Dr. Lamb | Varied Celluloid

Dr. Lamb

Posted by Josh Samford On September - 29 - 2010
The Plot: With a great number of recent missing persons, things are getting tense within the police department where Detective Lee (played by Danny Lee) works. After they receive a tip dealing with a photographer who has been dropping off photos of young women nude who look like they may be dead, the force jumps on it. They end up catching the brilliant, but utterly strange, Lam (Simon Yam) who refuses to talk about anything with them at first. Even in the face of torture he refuses to utter a word. After Lee turns his own family against him though, Lam feels completely alone and confesses to his crimes. What follows is a brutal and harrowing account of his victims and their final hours. Lam killed several women, all seemingly for the bland reason that they annoyed him. This is his story.




The Review
I recently mentioned my lack of experience with the world of Hong Kong CAT III cinema during my review for Naked Killer, but as you can see I am currently in the midst of trying to repair that mistake. Dr. Lamb is a title that has been on my list for a number of years, but never quite made it up the queue for some odd reason. I was shocked to realize just how little I knew about the movie before actually starting up the DVD and giving the movie a fair shake! For instance, I didn’t even realize that the movie had both Simon Yam and Danny Lee in starring roles. Two of my favorite Hong Kong actors teaming up in a Category III shocker? How could I have dared to delay this? As it turns out, my delay on this movie was an even worse mistake than I could have imagined, because as it turns out this is one of the better shock films I have seen in a while! Granted, with this sort of movie your expectations are pretty low but there are plenty of characteristics that keep Dr. Lamb a very interesting watch. Proficiently made, full of interesting performances and it features some truly brutal and depraved content that will ward off some viewers and yet draw in many more. Dr. Lamb is an ideal cult movie and easily one of best Cat III movies I have seen thus far.

Based off of true events, Dr. Lamb is very matter of fact in its nature. Although there are shades of Taxi Driver in the fact that Simon Yam’s character shares the same job and disposition towards immoral activities, his character is a more typically selfish and much more sexual than the Travis Bickel archetype. We have sympathy for this man to a degree, thanks to Yam’s performance, but generally he doesn’t carry that same charismatic nature that made Robert DeNiro’s performance so interesting. This selfish and incredibly hipocritical man is at first non-responsive to almost anything that the police do. Torture produces nothing as he simply stares at the men who try to prod information out of him and during these first thirty minutes or so, you are unsure what direction this movie will ultimately take. Due to the extreme torture applied by the police, you don’t really get the feeling that this is an exact replica of events and in that regard you start expecting much more drama. I found myself reminded of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Cure to a degree, especially in how Simon Yam’s character at first seems so cool and collected in the face of the police who have finally caught up with him. I started to anticipate an escape attempt, or some form of cat and mouse game with the police. However, once his family beats a confession out of him the movie slowly becomes a series of re-enactments that take on a episodic nature. It even starts to take on the feel of a anthology film in the way that these stories are orchestrated.

Aside from its very extreme nastiness, the standout attribute that you have to point out for Dr. Lamb is the cast. As I have already mentioned, Danny Lee and Simon Yam fill out the two central roles and both actors are engaging in their performances for very different reasons. Amongst the supporting cast there is Kent Cheng who I will always remember as the two-face cop from Jackie Chan’s Crime Story, here he serves as comedic relief. The man is a very heavy and he lives in Hong Kong, so of course he is going to be on the butt end of many poor jokes. This movie provides no exception. Emily Kwan also shows up playing the same role that she would later go on to play in The Untold Story, which is that of a silly but charismatic officer underneath Danny Lee. Speaking of Danny Lee… poor Danny Lee has played more police officers than probably any other actor I can think of. The man has been type-cast his entire career and he once again plays a character here named “Inspector Lee”. Although he obviously didn’t mind taking the work, this role is essentially trademark Lee. He is tough, no non-sense and in charge of a gang of baffoonish officers who look to him for guidance. Lee excelled in playing that experienced authority figure with a heart of gold. Once again he is able to get inside of the mind of a criminal and shows sympathy for their plight, even if Simon Yam’s character Lam might not deserve it. Yam shows why he is one of the most sought after and respected actors in Hong Kong, as he delivers a true tour de force performance here. He somehow refrains from making the entire role a joke, despite the fact he goes far beyond “over the top” behavior. There are moments where Yam actually had me laughing in my seat but he is just as capable of unnerving the viewer with his powerful stare or psychotic rage. His range jumps from zero to six hundred in mere seconds, as he quite literally bounces around the room with a butcher’s knife.

Although this may be a theory shared only by myself, I picked up on shades of lycanthrope throughout the movie. Although not subtantial to the plot or even capable of being proved, I couldn’t help but feel some light attempts at a connection being made between Lam and the Werewolf concept. Lam prowls the streets at night, but only strikes during rainy nights in the same way that a werewolf would only strike during the full moon. Also, as Lam mutilates the body of his victims he howls like a dog and becomes ravenous with his blood lust. Is this loose and more than likely a coincidence? Of course, but I couldn’t help but wonder. That may be about as far as one is going to get with subtext and Dr. Lamb, but for what it is the movie certainly delivers. Proving to be more disturbed (in my opinion) than The Untold Story, the nasty taboos that are utterly shattered here are not for the faint of heart. Necrophilia, vomiting and breast slicing are the main ingredients of this soup de jour. The grit and the grime of the film gives it a sickly feeling, yet the audience remains glued to their seat just to see how far the movie will take things. The blood and gore aren’t as plentiful as some films tend to be, sure, but that doesn’t short this film in the realm of disturbing cinema. It is not a title for the weaker disposition.

The Conclusion
Dr. Lamb is reserved for a very select number of people. After reading this review, you should know whether you fit in with that community or not. If there is a weakness in the movie, it is that there is essentially no point to any of this madness. All we really get is a re-enactment of a series of bizarre crimes, with no series of dramatic archs to get the audience hooked. That is where the violence and socialogical taboos come into play but that is something I feel many audiences may have little interest in. On a personal level however, I really liked Dr. Lamb as an experiment in transgressive filmmaking. It looks good, its as polished as a gritty movie like this possibly could be and it pushes the envelope in terms of what can or can not be done in cinema. I give it a four out of five, but leave viewers with a warning: this isn’t the most shocking movie ever made, it isn’t the most well made of the CAT III shockers – but it is at all times interesting and engaging. With that in mind, give this one a look-see some time!



You might also be interested in:

VIDEO

TAGS

Sponsors

About Me

Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

Twitter

    Photos