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April 1st, 2001 Issue #50

Hong Kong Digital is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- a film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author of The Hong Kong Filmography.

There Is A Secret In My Soup
(2001; Matrix Productions Company): 3/10

Cover art courtesy Universe.

Yan tau dau fu tong

Ren tou dou fu tang

Human Head Tofu Soup

Hugo Ng Toi-yung (left) and Michael Wong Man-Tak (right). Image courtesy Universe.

In March of last year, the HK dailies reported on one of the most horrific murder cases the region had seen in quite sometime. Loan sharks Chan Man-lok, Leung Shing-cho, and Leung Wai-lun kidnapped Fan Mei-yee and confined her to a Tsimshatsui flat. For the next four weeks, the woman was repeatedly raped and tortured for allegedly stealing $HK4,000 (about $US500) from Chan. When she finally expired, the men dismembered her corpse, boiled the limbs and head, dumped the internal organs on a shop canopy, and stuffed the skull inside a Hello Kitty doll. The incredibly sordid details of the case (which finally wrapped up in December, with the three defendants receiving life sentences) and the inclusion of one of Asia's most popular toys among the evidence made it a natural subject for local exploitation filmmakers. Shortly after the news broke, I joked to a friend that Danny Lee's Magnum Films would no doubt use the premise for a fourth entry in their THE UNTOLD STORY series but two different production companies apparently beat them to it. Yeung Chi-kin's THERE IS A SECRET IN MY SOUP and Bennie Chan Chi-shun's HUMAN PORK CHOP were both produced at the same time and even appeared in HK theatres on the same day (January 5th). SOUP then hit video stores on January 19th. Those who enjoyed (if that is the word) the early 90s cycle of "True Crime" films will want to add this one to their hit list but, in contrast to more ambitious and accomplished Category III fare like LEGAL INNOCENCE and REMAINS OF A WOMAN, there is nothing here to interest or entertain general audiences.

Cherry Chan Chiu-chiu. Image courtesy Universe.

THERE IS A SECRET IN MY SOUP opens at the scene of the crime and then progresses to the police station, with the officer in charge of the investigation (Michael Wong Man-tak, dubbed by someone else here) questioning the various parties involved. This provides the necessary lead-in to the flashback structure these films invariably adopt. Abused by her husband, Maggie Chan (Cherry Chan Chiu-chiu, who co-hosts the popular cable sex show CALL 2430 WHENEVER YOU WANT) moves out and into an apartment shared by Pat (Angela Tong Ying-ying) and her spouse Rocky, (Hugo Ng Toi-yung). Maggie begins working as a prostitute for the latter but eventually steals some money and Rocky's fancy lighter, prompting the pimp to send psychotic debt collector Joe (Gabriel Harrison / Hoi Chun-kit) after her. Maggie gave the cash to her sickly grandmother, so Rocky demands that she continue to work as one of his girls and pay him $HK20,000 in four instalments. She runs away again, however, and Pat is unable to stand up for her this time. Rocky, Joe, and their buddy Fei then takes turns abusing Maggie in increasingly horrific ways.

Gabriel Harrison and Christy Cheung Wing-yin. Image courtesy Universe.

Neither the best nor the worst of this sub-genre, THERE IS A SECRET IN MY SOUP more than deserves its adults-only classification but could have been much worse, given the details of the case that have been made public. In fact, like most of these films, it is not so much shocking as merely depressing. The various crimes are merely re-created for their shock value, with no attempt to provide any real context or reasons for the assailants’ extreme behaviour (during a particularly frenzied session, one of the killers yells out "Moon ching sap daai huk ying!" which is the Cantonese title for Bosco Lam's infamous CHINESE TORTURE CHAMBER STORY but that is the closest the movie comes to any kind of social commentary). In fact, there is so little to the story that two gratuitous sex scenes (in which Harrison and a willing partner come up with kinky new uses for some garage equipment) have been inserted to get the running time over the 80 minute mark. Sanrio Corporation, the makers of Hello Kitty, vehemently objected to the toy's presence in the movie so digital squares have been superimposed over the cuddly critter whenever it appears onscreen in the video release (according to Tim Youngs' Another Hong Kong Movies Page, the cat was scratched out with a pin on theatrical prints, which must have looked even stranger!). SPACKED OUT's Christy Cheung Wing-yin co-stars as Fei's dense and sadistic girlfriend.

VCD Specs:

Universe #VCD 2847
Digital Mono
Cantonese (Right Channel) and Mandarin (Left Channel) Language Tracks
English and Chinese Subtitles
PAL Format
Category III (for brutal violence, torture, horror, sexual content, nudity, and drug use)
85 Minutes

Hello ... Kitty? An example of the digital sqaures superimposed on the doll whenever it appears. Image courtesy Universe.


Colors are a bit subdued but the picture quality is quite good for VCD and compression flaws are rarely pronounced enough to be annoying; the Cantonese and Mandarin tracks (both post-synched) are fine. Evidently due to the aforementioned digital alternations, the subtitles here are video generated and consistently legible, which is more than can be said for many VCDs. THERE IS A SECRET IN MY SOUP is also available on DVD but, at least with the VCD, you will only be flushing half as much money down the drain.

Angela Tong Ying-ying (foreground) and Cherry Chan (background). Image courtesy Universe.

Copyright © John Charles 2000, 2001. All Rights Reserved.

Hong Kong Digital is presented in association with Hong Kong Entertainment News In Review