A perverse, grisly masterpiece, the 1993 classic THE UNTOLD STORY, finally comes to American Blu-Ray home video in a version it deserves, thanks to the splendid folks at MVDvisual, in concert with Unearthed Classics and Golden Sun Film Co, Ltd.
Beginning in 1978 with a horrific, sudden (though pre-planned) murder (deceptively involving supposed friends), the scenario jumps eight years later to reveal the killer, Wong Chi Hang (having escaped detection to another country using his victim’s stolen credentials), owner and operator of a successful Hong Kong restaurant The Eight Immortals. It is only after the 1978’s victim’s relatives, still searching for answers, and the original proprietors of the eatery all seem to disappear (and with human body parts sporadically turning up all over the area) that the noose eventually tightens around the ruthless psychopath Hang’s neck. Indeed, no one is safe, as even his increasingly suspicious but loyal Eight Immortals staff soon learn right before they end up horribly dismembered and (conveniently) part of the menu (while investigating cops gorge themselves on the evidence).
Oh, yes, did we mention, this is based upon a true story? Okay, we’re mentioning it now.
THE UNTOLD STORY (aka, The Eight Immortals Restaurant: The Untold Story) is a work of disturbing, dark genius, directed with gory realism by Herman Yau (if you’re squeamish, it’s probably not for you – nothing is left to the imagination, particularly a sickening rape and the flashback annihilation of a family (the true Eight Immortals owners), including children.
The jarring flip side, showing the inept police work by low comedy Keystone Kops, originally bothered me; but, in looking at the picture again, it’s perfect. They, too, border on the sociopathic – especially once they “interrogate” a suspect. Credit the script by Law Kam-Fai and Sammy Lau for the chainsaw/jigsaw fit, that ultimately parallels the villain and the “heroes” more uncomfortably that one wants to contemplate.
While Hang is methodical about his maniacal lust for money and property, Inspector Lee, the wily head of the law (HK superstar Danny Lee), is content by collecting a paycheck with a minimal amount of effort, leaving all the work to his less-than-desirable underlings. Lee far prefers squiring his unending array of beauteous girlfriends through the portals of the precinct headquarters, driving the ogling officers into sexist cray-cray agony. This specifically effects Bo, the one female officer (and the best of the lot), who harbors a massive crush for her boss. When she attempts to copy the look of her boss’s lovers, he chastises the woman in an eyebrow-raising moment. “Why are you dressed like a prostitute?,” he unceremoniously asks her. “I want to look like your girlfriends,” she woefully replies. “They ARE prostitutes!” is the response Bo didn’t expect, revealing the superintendent’s “knack” with the ladies.
The movie doesn’t end with the usual capture, but continues with the post-imprisonment of Hang, featuring sequences almost as harrowing as the monster’s reign of terror. It is a great nod to star Anthony Wong, who creates (in my opinion) the most frightening psycho in cinema history (and, no, I’m not forgetting previous Anthonys, Perkins or Hopkins). Wong so embodied his characterization with brilliance that, even though the movie was one of the era’s infamous Category 3 titles (think of a rating system JUST for Saw and Hostel-type flicks), he still won the Hong Kong Best Actor Award. He is a magnificent thesp, and offers snarky audio commentary, part of the treasure trove of extras that accompany this major recent release. Other notable on-camera participants in the narrative include the aforementioned Lee (who also produced and, uncredited, codirected with Yau), Emily Kwan (as Bo), Siu-Ming Lau, Fui-On Shing, Julie Lee, Si-Man Hui, and King-Kong Lam; but it is Wong who will haunt your dreams, or, more appropriately, create your nightmares – and, yet, have you searching for other works of his to study.
Seeing THE UNTOLD STORY in a superb Blu-Ray edition not only elevates Cho Wai-Kee’s terrific widescreen cinematography but presents the pic in a way never before seen by Anglo audiences. My only previous experience with this title was a 1990s laserdisc, washed out and entirely missing the 1978 opening segment! The new 1.0 PCM audio (Cantonese/Mandarin with English subtitles) likewise is a vast improvement on earlier renditions. A suitable score by Jonathan Wong appends the package.
As indicated, there is a labyrinth of enticing supplements; aside from Wong’s commentary, the platter offers additional audio from Herman Yau, Ultra Violent’s Art Ettinger (who also penned liner notes), Cinema Arcana’s Bruce Holecheck, Cantonese Carnage, a mini-documentary with special effects master Rick Baker, plus a Q and A with director Yau. Perhaps, best of all, is the feature documentary Category III: The Untold Story of Hong Kong Exploitation Cinema. Written, directed and starring enthusiast Calum Waddell, it tends to get a bit “talking head” preachy, but does provide a spectacular redemption: brief clips from other Category III entries, PLUS on-screen interviews with Wong and actress/writer/producer/composer/singer Josie Ho, the latter whom I consider a modern goddess (if you’ve never seen Dream Home, seek it out immediately). Ho relates a meeting with Wong, whom she correctly considered a cinematic icon. His response was a sense of amusement – thinking that she was joking, and then stunned that she was serious.
A truly unsettling exercise in evil, but an engrossing one – and a visual template for expert extreme movie-making, THE UNTOLD STORY is a must-have disc for horror/thriller fans.
THE UNTOLD STORY. Color. Widescreen [1.78:1; 1080p High Definition]; 1.0 PCM [Mandarin and Cantonese w/English subtitles]; MVPvisual/Unearthed Films/Golden Sun Co, Inc. CAT# MVD Visual 4. SRP: $29.95.