Cinema-Maniac: Bat sin fan dim ji yan yuk cha siu bau (The Eight Immortals Restaurant: The Untold Story) (1993)

Hong Kong’s Category III is the US equivalent of NC-17 and for several reasons always peaked my interests. In particular the way it categorizes the campy, over the top “Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky” in the same vein as “Mad Detective” which doesn’t remotely come close to containing the same amount of graphic content. In the end though it doesn’t matter if the film content lives up the rating, but rather if it a good piece of filmmaking. For the case of “The Eight Immortals Restaurant: The Untold Story” it is even if noticeably sloppy in execution.

The Eight Immortals Restaurant: The Untold Story is about cops investigation on a criminal running an unsuspecting restaurant, while trying to trace the steps back to how he ended up running it suddenly. The film jumps between the cops investigation and the criminal mastermind, Wong Chi Hang, to tell its story. Early on in the film it opens immediately with a murder only to then introduce the cops who are portrayed as bumbling idiots for comedic effect. Often the humor plays off the cops inability to gather evidence because of the bad smell or the womanizing inspector who always brings a new lady with him to the station. These early comedic scenes don’t mesh well when the film makes a turn for the grisly for a majority of its run. Tonally all it’s all over the place as one moment you’re possibly laughing at the cops investigation lack of professionalism to then suddenly cut to the next scene of murder. Whether or not it wants the audience the sympathize for the killer is left to the viewer to decide. Once Wong is capture it’s not the end of the film, but rather it continues to show at length the cops are willing to lock up Wong Chi Hang behind bars. Utilizing other methods that doesn’t require breaking bones. Asking yourself if the means to send Wong Chi Hang behind bars is justified by the officers given the extreme torture applied to Wong Chi Hang while taking into account what he did. Despite how often it jumps tones it position by the end of the film ends amorally. Neither condemning Wong Chi Hang for his killings or rewarding the cops methods to crack the case by any means. While the who in the mystery is always clear the background and motivation are elements that the film works for. Building up gradually the mystery of what exactly happened at this restaurant to a grisly reveal in its most infamous scene. There’s no cat and mouse game and the unraveling mystery that is Wong Chi Hang keeps it interesting. Wong Chi Hang is an interesting criminal mind and one with a troubled mindset in twisted way will keep you watching.

Anthony Wong is outstanding as the enigmatic Wong Chi Hang capturing so well the traits of this unbalanced psychotic character that he comes across as truly a demented person. He’s best in full on psychotic in the moments of killing a victim displaying joy with his grievous voice. However, Wong movement also tells us he’s not an expert struggling to some degree, but his eyes cold stare makes him comes across as demented even in daylight without a weapon. When Wong is captured he comes across as a broken human unable to stand up straight in his mannerism changing to his beaten state. The performance of Anthony Wong is noteworthy alone for a viewing. Supporting cast largely go unnoticed because their interpretation is direct what of the material demand. This is not good for the supporting cast since a majority of them have trouble transitioning to the darker side of the material. Often allowing them a moment to react silly in a serious moment. Danny Lee is the exception in the supporting cast being able to make a successful transition into the material darker side. Lee does come across as a womanizer on the silly side, but also comes across as a devoted inspector. As for the violence it’s deserving of the Category III (NC-17 in the US) rating. While generally not showing the impact of a kill there is plenty of gore, foreboding atmosphere, blood, and Anthony Wong successful portrayal that these murders scenes are wholly effective. On the down side despite how well done the special effects are and the way the murder are shot they are unevenly spread across the film. There’s three in the first act and one more in the final twenty minute involving children. There might be a light supply of murder on screen, but the execution of them more than makes up for it.

The Eight Immortals Restaurant: The Untold Story tone is unbalanced as the film’s criminal mind, yet it’s that same unbalanced nature that makes it appealing. While the comedy fails to fit in with the rest of the film never does any of it issues overshadow it bright spot. The way it tells it story works well enough due to it twisted criminal and held together by Anthony Wong spectacular performance.

7/10

Based on a true story claim:
I was unable to find any evidence or articles that prove the events in the film did occur. However, after doing a bit of lazy research (yay, reading about murders) and the closest source I could find as a possible inspiration is Fritz Haarmann. A German serial killer who is believed to have been responsible for the murder of 27 boys and young men between 1918 and 1924. Always with a view to his commercial instincts, the body of his victims would then be dismembered and the clothes and meat sold through the usual channels for smuggled goods. The useless portions were thrown into the River Leine. Due to Haarmann victims being runaways and his successful distribution the British police had a hard time finding any concrete evidence to crack the case. As the number of missing boys mounted, police suspicion began to fall on Haarmann. A woman who had purchased one of his black-market “steaks” became convinced it was human flesh and turned it over to the police. In the summer of 1924, several skulls and a sackful of bones were found on the banks of the canal. While searching Haarmann’s rooms, detectives found bundles of boys’ clothing. The landlady’s son was wearing a coat–given to him by Haarmann–that belonged to one of the missing boys. In the end, Haarmann confessed his crimes in minute detail, proclaiming insanity but declaring he was forced to commit the crimes whilst in a trance. He was convicted, found guilty of 24 murders and subsequently sentenced to execution in April, 1925. While awaiting execution, the “Vampire of Hanover” (as he’d been dubbed by the press) produced a written confession in which he described, with undisguised relish, the pleasure he had derived from his atrocities. At his own request, he was beheaded with a sword in the city marketplace, ironically one of the most common and effective ways to dispose of a vampire. Afterward, his brain was removed from his skull and shipped to Goettingen University for study. Unfortunately, nothing came of this effort. Over seventy years later, science is still no closer to comprehending the reasoning behind the crimes committed by people like Fritz Haarmann. Or maybe it could the fact that Fritz Haarmann was just plain insane without a particular motivator.

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