation is launched, and restaurant owner Wong Chi Hang (Anthony Chau-Sang Wong) is suspected; he is the new owner of the Eight Immortals Restaurant, known for their spicy pork buns. The former owner and his entire family have apparently vanished; staff at the restaurant continue to disappear, and Wong cannot produce a signed bill of sale. Suspicions run high and police arrest Wong and torture him for a confession. Can they manage to make him confess? Where is the former owner and his family? Most importantly, what was in those pork buns anyway?

The key to this film is the over the top performance of its star Anthony Wong, who was awarded the Hong Kong equivalent of a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of the killer. The film opens in Macau in 1986 starting with the discovery of some decomposing hacked off limbs in a bag that has washed ashore. The police are called in to investigate and if you happen to be expecting some straight arrow dudes, well, guess again. These cops would put the guys from Police Academy (1984, Hugh Wilson) to shame. They are here strictly for broad based comedy yucks that are used to offset the grisly events that are featured in the majority of the film. The squad shows up to the crime scene and when they discover what they are in store for, they immediately decide that the only female officer of the squad, Bo (Emily Kwan) should go down to the water’s edge and check out the carnage. Like I said, it is difficult to take the cops role seriously in this film because they really seem to be a bunch of dimwits. Except when their leader Inspector Lee (Danny Lee) shows up with the first of an array of floozies, then they hop to and attempt to look engaged. This is where cultural differences come to play because first time viewers may be confused as to why this comic influence is introduced, however, I believe it only lends itself to keeping the viewer off balance thus making the horror elements come across even stronger yet.

In a flashback, we see Wong playing and winning a game of mahjong; it is obvious to us that he has cheated. Arguing over the results of the game, Wong demands payment in full. The owner, Cheng Lam (Siu-Ming Lau), of the restaurant is outraged and refuses to pay. Wong loses his temper and attacks the other man with a lamp and batters him about the face and head. Wong then decides to burn the place down in order to dispose of the corpse, however Lam comes to, only to be brutally bludgeoned with a metal ladle. Displaying some of the antic black humor found throughout the film, the recently murdered Lam has a death grip on Wong’s leg, so Wong reaches for the large cleaver and simply amputates the annoying arm at the wrist. Yau’s use of comedy is a distancing factor that allows us to observe the killer as he dispatches his latest victim. This is Wong’s first murder, and his appearance is

slightly different; later in the film he will sport a pair of large framed glasses and a close-cropped hairstyle. He may appear different, but there is no mistake in spotting his maniacal eyes.

The killing of Lam is the first scene of the film and it helps to establish the frenzied mood of what is to follow. Next, we see a hand holding an identity card to a flame and burning it completely. It is unclear, but apparently Hong is sentenced to prison as we see him posing for his mug shot; the look on his face is one of complete madness. We next see him carving up a pig with a cleaver at a restaurant, and he goes about his job diligently and with enthusiasm. We continue to watch as Wong carves the pig up into smaller pieces which are used to make the trademark pork buns that are served there. This is the restaurant where the owner and his entire family have disappeared from without leaving a trace behind. We are shown scenes of the interaction between Wong and a customer who seems a tad too nosey; Wong with his shaved head and large glasses looks like a complete madman, but he is smart enough to keep his homicidal tendencies under wraps.

Next, we see Wong placing a help wanted sign up on the outside wall of the restaurant; apparently, he needs assistance since business is growing. A man answers the ad, and he is tested by Wong to see if he can correctly use the large cleaver. It turns out that the man is Robert (Eric Kei) and he is in reality the owner’s brother. We are shown several scenes where Wong goes to see a lawyer in order to get the restaurant in his name; the lawyer argues with Wong that the former owner’s signature is required, and that transfer cannot happen legally. Meanwhile several letters arrive at the shop, where Wong simply disposes of them without reading them. They are letter from the remaining family back on the mainland and they want to know what is going on with Lam and his family. Wong is a full-blown psychopath, and he is carefully trying to manipulate reality to match his desires. The authorities are slowly closing in on Wong, but he is skillfully killing anyone that gets in his way. Robert is quickly killed and ground up to make the filling in the famous meat buns. This scene is fairly gruesome but no more so than the brutal rape and murder of Pearl (Julie Lee) which features her being assaulted by a fistful of chop sticks. She too is fair game for the killer and he takes the large cleaver to her body, cutting off her limbs and disposing of the remaining skeleton in the trash. Inspector Lee and his crew of incompetent investigators come round the restaurant asking questions about the former owner and his family, but they are stonewalled by Wong with lies. There comes a moment where the investigators are happily given meat buns to eat, including some to go, where the remaining crew eats the buns with gusto. We, the audience, know the origin of the buns and the results are slightly humorous, if not stomach churning.

