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The Sea and Poison (1986)

Umi to dokuyaku (original title)
Downed American fliers in WWII are vivisected by Japanese surgeons in cruel medical experiments.


Kei Kumai


Shûsaku Endô (novel), Kei Kumai (screenplay)
10 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Credited cast:
Eiji Okuda Eiji Okuda ... Suguro
Ken Watanabe ... Toda
Takahiro Tamura ... Professor Hashimoto
Kyôko Kishida ... Ohba, Head Nurse
Mikio Narita Mikio Narita ... Shibata
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Shigeru Kôyama Shigeru Kôyama ... Gondo
Toshie Negishi ... Ueda, Nurse
Ken Nishida Ken Nishida ... Asai
Masumi Okada Masumi Okada ... Hattori
Noriko Sengoku Noriko Sengoku ... Old woman
Kazunaga Tsuji Kazunaga Tsuji ... Murai
Masane Tsukayama ... Miyasaka


Downed American fliers in WWII are vivisected by Japanese surgeons in cruel medical experiments.

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Japanese | German | English

Release Date:

22 July 1987 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Sea and Poison See more »

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User Reviews

The Sea and Poison (1986)
1 December 2015 | by mevmijaumauSee all my reviews

The Sea and Poison is an excellent WWII film, and probably one of the best Japanese war films at that. It's based on Shusaku Endo's famous novel and directed by Kei Kumai, featuring some well-known Japanese actors like Ken Watanabe and Kyoko Kishida. The core of the story is an actual event where several Japanese surgeons vivisected downed American fliers. It was apparently a very controversial topic at the time the film was made (along with the more infamous Unit 731, which saw Japanese doctors and scientists committing unspeakable war cruelties), and in fact, the film took years to make because no major studio would touch it.

The film is basically a morality tale where we follow several doctors, the principal two of which have conflicting philosophies; one is cynical and opportunistic, while the other one is emphatic, but nevertheless takes part in the horrific operations. The story is very gripping and intense, laid out in flashback form. The performances are believable and the atmosphere is very dark and clinical. Some bilingual characters have random shifts between languages at unusual points which I found kinda weird, but oh well.

The two surgery scenes are without a doubt the best parts of the movie. Stunningly directed, very suspenseful and very realistic. The effects are very striking and I'm glad this film was shot in B&W because otherwise it would be too uncomfortably bloody. Speaking of that, it's surprising to know this film was made in 1986 because it seems much older, not only because of Taizo Matsumura's orchestral soundtrack but also because of the black and white photography. Some images from the film are very memorable, like the few overhead shots or the shadow play inside the clinic.

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