MEN BEHIND THE SUN

Directed by T.F. Mous
Screenplay by Mou Wen Yuan, Teng Dun Jing & Liu Mei Fei
Produced by Fu Chi
Cast: Wang Gang, Wu Dei Yao, Wang Run Shen & Quan Zhe

1988/104 mins/Color/Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0
1.85:1/Mandarin/China/NTSC Region 0

Website: www.japan-shock.com/

Review of the Japan Shock DVD

For many years the only way to see MEN BEHIND THE SUN was on poor quality VHS bootleg tapes. Japan Shock Video in Europe is the first company to give this notorious movie a legitimate release on DVD. Depressing, unremittingly bleak, nihilistic and very shocking - there aren't enough words in the dictionary to describe this film! What makes it even more unpalatable is that it is based on fact.

The film is set during World War Two, when the Japanese army invaded China and set up experimentation camps in the Manchurian region to develop bacterial weapons. People from nearby towns were rounded up and used as cannon fodder for the hideous experiments at the camps. The film focuses on Camp 731, as General Ishii Suro is put in charge. We follow the Youth Corps through their rigorous training at the camp. The Corps is made up of young naive boys from Japan, who are beaten and pushed to their limits by the older officers. The children are taught to refer to the captives as 'marut' - "logs for a fire or making coffins," in an attempt to dehumanise them.

We witness some of the sickening experiments in the camp as one woman has ice-cold water poured over her arms until they freeze. Her arms are then immersed in boiling water and the skin peeled off both, as she screams in agony. Another man has his arms frozen and smashed to pieces as the Youth Corps is forced to watch. One man is put inside a decompression chamber until his body swells up and his intestines fly out of his backside. We're also shown an operation on a small boy whilst he is still alive, his internal organs cut out as his heart still beats. This scene is one of the hardest to watch as a real corpse of a young boy was used for part of the scene. We are also treated to a scene, which will sicken the cat lovers amongst you, where a live cat is thrown into a room full of rats and gets ripped to shreds.

General Ishii receives orders from his superiors to evacuate the camp, as the American army and the Russians get closer. So he orders all traces of Camp 731 to be destroyed, with all the remaining 'maruts' killed and the entire camp burnt to the ground. The movie ends with text detailing what happened to the men behind Camp 731 after the war. General Ishii was arrested by US Intelligence, but granted immunity from prosecution for war crimes as long as he handed his experiment results to the American forces and in 1952 bacterial weapons appeared for the first time on the battlefields in Korea.

In MEN BEHIND THE SUN, T.F Mous doesn't flinch from showing us the atrocities carried out by Japan during the war. The film takes a pseudo-documentary style shot in a very matter of fact way. It is pretty grim stuff that will linger in your memory long after the initial viewing.

This DVD by Japan Shock Video is completely uncut, although they have used an old print with a lot of blemishes, scratches and speckles. The optional English subtitles are newly remastered, small, but easy to read. The Dolby Digital Stereo soundtrack is adequate, although there is some noise present. The extras don't amount to much - a brief slide show, a trailer and a small leaflet. T. F Mous followed up this film in 1995 with BLACK SUN: THE NANKING MASSACRE (soon to be released on DVD by Unearthed Films), which details the atrocities carried out in Nanking by the Japanese army during World War Two, in which 200,000 Chinese civilians were massacred.

MEN BEHIND THE SUN has never had an official video/DVD release in Japan and was actually partly funded by T.F Mous, alongside a Chinese investor. It is not a Japanese film as many people seem to believe, but a Taiwanese/Chinese co-production aimed at those two markets. Many of the actors are amateurs - all the performances are excellent. Two pseudo-sequels to MEN BEHIND THE SUN were shot by Hong Kong film director, Godfrey Ho, LABORATORY OF THE DEVIL (1992) and NARROW ESCAPE (1994). Both of which have also been released on DVD by Japan Shock Video in Europe.

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Review by Brendan Maltman. All Right Reserved. 2003. ©