Men Behind the Sun (1988) Poster

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One of those movies that you definitely only need to see once.
Rusty-619 May 2001
There's only a handful of movies I can say that about- Threads and Funny Games are the other ones I can think of off the top of my head. If you've seen a lot of disturbing movies, you know exactly what I'm talking about. You'll get the idea after one viewing, and you won't be able to wipe some of the images out of your head, or still have nightmares about them, even years later anyway.

I heard about this movie in the 80's, when I went out of my way to see every movie or video I could that was supposed to be shocking, disturbing, or really sick. Actually, I still do that, though these days I do try to read about it first, to make sure it is worth spending my money on. So that probably means I need some sort of therapy, but that's beside the point. Many of my favorite horror authors had brought up the movie when asked about the most upsetting movies they'd seen, and someone I talked to who had seen it just shook their head grimly when I asked them about it. I looked everywhere for this movie but couldn't find it. Years after I'd given up I found a bootleg copy from the laser-disc. This was after I'd seen Peter Jackson's "Braindead" uncut at a film festival, and pretty much decided I'd seen it all and couldn't be shocked anymore.

This movie is evidently based on real-life events during WWII, about a medical camp referred only to as "Camp 731" where the Japanese perform really nasty and unusually creative medical experiments on the Chinese prisoners. This includes women, children, and, in the one scene you couldn't pay me enough to watch because it was rumored to be real and I didn't want to even see a fake depiction of it, a cat. I'd heard that it made Ilsa's SS Camp look like a day at the beach. Well, I don't know about that, but this is definitely one of the most disturbing and depressing movies I've ever seen- as the guy I bought it from said, "Guaranteed to ruin your day". Fortunately, my day was already pretty much ruined, as I was home sick with the flu and feeling wretched the day I watched it. I probably would have been able to fall asleep way earlier if I hadn't watched it, though.

This is definitely not an enjoyable movie, or fun to sit through. Any Italian cannibal movie I can think of is more upbeat than this. Even if you were one of the people who thought the un-cut Ilsa was 'campy' and 'fun', I don't think you'll be too cheerful during this.

I'd actually heard about what were supposed to be the most upsetting scenes, like the poor man in the decompression experiment that sort of implodes in a horrible way that I think is safe to say has never been filmed before or since, when all the air is sucked out of the room, and the very graphic autopsy of the one character in the movie that the filmmakers go out of their way to make sure you care about. Man, that was cold-blooded, but I was expecting that. There's one experiment, though, I think it was called the "frostbite experiment" (most of the experiments are preceded by a title card, which gives the movie an even more cold-blooded, documentary feel) that caught me totally off-guard. I don't want to "spoil" it if you're really into getting caught off guard, but it was one of the rare times I was so shocked when watching a movie I actually gasped and cursed out loud when I was watching something by myself. It takes a lot to shock me, but whenever I'm talking with someone about scenes in movies that really disturbed us, this is one of the first ones I think of. It's been over 5 years since I saw that scene but I still remember it waaay too vividly. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) some of the newer DVDs I've seen for sale give it away in the cover art, so don't look too closely at the box before you watch it (unless you want to know what you're getting yourself into before you rent it). I've got to hand it to whoever thought up that one, because I did NOT see it coming.

