79 user 27 critic

Men Behind the Sun (1988)

Hei tai yang 731 (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama, History, Horror | March 1989 (USA)
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.


(as T.F. Mous)


(as Mei Fei Liu), | 1 more credit »

On Disc

at Amazon


Add Image Add an image

Do you have any images for this title?

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Drama | History | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

In 1937, Japanese troops raid the Chinese city of Nanking to execute a planned massacre by subjecting over 300,000 helpless civilians to various tortures and atrocities before slaughtering them all.

Director: Tun Fei Mou
Stars: Liang Zhang, Yung Pan, Shao-tien Hsiung
Philosophy of a Knife (Video 2008)
Drama | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5/10 X  

The true history of Japanese Unit 731, from its beginnings in the 1930s to its demise in 1945, and the subsequent trials in Khabarovsk, USSR, of many of the Japanese doctors from Unit 731. ... See full summary »

Director: Andrey Iskanov
Stars: Tetsuro Sakagami, Tomoya Okamoto, Yukari Fujimoto
Action | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.4/10 X  

In the spring of 1945, Japan established a secret base, Unit 731 in Manchuria, where many innocent Chinese, Korean and Mongolian people were killed in grotesque experiments. An idealistic ... See full summary »

Director: Godfrey Ho
Stars: Gong Chu, Yuen-Ching Leung, Wan Ying Ying
Comedy | Crime | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Cops investigate a criminal running an unsuspecting restaurant, while trying to trace the steps back to how he ended up running it suddenly.

Directors: Danny Lee, Herman Yau
Stars: Anthony Chau-Sang Wong, Danny Lee, Emily Kwan
Begotten (1990)
Fantasy | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

This gory and entirely visual film tells the surreal tale of the death and rebirth of gods.

Director: E. Elias Merhige
Stars: Brian Salzberg, Donna Dempsey, Stephen Charles Barry
Short | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5/10 X  

A woman walking home late at night is attacked by an unknown assailant who knocks her out with chloroform. When she regains consciousness, she finds herself tied to a bed in a blood- ... See full summary »

Director: Hideshi Hino
Stars: Hiroshi Tamura, Kirara Yûgao
Adventure | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

During a rescue mission into the Amazon rainforest, a professor stumbles across lost film shot by a missing documentary crew.

Director: Ruggero Deodato
Stars: Robert Kerman, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen
Visitor Q (Video 2001)
Comedy | Drama | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A troubled and perverted family find their lives intruded by a mysterious stranger who seems to help find a balance in their disturbing natures.

Director: Takashi Miike
Stars: Ken'ichi Endô, Shungiku Uchida, Kazushi Watanabe
Short | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4/10 X  

A group of guys capture a young girl with the intent of hurting her. They torture her in many ways, from beating her to putting a sharp piece of needle-like metal through her eye which ... See full summary »

Director: Satoru Ogura
Aftermath (1994)
Short | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

A short film wherein a man working in a morgue mutilates and defiles one of the corpses. He takes the heart home to his dog.

Director: Nacho Cerdà
Stars: Pep Tosar, Jordi Tarrida, Ángel Tarris
Nekromantik (1987)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.2/10 X  

A street sweeper who cleans up after grisly accidents brings home a full corpse for him and his wife to enjoy sexually, but is dismayed to see that his wife prefers the corpse over him.

Director: Jörg Buttgereit
Stars: Bernd Daktari Lorenz, Beatrice Manowski, Harald Lundt
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 3.6/10 X  

During the shut down and destruction of the Japanese test camp Squadron 731 in Manchuria, a soldier becomes infected with a virus developed during the camp's testing and risks spreading it into Japan on the train ride home.

Director: Godfrey Ho
Stars: Gong Chu, Te-Lo Mai, Andrew Yu


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


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


Drama | History | Horror | War


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

March 1989 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Squadron 731  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


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

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Although the film is colloquially known as "Men Behind The Sun", the title card (on the DVD) reads "Man Behind The Sun". "Man Behind the Sun" is the film's actual English title. It was coined by Mou's wife who is fluent in English and thought that "Man" was better than "Men" which sounds too specific since ultimately the films' themes are not just about the specific cruelty of the Japanese Empire toward the Chinese but ultimately speak of the fundamental injustices of all mankind. See more »


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 »


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 »


Followed by Men Behind the Sun 4 (1995) 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.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
The cat scene post to end them all KittyGumdrop
Cat is FAKE Bastian Balthazar Bux
Child Pornography? sinemabuff
why is everyone so sore about the cat? frodereck-1
Why are people focusing on the cat? desksinagym
People are pissed off about the CAT because... ComfortablySad
Discuss Men Behind the Sun (1988) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page