Fatal Love (1993)

Directed by Lo Kin

Produced by Benny Chan Chi Suen

Starring Michael Fitzgerald Wong, Ellen Chan Nga Lun, Maria Cordero, Karel Wong Chi Yeung, Ng Kai Ming, David Siu Chung Hang, Victor Hon Kwan, Nam Yan

Fatal Love

Sometimes, as a fan of a particular genre, or a devotee of certain culture's screen adventures, you hear about a film that becomes your mission to track down and see. Invariably, that film will manage to elude you until you least expect it, then it will pop up without warning and you'll be surprised by its appearance. If it shows up on DVD, you'll probably buy it without a second thought, race it home, pop it in your player and sit back to bask in its glory. Then again, sometimes years of anticipation manage to completely diminish the viewing experience when it finally eventuates. It's a bit like sex really…you hear about it for nearly two decades, and when it finally happens you tend to think to yourself "Is that it?". Such an experience was my finally seeing Lo Kin's "Fatal Love", a sleazy little Hong Kong erotic thriller from 1993. What was all the fuss? Two words…Ellen Chan. Yes, for nearly a decade I've felt that Ellen was the best thing since sliced bread, and the opportunity finally presented itself to catch up with the missing chapter of her filmography. Was it any good? Let's have a look…

Poor Debbie Fung (Chan), things just aren't going her way of late. She is framed for theft at the police academy, losing her dream job to jealous work rivals. Gainful employment proves hard to keep a grasp of, until she finally settles as an aerobics instructor. Then, out of the blue, her former superior (Karel Wong) pops into her day, offering her a ridiculously dangerous undercover post. Property investor Lau Fuk Tin (the other Wong) has long been a hot property himself for the police, unproven links to drug dealing and a series of horrendous sex crimes raising their head with alarming regularity. Debbie's Super wants to put her in the thick of the action, getting close to Lau to see what's going on behind the scenes. Impressed with this hunk o' burnin' love, Deb's only too eager to agree to the job.

While Debbie and Lau are making goo-goo eyes for one another, another horrific sex murder occurs. The victim is tied up, raped, broken glass forced into her mouth, beaten, then stabbed 138 times with the remnants of the broken bottle. That's enough to put a damper on anyone's love life, especially if their dreamy "perfect" partner is the prime suspect in said shocking murder. But maybe she's doubting her feelings for no conclusive reason? When Lau gorily slaughters a mob boss, then rapes the gangster's moll, maybe Debbie had better take out a bit more insurance than her standard issue police sidearm. Could things get any worse for poor Debbie? Does the expression "all kinds of worse" mean anything?

Probably an unfamiliar name to many, director Lo Kin previously helmed the underrated suspense thriller "Heartbeat 100" (1987) with Maggie Cheung and the "Matador" styled thriller "Spider Woman" (1995) with the spunky Jade Leung. He also served as writer on Leung Po Chi's "Dressed To Kill" redux "He Lives By Night" (1982), Ringo Lam's trendsetting "Espirit D'amour" (1984), and Jackie Chan's "Armour Of God" (1986). That's some fairly impressive credentials, I would say! However, Lo's "Fatal Love" is no classic of the genre, and definitely belies its origins from the era that spawned "Doctor Lam" as the above mentioned murder setpiece is aggressively graphic in execution, swamped with leering camera angles and awash with rivers of blood. But at least Ellen can act, well, and is extremely easy on the eye. Her presence alone makes the gory theatrics that much more bearable, just by being there…:)

Universe's disc herein is a curious animal, giving the initial impression of being a ported laserdisc transfer. That was my immediate assumption, until my memory came into play recalling that Star's laserdisc contained DID contain English subtitles, which leads me to believe my assumption is correct taking into consideration the overall softness of the image. As the subtitles on this disc are of the burned-in variety, it would appear that Universe have utilised a somewhat worse for wear theatrical print for this transfer. Image quality shifts wildly, moving from crisp, sharp and colourful to soft, smeary and grainy. There's also an abundance of print damage present, but these do little to diminish the impact of the film's more shocking moments. The aforementioned murder scene displays a level of detail and colour saturation that makes it positively repugnant.

Call me a wuss, but I think women should be better treated in film than objects of titillation or torture, and stripping one naked for the camera's leering gaze before taking to her with a broken bottle was just a hint beyond exploitative bad taste. Otherwise, this disc does its job and presents itself in a suitably acceptable format for its aggressively (perceived) misogynistic visuals. Audio is plain old vanilla mono, and has its fair share of hiccups. Extras are limited to Star files for Michael Wong and the delectable Ellen Chan. Oh yeah, if Michael Wong's voice seems a tad awry, that's because this was one of his earlier roles and with limited mastery of spoken Cantonese at the time (Mike's Russell Wong's brother, and Canadian Chinese by education) was post-dubbed by another voice actor.

Well, I'll be a totally sexist pig now and close by saying that I was happy enough with this low-key erotic thriller as my favourite Eastern babe dropped her gear with alarming regularity. Sure, I HATED the way women were treated in the script, but the joy of seeing the cutest actress Hong Kong produced on DVD was almost compensation enough (note that I said ALMOST), and the climactic sex scene was eye popping beyond belief. But as a beleaguered word of warning, there are moments that will mightily offend amidst the scorching titillation. The great news is that Universe hold the rights to Chan's equally blistering tease from the same year, Sam Ho's outstanding "The Love That Is Wrong". With luck I'll be reviewing that lesbian thriller sometime in the near future (and with even more luck, somebody from Universe might be reading this!). If not, I'll settle for "The Eternal Evil Of Asia"…

Review by M.C.Thomason

Released by Universe Video & Laser
Category III - Region 0
Running time - 84m
Ratio - Widescreen 1.85
Audio - Dolby digital 1.0
Extras :
Star files