If you're into non-stop over-the-top gore, then you might get bored during parts of this. The filmmakers spend some time making you feel sorry for the characters in other ways. This film is well-made, well-acted, has very realistic (way too realistic) gore, and nothing is ever played for laughs - it's not a low-budget splatter movie.The entire movie is just completely depressing, downbeat, and disturbing to the very last frame, and I really only recommend it to people I know who are pretty jaded and don't mind really disturbing, upsetting movies, or those (like me, I hate to admit) that want to say they've seen it all. You also might want to recommend it to any smug people you know that brag about how nothing makes them sick.
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9/10
The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore
Coventry30 July 2006
Pretty much everything they say about this movie is true... It's sick, unnameable cruel and shocking, but also unforgettable and quite impressive. "Men Behind the Sun" is not just another wannabe-controversial Asian horror movie, but a devastatingly graphic and accurate history lesson that mostly became controversial due to a handful of notorious scenes. The events take place during the final months of WWII in a Japanese prisoners' camp. The Japanese, allied with the Germans, are slowly but surely losing the War and one General and a couple scientists believe it's up to them to turn the tide by experimenting with bacterial weapons and recruiting young boys to fight for their country. In the middle of their heavy training schedule, these boys are forced to witness some of the most inhumanly sadistic and repulsive experiments ever. The victims are ordinary Chinese and Russian citizens – men as well as women and newborn children - that were captured during battle & held prisoner in lamentable conditions. I'm really not going to debate how "real" the footage of these experiments is (the human cadavers are believed to be real and also the animals-sequences look suspiciously real), so I'll just confirm they're highly disturbing and, in case you're just a little squeamish, stay as far away from this movie as you can! Nevertheless, "Men Behind the Sun" remains one of the absolute greatest Asian shock-productions ever! The acting performances are really convincing, T.F.Mous' directing is solid & professional and the locations and scenery appear to be genuine. The emotions you experience whilst watching this movie are almost indescribable. How are you supposed to behave when observing the detailed autopsy of a defenseless little child? Not even to mention the utterly gruesome experiment in the decompression chamber? Does this make you a sick voyeur yourself or is it actually necessary to see this in order to acknowledge the factual horrors of war and reassure yourself that this may never happen again? Any movie able to provoke these kind of thoughts in your head is a milestone of cinema and nothing short of a masterpiece.
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8/10
Dark Days
ElijahCSkuggs13 December 2006
Going into Men Behind the Sun I knew that it was a serious movie that contained animal cruelty and just some seriously graphic material. And the rumors were true. It contained both. But I wasn't expecting a seriously well-made movie.

Men Behind the Sun centers around Squadron 731 and how it tortured and killed thousands and thousands of people so Japan would have a great chance at winning the war with Russia. Really the movie is almost entirely about how Squadron 731 can improve their chance to win the war. Be it through torture type situations like extreme temperature or through air-borne bacteria. It's been said that while Squadron 731 was up and running, it's said that there wasn't a single survivor. It's not just an hour and forty-five minutes of death and torture, even though it is close. The movie follows a large cast, whether they show the Generals and troops talking about how important this is to Japan or they show the victims and how they need to tell the world what is happening. It's an incredibly strong look at some of the darkest days this world has ever seen. Many a country have committed awful acts, and I suppose this is Japan's. Even though I hear Japan hasn't officially said it took place.

Like I said before, Men Behind the Sun is a strong, powerful and graphic film filled with visuals the average film-goer would rather not see. Truthfully, there's a couple scenes I'd rather have not have seen. There's another comment on here that says "One Viewing Is Enough" and I can't agree more. The only people I would recommend this movie to are history/movie/gore buffs. 8.5 outta 10
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don't believe the sequel hype
ma_teng19 April 2003
Man Behind the Sun is a worthy film, and readily smeared through its association with a number of schlock "sequels".

Given that most reviewers here can't read Chinese and are measuring the film by its disgust factor, it's easy to see why "Godfrey Ho" is wrongly credited with directing it, instead of just "parts" 2 and 3. The actual director, Mou Tun-fei (aka T.F. Mous) is alive and well and living in Taiwan at last report. He is also a committed Chinese nationalist, which helps to explain the genuine, almost uncontrollable anger in this film.

The "sequels" on the other hand are money-spinners. Anyone who has seen the original should know there was no scope for a sequel set in a camp that had already been destroyed at the conclusion of WWII. At best, "part" 2 is a remake, and a cheap, shabby one at that.

The film is also careful to note significant historical elements, such as how the US government protected some of the criminals portrayed in this film, partly in order to get hold of the scientific data produced at the expense of the lives of thousands of Chinese civilians. If you read books on the matter you will also discover that the vast majority of Japanese scientists implicated in these experiments went on to enjoy successful careers in Japanese universities.

