Roast human flesh off menu for Untold Story's finger-licking second helping

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 July, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 July, 1998, 12:00am

Different movies require different critical criteria. Had Godzilla been a C-budget piece of schlock, the cheesy script might have been deemed perfectly acceptable. Add US$100 million (HK$774 million) to the budget, and one's expectations change.

There is nothing expensive or pretentious about The Untold Story (1993), a tacky thriller which supposedly told the true tale of a Macanese restaurant worker who turned his employers into 'Human Meat Roast Pork Buns' (the movie's Chinese title).

The unadulterated sensationalism and Anthony Wong Chau-sang's intense performance (which garnered him a Hong Kong Film Awards statuette for Best Actor) combined to make a hit. Five years on, Wong is back with a second 'untold story'. Though the Chinese title still refers to the human cha siu bao (roast pork buns), these delicacies make nary an appearance in this latest instalment. The title and star aside, the two films have very little in common other than their cheapness, grisly sense of the macabre, and total lack of pretension.

The script by Law Kam-fai will probably never be nominated for any prizes, but offers many 'guilty pleasures' and a few surprises. Those planning to see the movie with these surprises left intact should skip to the final paragraph of this review.

Wong is neither Part II's culprit nor leading character. This untold story's chief villain is a beautiful immigrant from the mainland, Fung (a suitably menacing turn by Paulyn Suen Kai-kwun, who attracted considerable acclaim for her performance in last year's Island of Greed). She is the cousin of Kuen (Yeung Fan), a sexy slut who continually cuckolds her loser-of-a-husband, Cheung (Cheung Kam-ching). He runs the rib joint which will soon feature his wife on the menu.

Fung's gravitation to her cousin's husband is a fatal attraction of the culinary kind. When she finally gets around to dismembering Kuen's body, the blood-splattered mayhem is worthy of a Roger Corman. The scenes where the torso is roasted and served to customers are as campy as anything created by John Waters. When police officer Seng (Wong) and triad chum Kei (Jamie Luk Kim-ming) find the ribs finger-licking good, large segments of the audience are bound to break out in laugh-tinged groans.

Too bad the movie is rated Category III, since vulgarity of this kind would be truly appreciated by the under-18 set.

The rating is due to violence and sex. The movie opens with frontal nudity as the lustfully over-the-top Kuen tries to entice her husband into sex. When he proves unequal to the task, she ridicules him and enters the history books by mentioning Viagra for the first time in a Cantonese movie.

While Kuen is the only character to bare all, viewers are treated to nude back views of both Cheung and Fung (Suen refused to do the scene, and her posterior is provided by a body double).

The script's chief lapse in logic comes from a clumsy explanation of Fung's weird behaviour, including her homicidal past and incarceration in an insane asylum. This history is unconvincingly divulged, not by cousin Kuen but by a total stranger, the restaurant's gossipy washerwoman, Third Auntie (Law Lan, a 1960s starlet who has made quite a career for herself in 1990s horror films). While it is always enjoyable to see Law on screen, the writers didn't do right by her.

But Ng Yiu-kuen's no-frills direction is efficient and keeps things moving fast enough to keep the viewer from pondering most of the improbabilities.

All in all, The Untold Story II is the kind of movie that's tailor-made for viewing in drive-in theatres (none of which, alas, exist in Hong Kong). It may not be worth a full-price ticket, but it makes for fun viewing with a group of rowdy friends and a huge tub of popcorn, or maybe an order of ribs.

The Untold Story II, Newport circuit