Quiet as a boy verbally and physically abused by his stepmother yet laid to experience the adult perversities at the permission of his unconcerned father, Lam Gor-Yu, now as a man, is still quiet and still has unusual interests as an afterhours taxi driver. Triggered by rainy nights when a torrent of verbal abuse by his female passengers send the usually reserved taxi driver into a homicidal fury, extending his lonely nights into straggling women, returning their bodies to his family homes, and video tapes his exploits within his fascination for amateur medical procedures. When the police raid his family home after developed disturbing pictures were discovered at the local print shop, Lam’s entire family is hauled into questioning and it’s to Inspector Lee and his team to unearth exactly what transpired to the lifeless bodies seized by a notoriously sociopathic serial killer.
When you think of serial killers globally, Hong Kong isn’t the first place that comes to mind. In fact, Hong Kong isn’t even a blip on the radar as the Pearl River Delta residence only has two known serial killers attributed to the city. One of those killers is Lam Kor-wan – aka The Jars Murderer – aka the Rainy Night Butcher – who terrorized the then British territorialized Hong Kong in the early 80s, killing and post-mortem mutilating four young women. La Kor-wan became the notorious inspirational material for the Danny Lee and Billy Tang (“Run and Kill”) co-directed Dr. Lamb that was released in 1992 and penned by Kam-Fai Law (“The Close Encounters of Vampire). “The Killer’s” star Lee, who was more Chinese action star than filmmaker, developed the film, reluctantly at first, during the time when Hong Kong’s Category III classification rating was extending from solely high-end erotica and sleaze into extreme horror and thrillers. Lee served as executive producer with Parkman Wong, who also worked alongside Danny Lee on “The Killer,” under Grand River Films Ltd.
To be portraying one of two Hong Kong’s serial killers feels like an unsurmountable responsibility burdening the actor’s shoulders in order to parallel the motivational intricacies and the mental mindset as accurate as possible knowing that the character can’t just blend into a vast serial killer fold where you can find multiple variations of John Wayne Gacy or Jeffrey Dahmer being grossly rendered for U.S. pop culture exploitation. Yet, in steps in front of the camera Simon Yam, one of Hong Kong’s prolific action stars in the late 80s to early 90’s now stepping into the shoes of a real-life maniacal persona and relatively close to where all of Lam Kor-wan’s dirty-little-deeds took place. Simon Yam could very well be the killer himself, that’s how brilliantly Yam’s performance is in what’s certainly a confident display of range in contrast within his acting opus. Replacing a gun with a scalpel, Lee and Yam dig deep into the character’s psyche with an interpretation of why Lam Kor-wan did what he did and, frankly, Yam just went stoically wild to reach Lam’s staggering levels of crazy as he descends deeper into the retelling of his encounters with each victim. While “Dr Lamb” is a grim tale, there’s a comical side to it with the police force, supervised by Inspector Lee, played by Danny Lee himself in a duality position of cast and crew. More of the comic relief stems from Inspector Lee’s second-in-command, an experienced, yet overweight, cop who lets others handle his workload. Literally named Fat Bing, comedian and “Human Lanterns” actor Kent Cheng continues his whimsical routine in unvarnished subject matter revolving around separate bits and pieces of people’s tissue and organs for twisted pleasures. Collateral damage of Lam’s horrifying late-night exploratory surgery antics on women involve his family as they also become suspects. Lam’s father (Siu-Ming Lau, “A Chinese Ghost Story”) keeps his blinders on while the evidence piles only to be turned when his son’s transgressions include a minor family member does his own flesh and blood then cross a line of no return.
There are always two sides to every story. No, I’m not saying there are two repelling sides to The Rainy Night Butcher’s homicidal havoc. “Dr. Lamb,” as a film, has a dichotomy about it that’s half biographically true and grim while the other half is crime drama peppered with clownery. The combination is odd and equally as frustrating as the black tone of the historical background and the graphic nature of some authentical depicted acts of inhuman urges find their way weaved into the fabric of cavalier cop buffoonery who, on one hand, seem really good and really intense at their job while, on the other hand, lack the gumption for sobering behavior. Even when investigating Lam’s videotape (to which there is no way in Hell Lam videotaped that himself as the camera moves as he’s engrossed with necrophilia and removing body parts), the cops overact the disgust with what looks like chunky tuna being forced out of their mouth along the lines of appearing like vomit. The underplayed theme is anything but funny in its psychological context of misanthropy and misogyny. All of Lam’s scenes of cruelty are told in flashback through his perspective, molded by his undertone hate for women. “Dr. Lamb” is a misogynistic tale bred out of childhood abuse by a woman close to his family and unabashed and unattended by his lenient father’s lack of concern. Three out of the four women Lam taxis-to-taxidermy often verbally and physically assault him and plague his personal space with their awful behavior, setting a dial backwards in his battered brain that reminds him of the time his stepmother slapped him or forced him into a closet for hours. Is “Dr. Lamb” a Freudian lemma that Lam sees his ruthless stepmother in these women and turns on them to humiliate their corporeal existence? That’s a deep dive, but not as deep as “Dr. Lamb” cuts as a visceral experience based off of one of Hong Kong’s notorious serial killers.
Distributing in at number 8 on the spine of the Unearthed Films’ Unearthed Classics banner is “Dr. Lamb” on a new Blu-ray home video. The region A locked, AVC encoded, BD50 is slicked up with a 1080p high-definition upgrade presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. As one of cinematographer Kin-Fai Mau’s first few pictures, the cool blue and misty has an interesting allure like a hazy bad dream subdued by an infusion of looking through blue glass with a prism of white light filtering through. Perhaps not as detailed as desired, the release does stand above the rest with low-level continuous speck blemishes that are only noticeable if you’re searching for them. Two audio options are available: a Cantonese LPCM 2.0 Mono and a Mandarin LPCM 2.0 Mono. Both tracks do come with well-sync and accurate English subtitles with the only downside is in their quick sojourning. There are a few instances where the subtitles pop up for literally a second as a result of quick nature of the dialect to get to the next set of text. While toggling between the two languages, my audio receptors really took to the Cantonese for a more natural flow and visually for unison between speech and speaking. The Mandarin is certainly more powerful but also too over-the-top as in watching I relate to watching old Japanese with English dub. The special features include an audio commentary by Ultra Violent’s Art Ettinger and Cinema Arcana’s Bruce Holecheck, a background interview about “Dr Lamb’s” genesis with the story producer Gilbert Po Lamb to the Slaughter, an interview with film critic James Mudge on the Golden Era of Cat III Three Times the Fear, a talking point conversation about “Dr Lamb” from film academic Sean Tierney, an Atomic TV interview with star Simon Yam, and trailers. The physical release itself comes with a 6-page, color booklet essay from cinema academic and author Calem Waddell (producer of “The Collingswood Story” and many horror-film related documentaries). A cardboard slipcover with one of the more provocative poster arts. Unearthed Films’ Blu-ray comes unrated with a runtime of 90 minutes. When perusing what to watch one night, be sure to hail down this cab of fact-based macabre driven by “Dr Lamb’s” psychological psychopathy and his pathologic urge for unnecessary medical procedures.