There was no Simon Wiesenthal to chase up and prosecute these individuals, despite their conspicuous presence under a lengthy US administration, and to this day the two governments prefer not to talk about this particularly vile component of Japan's wartime legacy. "Stuff happens," eh Mr Rumsfeld?
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10/10
Absolutely disturbing and devastating film.
HumanoidOfFlesh17 February 2004
T.F.Mous' 1987 film "Man Behind the Sun" has to be one of the most disturbing and unpleasant movies ever made.It tells us about the atrocities committed by Japanese scientist during the Second World War in China.The acting is pretty good and I think that some of the actors did an outstanding job.The film offers also some of the most revolting gore I have ever seen.Some scenes are truly sickening for example a man is put into decompression chamber and the pressure is steadily increased until he shoots intestines out of his anus-actually Mous used a real corpse to make this scene.There is also incredibly graphic autopsy of a young mute boy-a real cadaver was used for this sequence as well.The scene where a real cat is attacked and consumed by literally thousands of starving rats is incredibly vile and unnecessary.Overall,"Man Behind the Sun" is pretty hard to find,but if you liked "Cannibal Holocaust" or "Bunman:The Untold Story",then give it a look.However fans of cute American horror should avoid it like the plague!
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8/10
Think you've seen it all? Try this one for size!
BA_Harrison7 October 2007
Watch Man Behind the Sun expecting something along the lines of a Chinese Ilsa movie and you might be in for a surprise: this film has none of the camp qualities to be found in most POW exploitation—it's pure cinematic harshness from start to finish with not a buxom leather-booted commandant in sight.

Set at the end of WWII, director T. F. Mous' harrowing tale centres on Camp 731, a medical centre where the Japanese attempt to perfect bacterial weapons, using Chinese prisoners as guinea pigs in their nasty experiments. Mous' objective is to reveal to the world how his people suffered at the hands of their enemy, and in this he totally succeeds; the atrocities that are depicted in Man Behind The Sun are completely sickening and disgustingly convincing.

From the moment that a woman's baby is smothered in snow by a soldier, to the depressing, downbeat finalé in which the camp is razed to the ground by a retreating Japanese army (after shooting and burning all prisoners), this unflinching portrayal of man's inhumanity to man is a total gut-wrencher and certainly not recommended viewing for the easily offended.

In this film, people are treated worse than animals and the 'experiments' they have to endure are shown in every nauseatingly graphic detail: a woman has her arms frozen and then dunked in hot water, allowing the flesh to be easily ripped from her bones; a prisoner is placed in a decompression chamber resulting in his intestines erupting from his body (a scene rumoured to use a real body, but which, according to the director, was actually achieved using special effects); a boy is tricked into being the subject of a live 'autopsy' (cast-iron stomach necessary for this bit—real autopsy footage was shot for this scene!!); and a group of prisoners are 'crucified' in a field and used for target practice by Japanese bombers.

On top of all this there are also two moments of animal cruelty that will have pet-lovers up in arms: a cat is thrown to hungry rats and is eaten alive (not sure if this was done with FX or not, but the cat doesn't look too thrilled), and a load of rats are also set on fire (now this is definitely real!!).

As you have probably gathered, Man Behind The Sun is hard going and should be watched with caution. However, it is a well made film that does what it set out do do—educate viewers about the horrors of war. It's a hard one to rate, because it is such a gruelling movie and can't really be described as entertaining, but I'll give it 8/10 for being so genuinely disturbing.
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Men Behind The Sun
grob2484 January 2001
"Men Behind The Sun" belongs to a totally different category than "Cannibal Holocaust," to which everyone seems to measure up this movie. I haven't seen its other installments, but this first "Men Behind The Sun" is a genuine historical drama with a strong documentary feel, and the notorius torture/experiments scenes only emphasize the film's brooding purpose. Hell, I will go as far as to say that this has far more in common with "Schindler's List" than with the horror genre. Purely in terms of "disgust" aspect, I guess it doesn't surpass "Cannibal Holocaust," but because this movie deals with the actual historical events, it actually turned out to be way more disturbing, despite the "fake documentary" style used in "Cannibal Holocaust." This movie is not a video nasty despite its brutal content. This is very strong and disturbing stuff, but it should be seen.
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10/10
Brutal. Disturbing. Brilliant.
bdeyes814 November 2001
(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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10/10
Not cute
a-moss9 June 2004
Warning: Spoilers
There's been various contests around the internet. "What is sickest movie ever?", "What's the most controversial movie ever?", "What's the most gruesome movie that has ever been made?".. Men Behind The Sun often wins the whole thing. Notoriously banned in a whole lot of country. For a long time unavailable, but has now been released again to the surface.

