The Untold Story

Reviewed by YTSL

This true crime film -- whose descriptive Chinese title translates into English as “Eight Immortals Restaurant: Human Meat Roast Pork Buns” -- appears to be widely considered as a Category III classic.  According to the HKMDB, this Herman Yau helmed offering grossed a total of HK$15,758,491 in its home territory and ranked at a very respectable 24th on the former British crown colony’s 1993 box office list.  Half a world away, it’s one of the few non-action Hong Kong movies that are available for rental at my local, non-Chinatown video store.  And this past week, it was honored with two New York City screenings by Subway Cinema, the organizers of an “In the Mood for Gore: 22 Years of Deliciously Evil Hong Kong Cinema” fest.

According to a fest attendee who flew from Minnesota especially to attend one of this wacked out work’s screenings, there are as many as five different versions floating around of THE UNTOLD STORY; with the 35 mm print that was shown in New York being one of the more censored of them.  At this juncture, I wish to point out that this particular cut version is the only one of this extreme film that I have viewed (and probably ever will view).  For all of its been less complete than other ones, rest assured that I was witness to enough movie gore and violence to understand why this Danny Lee production -- for which he also is a co-presenter (along with Yang Teng-Kuei) and co-star (in his customary role as a crime-busting character who gets addressed as “Lee Sir”) -- well merits a Category III rating (and prompted two walkouts at the screening -- by a veteran Hong Kong filmophile who I don’t want to embarrass by naming, and someone else who identified himself as a medical doctor before going along his own merry way! -- that I was in the audience for).
THE UNTOLD STORY centers on a most unsavory character named Chan Chi Leung (who is portrayed by the HKFA Best Actor prize winning Anthony Wong).  Not only does this bulging eyed individual cheat at mahjong but he also is liable to butcher those who correctly as well as honestly point out that he does this.  After Chan kills one such accuser, he flees his native Hong Kong, only to resurface -- albeit with a shorter hair style and a disguising pair of eye-glasses -- some while later in neighboring Macau.  Far from learning from those of his mistakes that caused him to become a permanent exile however, this loose cannon of a character appears to have few qualms about behaving as badly in the then Portugese outpost as he had previously done.  Instead, as the likes of the ill-fated character played by the notorious Julie Lee (AKA Julie Riva) would learn to their detriment, it would seem that Chan only got weirder and worse when he was away from his home (which, unlike with his adopted land, does legally issue death penalties rather than “just” life sentences).
Gore hounds will undoubtedly be happy to learn that the Macau section of THE UNTOLD STORY is filled with more violent and despicable actions as well as way longer than the Hong Kong segment that turns out to really only be this effort’s prelude.  More than incidentally, for much of the film, its criminal main character is professionally identified as the owner of a “tea shop” (budget Chinese restaurant) whose apparent specialty consists of freshly made meat buns -- some of which, at one stage of the movie, a bunch of not particularly bright plain clothes police officers (who include those essayed by Parkman Wong and Emily Kwan) are shown to very much enjoy eating.  Additionally, a significant chunk is devoted to depicting how Chan came to be in charge of this establishment that he had started off at as a hired hand of the mahjong playing middle aged husband and father -- of three young daughters and one precious son -- who was its long time boss.
Another considerable portion of THE UNTOLD STORY centers on the investigation of a team of detectives -- who are rather loosely supervised by Inspector Lee (whose personal name is never divulged but which I’d not be surprised to learn is Danny, and who almost always gets shown in the company of the type of women that Macau is infamous for having) -- that’s prompted by the discovery of some human body parts that the tide washed up onto a beach.  When observing the often downright idiotic as well as bumbling behavior of these persons who are officially on the right side of the law, it looks to be a miracle that they would ever be successful at tracking down any criminals.  In this case, they are fortunate enough to get a few lucky breaks, including ones that helped them to connect it with a series of letters that they had been receiving from China by a man who wanted them to track down the whereabouts of his restaurant-owning brother and his family (including elderly mother).
This having been said, few individuals will want to get on these cops’ bad side, since they are as serious when it comes to trying to get a confession from a prime suspect as they are laughable when coming up with other kinds of evidence to convict a man.  When pretty graphically observing Chan raping, killing and dismembering his victims (whose age range is considerably wider than what one usually is presented with by more conventional film-makers), many people -- including this (re)viewer who, in all honesty, felt herself gagging at one point during the screening -- surely won’t be able to help but think that he -- who also doesn’t treat himself all that well -- is one deranged sicko who deserves an absolutely terrible comeuppance.  However, these same viewers probably also would be unable to independently imagine, plus wholeheartedly endorse, the agonies that the movie’s Macanese police -- and their helpers (who include a revenge-seeking nurse plus convict brother of a murdered man (the latter of whom comes in the form of a seemingly perennially scowling Shing Fui On)) -- are shown inflicting on an undeniably deadly criminal who, before THE UNTOLD STORY’s end, I actually started feeling somewhat sorry for.

My rating for this film: 6.