Dr. Lamb <羔羊醫生> may have been 30 years old since its original Hong Kong theatrical run on October 22, 1992. But this Category III classic remains one of the best of its kind based on a shocking true-crime story.
The true-crime story in question is related to the high-profile case of Lam Kor-Wan, a night-shift taxi driver nicknamed “The Jars Murderer”, who was responsible for the grisly murders of four women in the early 1980s. He earned the moniker since he preserved his female victims’ sexual organs in Tupperware jars filled with formaldehyde. He was subsequently arrested on August 17, 1982, and after the police managed to gather all the evidence, he was eventually charged with four first-degree murders. In 1983, the trial was held for three weeks and by April, he was found guilty of all charges and sentenced to death by hanging. However, his death sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment.
In Dr. Lamb <羔羊醫生>, where co-directors Danny Lee and Billy Tang inspired their movie from the aforementioned 1982 murder case, Simon Yam plays Lam Goh-Yue, who is arrested by plainclothes officers after they find out he is the owner of the gruesome photographs of mutilated naked women’s bodies. Led by Inspector Lee (Danny Lee), the police initially have a tough time getting Lam to talk as he refused to say a single word.
After a series of police abuse and later, putting Lam’s family (among them played by Lau Siu-Ming and Perrie Lai Hoi-San) all together in the same room in hopes for them to get him to confess to the murders. Lam finally admitted and what follows next is a string of back-and-forth flashbacks as he recounts how he kills each of the four female victims while working as a night-shift taxi driver.
Clocking at just under 90 minutes long, Dr. Lamb <羔羊醫生> benefits from Law Kam-Fai’s taut screenplay that effectively combines police procedural and the disturbing exploits of Lam’s murders. The former spends its first 30 minutes or so telling the story of how the police attempt whatever means necessary to get Lam to confess to the murders. The whole police procedural builds up efficiently as we learn more sick details about Lam.
And by the time Dr. Lamb <羔羊醫生> finally gets to the murder parts in the second half of the movie, Danny Lee and Billy Tang did not shy away from its matter-of-fact violence and gore that involves dismemberments and mutilations. They are admittedly difficult to watch and that’s the whole point of this movie to show the unforgivable level of depravity that Lam treats every victim. The movie also contains a lot of nudity and sex but none of them is played for gratuitous purposes. At one point, there is even a highly-disturbing scene involving Lam performing necrophilia on one of the dead young female victims.
The overall downbeat tone certainly matches the clinical nature of the movie and more so with Simon Yam’s unforgettable role as the remorseless serial killer. In fact, it was one of his best performances to date, where he skilfully alternates from a seemingly shy and reserved person to a crazy and deranged serial killer without going overboard. It also helps that his character is given a brief but effective backstory during a prologue when he was a child constantly suffering from parental abuse. This, in turn, makes it a pity that he was completely shunned from landing a well-deserved Hong Kong Film Awards nomination for Best Actor.
The rest of the cast delivers equally good support, notably Danny Lee’s no-nonsense role as Inspector Lee while Kent Cheng provides comic relief as Officer Bing. The comic relief is a welcome change of pace — well, for better or worse — from making the movie too uncomfortable to watch. This is especially true during a morbidly funny scene involving a severed woman’s breast.
Dr. Lamb <羔羊醫生> is also worth mentioning for Tony Miu Kin-Fai’s atmospheric cinematography, particularly during the rain-slicked night whenever Lam committed a murder in his taxi. Jonathan Wong Bong’s jazzy score, in the meantime, accompanies the perverse tone of the movie well.
The movie grossed HK$12.7 million and it helps to pave way for many true-crime Category III movies. Among them includes Herman Yau’s The Untold Story <八仙飯店之人肉叉燒飽>, which also shared the same narrative beats since both movies happened to be written by Law Kam-Fai. The movie even features Danny Lee as the officer-in-charge and famously earned Anthony Wong his first Best Actor in the Hong Kong Film Awards.
Back to Dr. Lamb <羔羊醫生>, this would be Danny Lee’s second last directorial effort before Twist <賊王> in 1995, which also featured Simon Yam in the lead role. Co-director Billy Tang would go on to direct several Category III movies in the ’90s such as Run and Kill <烏鼠機密檔案> (1993) and Red to Kill <弱殺> (1994) before his death at the age of 69 on July 2, 2020, due to head-and-neck cancer.