And now I finally saw it. I didn't look forward to it. Is it as bad as I thought it would be? Well, yes and no. It works pretty much as a normal movie at first. A lot of the story is based around other things than just showing exploitation.

First its centered around these kids(around 16 years old or so) that is joining the 'youth corp' on the camp, and them being learnt how to see the Chinese as "maruta's"(experiment animals or something like that). The kids are quite sweet and you see them having a bit of an argument on their officer Kawamata(which drives them a bit hard). The officers at the camp are not seen as evil men either. They're almost likable actually.. and in my opinion, very well-acted.

The kids play good too. The movie has a good story even though its more famous for other things.

The exploitation scenes then. Well, I thought the scene when they threw the baby away from a screaming hysterical mother and sent the mother away was perhaps the one that showed most inhumanity. And the officer didn't care to kill the baby either, he just shuffled snow with his foot into its carpet so it would stop to cry.

The movie shows that kind of thing three times, and to me that was much worse than the hyped cat scene for example. I don't think the cat actually was killed either. It looks more like it was drugged and they threw some fake blood on it.. you never see any open wounds on it or anything. I know and love cats, I know a cat that is in pain, that one wasn't.. it just seemed annoyed by the rats that surrounded it before it went to sleep.

The scene when they trick that happy little boy, drugs him and starts an autopsy on him is pretty bad though. They have used a real children body here, so I imagine that can be a bit hard for some to watch. The rats that were on fire... probably real too.

All in all though I think its an important movie that should be deemed for being a good movie for people who want to learn about the gruesomeness of it all. Its not really a movie directly for gorehounds exactly.
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You ain't seen nothin' yet! Truly unforgettable.
Infofreak13 January 2002
Watching 'Men Behind The Sun' is a very odd experience, because it's difficult to tell what exactly it is trying to achieve. On the surface it is presented as a supposedly serious expose of some of the little known war crimes committed by the Japanese in WW2. But it is made in such a trashy way (compounded by the badly dubbed copy I watched) that it comes across closer to an 'Ilsa, She-Wolf Of The SS' exploitation movie, minus the sex.

The reason this movie is so notorious is mainly because of a handful of scenes. One sequence, the frostbite experiment, is shocking, but obviously special effects, so gorehounds will treat it like a Romero or Fulci gore scene. However, two others, the autopsy scene, and the decompression chamber scene, appear to use real corpses. These are gruesome but strangely fascinating. What really pushes this movie over the edge though are the two scenes which involve animal abuse. One is very short but involves a horde of fleeing rats being burned alive. This scene is obviously real. The other is the notorious segment which involves a cat being eaten alive by rats. This appears to be real, and if it is, it's the most reprehensible thing I've ever seen in a movie. If it is faked it is one of the most convincing special effects I've ever watched, and even so, the cat is obviously highly distressed.

