Monday, October 26, 2020

THE UNTOLD STORY (1993) Blu-ray Review

Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 25
Total First Time Views:13
Amount raised for BOXVILLE: $1,958.00

The Untold Story (1993) d. Herman Yau (Hong Kong) (96 min) (2nd viewing)

In 1986, a bundle of severed hands and feet are discovered washed up on a Macao beach. At the same time, Wong Chi Hang (Anthony Wong, Hard Boiled), the head chef at The Eight Immortals Restaurant is striving to have his name transferred over as the new owner, seeing as how the previous proprietor has mysteriously gone missing, along with his family. Detective Lee (Danny Lee, The Killer) and his squad of goof-off cops suspect foul play and proceed to stake out the joint, waiting for the suspect to make a slip. Meanwhile, the shop’s famous hot pork buns seem to have incorporated an intriguing new ingredient...

One of the most notorious CAT III releases ever to come out of Asia, The Untold Story is a curious beast. Split into two narratives, Wong’s is straight-ahead graphic gross-out and button-pushing horror while Lee’s focuses on his team of chauvinistic flunkys who seem to be auditioning for the latest Police Academy installment. It’s an uneasy blend, all the more so when the two intersect in the third reel, and that’s what makes the film such a fascinating, confounding viewing experience. We’re never quite sure whether we’re supposed to be laughing with or at the buffoon officers, especially since none of their incompetent antics are particularly amusing, and their inclusion provides a whiplash effect every time the action shifts back to grimmer material.

Wong’s committed gonzo performance, which won him 1993’s Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actor, is certainly the film’s greatest asset. With eyes bulging and constantly on the verge of boiling over into indignant rage, his homicidal maniac is presented as a force of nature, unstoppable and almost superhuman in his ability to withstand pain and punishment. To his credit, we never feel aligned with him even as we remain invested in his fate, following his capture and abuse at the hands of prison inmates and police officers alike with morbid fascination.

There is little denying the devastating impact the scenes of violence have on the audience, in particular Wong’s protracted torture, rape, and murder of his hapless cashier and the unfortunate fate of Cheng Lam and his family. One can imagine Yau and his screenwriters Wing-Kim Lau and Kam Fai-Law gleefully attempting to top one another around the table with horrifying scenarios. “Chopsticks! Child murder! Cannibalism!”

By contrast, the fraternal immaturity and sexual harassment that permeate every scene involving the cops is instantly tiresome, especially in a film where our only “empowered” female character, Officer Bo (Emily Kwan) is constantly swooning over Lee, who in turn is constantly shown entering the room with a different amorous prostitute on his arm. These are the jokes, folks.

However, the vivid and startling impact of Wong’s crimes and comeuppance manage to win the day, and fans of outre cinema will find much to appreciate in Unearthed Films' long-awaited high-definition release, packed with supplemental features. If reading the above has you intrigued, chances are you owe it to yourself to check it out.


Slip Cover (First Pressing Only)
Liner Notes by Art Ettinger (First Pressing Only)
Commentary with Anthony Wong
Commentary with Herman Yau
Commentary with Art Ettinger (Ultra Violent) and Bruce Holecheck (Cinema Arcana)
Isolated Film Score
QA with Herman Yau
Category III: The Untold Story of Hong Kong Exploitation Cinema
Cantonese Carnage: An Interview with Rick Baker

The Untold Story is available now on Blu-ray from Unearthed Films and can be ordered HERE:

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