After Wong attempts to escape the country, he is apprehended and taken to headquarters where he is brutally beaten. This is a strange scene because even though we know that Wong is a calloused killer, the director still manages to make Wong seem somewhat sympathetic and oddly human. When prolonged interrogation fails, the police decide to imprison Wong in the same jail that Cheng’s brother is incarnated in. Wong’s fellow prisoners do not take a liking to him and he is brutally assaulted numerous times. Finally, Wong cannot take it anymore and he attempts suicide by cutting his wrist with a jagged piece of metal. When this fails, Wong gnaws on his artery with this teeth; a fellow prisoner sees this and calls for help. Entered into the hospital, the medical authorities are authorized to use a number of illicit practices in order to elicit a confession from Wong. These include injecting Wong with a series of amphetamines to keep him awake, an angry nurse that Wong attacked earlier uses a syringe to inject water under Wong’s skin; these scenes are fairly horrible but they will seem fairly light when the pure horror of what Wong did to Cheng and his family is revealed. After days of grueling punishment, Wong is exhausted and finally decides to make a confession.

What follows is unprecedented in cinematic horror. We see Wong tie up Cheng and his entire family, including six children, and then he slowly kills each of them, making the remaining family members watch the slaughter. The special effects consist mostly of large amounts of blood being splashed onto Wong’s grimacing face and the walls are essentially coated in the red stuff. I definitely cannot recall seeing children dispatched as vividly as they are in this scene. This is the stuff of nightmares and the viewer may wonder why they are enduring this visual punishment. This scene is the last one and it plays out in normal time with Wong unleashing his built-up fury with total abandon. Seeing him yield the large cleaver and chopping up the children is something that comes close to overstepping the boundaries of good taste. While Wong lies on the restaurant floor, surrounded by the bodies of his victims, the phone rings and it is Cheng’s mother. She is to be the last victim and it is her amputated limbs that wash ashore and finally bring the madman to justice. It is this last hasty move on his part that causes his downfall. Wong gets the last laugh though because he reveals to the cops what was in the tasty pork buns and the cops run to the sink to vomit violently. Wong is shown in prison again and he is officially charged with the murders. Wong smugly responds that there is no evidence of what he did. The police consumed the evidence. Wong uses a soda top to slice his wrists and he is found in a pool of his own blood. A trailer at the bottom of the screen tells us that the case is now closed. Roll the credits!

Video

The picture is generally sharp, flesh tones look realistic, blacks are solid. No signs of over compression; the entire film looks great and is a huge improvement on the DVD that was released in 1999.

Audio

Audio tracks are offered in both Cantonese and Mandarin languages in 16-bit LPCM 2.0 Stereo with removable English subtitles. The audio sounds incredibly good and an isolated soundtrack is also offered. No problems with hiss or distortion at all.

Extras

This is where we really get to the gravy, as Unearthed Classics are completely aware of what they have here. This film is often not found listed on many best of lists and this edition should change that. We are given not one, but three commentary tracks to select from:

One commentary track, originally carried over from a Tai Seng DVD release, featuring archival commentary from Anthony Wong. Wong discusses with Miles Wood, his career regarding how he started in films and talks about the actual criminal that the film was based on. This track is delivered in English.

The next commentary track features Herman Yau and is in English and is also moderated by Miles Wood. They discuss the actual crime scene, how he came to direct this film, and working with the cast and crew. Most importantly the director covers the topic of humor and how it was utilized in the film. Both commentaries are insightful and interesting as it gives us an insider’s view of working in the industry.

The last track is a brand new commentary and features Bruce Holecheck and Art Ellinger as they discuss the film in general and focus on Category III films and what makes them unique. This track is interesting as both men know a lot and they discuss the film and others in the category easily.

The isolated film score is included in a 16-bit LPCM 2.0 format which makes for some interesting listening.

Also included is a documentary about Category III cinema entitled Category III The Untold Story of Hong Kong Exploitation (83 minutes, 10 seconds) in English. This is a revealing look at the Category III films and will definitely peak some viewer’s interests.

An interview with Rick Baker entitled Cantonese Carnage (13 minutes, 38 seconds) that includes Information about Cat III cinema and his thoughts about the films including The Untold Story, Sex and Zen, Naked Killer, Ebola Syndrome, Men Behind the Sun.

Two trailers for The Untold Story:

3 minutes, 23 seconds in Cantonese with English subtitles.

1 minute, 41 seconds in Cantonese with English subtitles.

Q&A with director Herman Yau: (7 minutes, 4 seconds in English).

Packaging

Comes in a slipcover case (limited to first pressing).
A leaflet with an essay from Art Ettinger (limited to first pressing).

This is one tasty buffet of Hong Kong cinema.

Overall

Despite the horrible carnage depicted, Unearthed Classics has truly given this product a first-class production. Definitely not for everyone, and certainly not for the squeamish, this is true Category III horror.

The Film: A Video: A Audio: A Extras: A Overall: A

 


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