I must admit I still don't know what to think about this movie. If the film makers genuinely intended this to be a serious look at Japanese atrocities I would applaud it for bringing to attention a disgusting series of events that should not be forgotten. However, as I am dubious about their sincerity, I remain nonplussed. I can't really get all high and mighty about it, because after all I did watch the thing, and therefore I would feel like a hypocrite for having done so. All I can say is that if you want to see an extreme piece of film making and are not easily disturbed, 'Men Behind The Sun' is truly unforgettable.
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8/10
A Testament to a Shameful Past
hellsing21810 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
**Some Spoilers Will Follow** Many people who see this film describe it as exploitation and disgusting. I hate to tell you, but this is what war is, even though what really happened goes far beyond what is allowed. All the experimentation depicted in the movie did actually happen, and much more. The movie itself is not particularly sickening, but nor is it for the faint of heart. The use of a real cadaver may seem like (pardon the pun) "overkill", but it only adds to the realism and just goes to show how strongly the people of China want justice for crimes that to this day have been pretty much suppressed (mostly by Japan and the US government, who gave Shiro Ishii and some of his staff immunity from prosecution in exchange for his medical data). The only complaint I really have of this movie is the poor job done in dubbing it in English which is perhaps some of the worst I have ever seen, but keep in mind that this film was primarily intended for Chinese audiences, not American or European. Some compare this to "Cannibal Holocaust", and while there are some similarities the movies are very different. The main difference being the sadistic nature and heinous acts actually happened in "The Men Behind the Sun". All in all, a truly brilliant piece of cinema that shows just how evil men can be and how incredibly depraved they can act.

**A side note** To all you people out there screaming about animal cruelty, I assure you that no animals were hurt in the making of this movie (yes, the cat scene was totally fake).
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7/10
Unsettling but strangely uncompelling
gillman1124 August 2003
Warning: Spoilers
SPOILER ALERT but theres not much to add to the points given away in other user comments.

First off, I can't imagine that the filmmaker's intentions were solely to gross out the audience or to provide us with some of the old titillating ultraviolence any more than Spielberg did with Schindlers List - I haven't read any of the comments on SL but I can't imagine any users have scored that for gore/sadism/effects.

I'm also completely ignorant of the true facts behind Unit 731 and the work done there but I'm completely willing to believe the user comments that the events in the film are an accurate reflection of what happened there.

The point? Its an extremely well made film, well shot, well acted, good effects (although whether some of them are actually effects appears to be debatable and theres no excuse for animal cruelty regardless of the point you are trying to make - you notice the cat didn't jump once so it was either real old or real drugged when they threw it in there).

I just think if the director was so angry surely he would have made some of the characters in the film three dimensional and sympathetic rather than purely cataloguing the atrocities committed at the camp.

The only vaguely sympathetic characters are the woman whose child is taken away on arrival at the camp (and she's really put through the wringer after that) and the mute boy whose sole purpose seems to be to introduce an element of doubt into one of the Japanese characters.

It sure isn't just an exploitation flick but there's something missing which prevents it from being the devastating emotional history lesson that it seems to want to be. Maybe I'm missing something culturally?

And as for the US harbouring war criminals - wow! who'd have thought. Next thing they'll be telling us that the US supports third world regimes and then declares war on them when they stop co-operating! "Those that forget the past are condemned to repeat it."
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9/10
Excellent Mix of History and Horror
EVOL6669 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Personally, I like this film a lot. Many people go on and on about the "gore" scenes and "animal" scenes, and I feel that anyone who is fixated only on those aspects of MEN BEHIND THE SUN is missing the point. This film is a loose re-creation of real events and should be viewed as such. I don't really see this as a "horror" movie at all. It's basically a graphic depiction of the types of things that the Chinese suffered at the hands of the Japanese during WWII - and these events are still being swept under the rug or denied entirely. I feel that this is a historically relevant film, and should be viewed as such. Now for the gore... there are definitely some scenes in this film that will have the "gorehounds" cheering. Some are very well done (autopsy scene, decompression chamber scene), others are more poorly executed. Yes, there are a few scenes of animal violence, but anyone familiar with any Euro/cannibal film (CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, CANNIBAL FEROX, etc...) will have been exposed to scenes several times more gory and disgusting involving animals. I think the main difference for MEN BEHIND THE SUN is that the main scene in question involves a cat, and most people have more empathy for a cat than for a sea turtle, for instance. Anyway, if a cat getting mauled by rats is extremely offensive to you, this may not be the film for you. I believe that T.F. Mou is a Chinese patriot and set out to "set the record straight" about some things that affected him and his people, and he chose to do this in an unpleasant, unflinching fashion, and for this I applaud him. Obviously the movie was shot on a relatively low budget and it shows at times, but I feel this film is still very effective for what it is trying to accomplish. Again,I would not personally consider MEN BEHIND THE SUN a horror film in the genre sense of the word, although the actions depicted are pretty horrific. I also don't feel that this film is as gory as some have made it out to be, although there are definitely a few rough scenes. If you are seeking this film out to watch a violent bloodbath, you may be sorely disappointed. If you are at all interested in history and can stomach a few intense scenes, than this may be the film for you. Definitely recommended... 9/10
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6/10
Strong movie first, gore scenes second
Stooovie14 August 2002
Please do not watch this movie only for its gory scenes. There aren ´t that many of them and you can see similar ones regularly on Reality TV and the likes. The film´s true driving force is strong acting, good script and the veil of foulness, for the story (and even the gore scenes) are based on true facts and documents. You will certainly be disturbed, but rather for the feeling that what you´re watching really happened. Definetly recommended. 7/10
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7/10
Savage cinema
SteveLakerLondon10 February 2006
Men Behind the Sun deals with the torture of Chinese POWs by their Japanese captors: Air Squadron 731, at the latter's snow-bound concentration camp.

