Men Behind the Sun title

AKA: Man Behind the Sun, Unit 731, Squadron 731.

Tag line : A story that will provoke, anger and sicken.

Men Behind the SunOf all the films that have been made over the years about the horrors of war, T F Mou's 1988 film "Men Behind the Sun" is, without doubt, the most shocking, brutal and graphic depiction of war atrocities ever filmed.

Based on fact, the film takes place towards the end of WW2. At this time, the Japanese were starting to lose ground to the allies and believed the solution to their problems lay in developing bacteriological weapons. In Manchuria, China, the Japanese army had established  a top secret experimental warfare division, known only as Unit 731, and it was here they were busy experimenting on the none-too-happy Chinese prisoners and Russian POW's.

Newly arrived at the base, are a detachment of Japanese Youth Corp volunteers, who are shocked and alarmed to see the horrors being carried out at the camp, under the direction of the commandant Lt General Ishii. Prisoners are injected with strains of Bubonic plague in order to see which one is the most lethal, autopsies and medical experiments are performed on still live victims, prisoners are strung up and used for various ballistic tests, frost bite victims have their frozen limbs smashed and the thawing flesh stripped from their bones and, grossest of all, one unfortunate prisoner is shoved into a compression chamber and the pressure turned up until his guts shoot out of his backside. All in the name of science!

Intended as a realistic insight into the little known atrocities committed by the Japanese Imperial Army during the war. The film remains highly controversial, not only due to its graphic subject matter, but also because of the inclusion of animal cruelty (a cat being thrown into a room full of rats) and the directors use of a real corpse during an autopsy scene. In fact you'd be forgiven for thinking this is merely an exploitation pic, or shock film, designed to repulse the viewer as many critics feel the director crossed too far over the line with his graphic depictions.

However, the film is extremely well made and and is actually quite sympathetic in its portrayal of the young members of the Japanese Youth Corps, who really had no idea what they were getting into and shows that they were as much a victim of circumstance as the prisoners. From a historical perspective, it is also interesting to note that whilst Germany has done nothing but apologise and attempt to make reparations for its role in World War 2, the Japanese have never once apologised for anything, or even acknowledged any wrong doing on their part. Which was the directors main reason for showing the full brutality of what really happened.

An interesting film, but not one I would recommend to the easily offended or those with a weak stomach, as even the most ardent gore hound will have a problem with this one.

Overall Marks : 6/10.

Terrifying Trivia.

  • The film spawned 2 unrelated sequels, "Laboratory of the Devil" and "Escape from Hell", which were essentially retreads of the original. These were filmed by Hong Kong director Godfrey Ho and released as "Men Behind the Sun 2 & 3", though were not really anything to do with the original, apart from cashing in on the name. Original director TF Mou filmed his own follow up, which concerned the invasion of Nanking, entitled "Black Sun - The Nanking Massacre" which was re-titled as "Men Behind the Sun 4" in some countries.

  • A cut version of this film was approved for a UK release by the BBFC, which missed out the scene where a cat was thrown into a room full of live rats. However, the film was not available on general release and only available for sale in Chinese video shops.

  • The Imperial War Museum in London has screened the full uncut version of this as part of an exhibition on war atrocities.

  • For the scene where a young child is being autopsied, the production crew didn't have funds for a special effects dummy, so they enlisted the help of the local police to film a real autopsy. The police surgeons agreed to wear the same costumes as the actors to preserve film continuity. The child's parents apparently agreed to the filming after the director explained what the film was about.

  • According to director T F Mou, in an interview he gave at the 1999 Toronto Fantasy film Festival, the film was only shown once in Japan. After that the distributors were warned not to show it again otherwise the government would burn their cinemas down. Mou, who was in the country at the time to help promote the film, also had to leave in a hurry after receiving death threats.

  • The scene in the compression chamber, showing the deceased victims intestines erupting out of his backside, was achieved by blowing animal guts out through a hole in the floor directly below the actors body.

  • Though the majority of Unit 731's original base was destroyed by the Japanese army when they left Manchuria, parts still stand. The chimneys to the old power station are still there, similarly one single administration block that was not destroyed still exists and has since been turned into a war time Museum by the Chinese authorities.

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Other recommendations.

Black Sun - The Nanking Massacre


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