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Men Behind the Sun (1988)
"Hei tai yang 731" (original title)

 -  Drama | History | Horror  -  March 1989 (USA)
6.2
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Ratings: 6.2/10 from 3,554 users  
Reviews: 79 user | 29 critic

Japanese troops round up Chinese and Russian prisoners of war and take them to a place called Squadron 731, where they are grotesquely tortured and experimented on to test new biological weapons.

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(as T.F. Mous)
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Title: Men Behind the Sun (1988)

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Cast

Credited cast:
Jianxin Chen
Hsu Gou
Linjie Hao
Haizhe Jin
Tie Long Jin
Yuanrong Jin
Bolin Li
Pengyu Liu
Xuhui Liu
Zhaohua Mei ...
(as Zhao Hua Mei)
Zhe Quan
Jiefu Tian
Gang Wang ...
Runsheng Wang ...
(as Run Shen Wang)
Shennin Wang
Edit

Storyline

Story of a Japanese terror camp in the end of WW2, where the Japanese are using the Chinese as guinea pigs in terrible experiments to develop deadly bacterial-plagues. Written by Tobias Broljung <larry@algonet.se>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | History | Horror | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

|

Language:

Release Date:

March 1989 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Hei tai yang 731  »

Box Office

Gross:

HKD 11,092,186 (Hong Kong) (23 December 1988)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (cut) | (World Video release) | (Dead Alive Productions release)

Sound Mix:

Color:

See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film's budget was only around $200,000, very low for a film of this scope and subject material. Tun Fei Mou used a variety of cost-saving techniques to get an impressive, gripping film for little money. The gore was done mostly with real body parts both human and animal lending it a spectacular sense of grotesque realism. The vast majority of the actors and crew were Northern Chinese locals who were paid little. The People's Liberation Army also lent the production their support and most of the military equipment in film belonged to the Chinese army. Many of the Japanese soldier extras in the larger scene were Chinese army recruits. See more »

Goofs

When the leader of the soldier boys patrol command them to drop and crawl through the snow, one soldier can be seen already dropped before he is even told to do so. See more »

Quotes

Dr. Shiro Ishii: A small rat can beat a cat. Fleas and germs can defeat bombers and guns. This is... the basic theory behind Squadron 731. It is also my philosophy.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Little Red Riding Hood (2009) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Brutal. Disturbing. Brilliant.
4 November 2001 | by (Boston) – See all my reviews

(Please note that while the plot is not spoiled in my review, I describe some of the real-life atrocities depicted in the film and readers are advised to skip over the second paragraph if they may be disturbed by the content.)

This past Spring, I had the distinct privilege to view a film which, to the best of my knowledge, remains unreleased on any format in the United States. The film was Godfrey Ho's Men Behind the Sun, an incredibly disturbing and realistic account of horrors inflicted upon the people of China and Russia by the Japanese government during World War II. The film details the events that went on behind the walls of `Unit 731', a facility based in China that the Japanese government used to test biological warfare on living, human subjects.

These `experiments' included locking a man into a decompression chamber until his body expelled his organs; chaining a woman to ice in the freezing cold to see how long it would take before her arms fell off; and dissecting a living human boy. These unspeakable atrocities were not unlike the crimes committed in European concentration camps, yet they have not been given a fraction of the recognizance. I had only the vaguest notions of Chinese people being tortured during World War II, and even my fleeting knowledge is probably greater than that of most Americans; it is a subject that is simply not covered in conventional classroom environments.

I did not view Men Behind the Sun entirely by choice, as I was asked to screen it for a DVD review. Had I not seen this film, I would not likely have ever known about the tragedies which it depicts. And if I were to learn about it, it would most likely be through a documentary, a textbook, or a toned-down Hollywood reenactment. Fortunately, I learned about the subject matter through this film. Because it was made outside of Hollywood (it is a Hong Kong production) it did not have to pander to censors or mainstream audiences. As such, the violence in this movie is incredibly brutal and realistic. Many of the special effects were supposedly shot using medical cadavers as opposed to prosthetics, and having seen the film I would say that this was the case.

It has only the faintest semblance of a (presumably fictionalized) storyline, instead playing like a documentary and presenting the factual accounts as if they were happening before the viewer's eyes. The `story' is of a group of young Japanese boys who are sent to Unit 731 to train for enrolment in the Japanese army. There they are stripped of their innocence, brainwashed into dehumanizing the Chinese prisoners and molded into heartless killing machines. Their story parallels the gruesome experimentation of the generals on the Chinese and Russian victims, and is equally tragic and pessimistic. Characters and dialogue in this film are fairly incidental, but the imagery is not. Many of the film's scene compositions and setpieces are as strangely fascinating as they are horrific, merely adding to the queasy feeling provoked in the viewer. This, however, is director Godfrey Ho's intention. Once you embark upon the journey of viewing this film, there is no turning back. When the credits have rolled, the viewer is inevitably still staring at the screen in disbelief, its images certain to linger in the mind's eye for days. This only serves to prove that the film has successfully made its point, and will not be forgotten by the viewer.

The film is clearly advertised as an exploitation film, in spite of the fact that none of the content is actually exploitative. It is bold, it is real, and it is vital, making a crucial point that might otherwise elude the masses. To relegate it to `hard gore cinema' is to damn it to the disgust of censors and scoffdom of film critics. Only through choosing to overlook its undue reputation can viewers fully appreciate the film, and only through fully appreciating the film can a viewer further appreciate the true horrors and untold threats of World War II.

The film is presented in its theatrical 1.85:1 letterbox aspect ratio in a transfer that has been digitally restored from the original 35 mm negative. For a film that is sadly rather obscure in most parts of the world, Japan Shock Video has really gone all out to insure a solid transfer, and the result is a terrific DVD. It would be nice if Synapse added this title to their Asian Cult Cinema Collection or if Criterion restored and repackaged this film as they did with Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salo (a similarly disturbing film) a few years ago.

There has been no word in the DVD community of a domestic issue of the film, and considering the hotbed of censorship issues it would provoke, I doubt that it will be seen on Stateside shelves in any format anytime soon. As such, this code-free DVD is an absolute must-have for fans of the film and those interested in the most comprehensive history of World War II or the darkest possibilities of human nature. Casual viewers may want to give it a second thought, for while Men Behind the Sun is truly one of the most tremendous cinematic achievements of all time, it is also perhaps the most unshakeable and disturbing.


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