I've seen a lot of extreme cinema in my time: not because I'm a "gorehound" or am constantly seeking the "ultimate nasty" but because I want a film to affect me. I'm very much of the "it's just a film" school and it therefore takes a well-made, strong film in order to allow me to suspend my disbelief.

I've seen most of the so-called "nasties", including Cannibal Holocaust and some of the Guinea Pig series. I didn't find the latter terribly effective and Cannibal holocaust is a gut-munching gore fest in its uncut form but Men Behind the Sun completely eclipses it for sheer brutality.

What makes Men Behind the Sun so effective for me is the relative realism. Zombie movies don't disturb me simply because zombies are fantasy. To a lesser extent, so are cannibals. Both genres have "yuck" moments and on first viewing, Cannibal Holocaust shocked me slightly with its relentless gore. Men Behind the Sun is somehow more calculated.

Why am I making comparisons with Cannibal Holocaust? The majority of film viewers will be familiar with the so-called "video nasties" and will probably have seen some of them. Cannibal Holocaust is generally considered to be the strongest of the video nasties but Men Behind the Sun is in a different league, in my opinion. Men Behind the Sun is to Cannibal Holocaust as Cannibal Holocaust is to say, The Exorcist.

What makes Men Behind the Sun so effective is its realism: humans, not zombies, cannibals or monsters. It deals with what atrocities humans are capable of committing upon their own kind.

Guinea Pig: The Devil's Experiment is a similar study but it has all characterisation and plot stripped away, leaving just the torture. Because of this, there are no characters to engage or empathise with. Certain scenes are very graphic but without context and therefore not affecting.

Men Behind the Sun has characters and plot and most of the film is just that: a film. The torture and experiment scenes are intense sequences set within what is otherwise a normal film. And there lies the film's effectiveness: because it builds characters, we are drawn in. Because the film deals with real life, we are able to suspend our disbelief and become immersed in it.

The torture and experiment scenes in Men Behind the Sun are intense for their unstinting focus and graphic depiction of cruelty. They are disturbing but compelling; like looking at a car crash when you know you shouldn't. The imagery is so graphic and realistic that the scenes stay with you, long after viewing the film.

*** Possible spoilers ***

Even before the gory torture and experiment scenes, we witness utter inhumanity near the beginning of the film, as a mother is robbed of her baby. A Japanese officer simply takes the baby from the mother and tosses it into the snow. As the mother weeps, the officer muffles the baby's cries by kicking snow over it.

Later in the film, we see the mother tied to a wooden structure in the freezing outdoors. An officer approaches her, treading on her baby's body as he does so. Her already frost-bitten arms are doused in cold water several times, before she's taken inside. There, her arms are dipped in a solution of some kind and I shan't describe what follows. To do so would deny any potential viewer one of the biggest shocks of the film. Be prepared.

Continuing the frostbite theme, we see a Chinese man forced to place his arms into a dry ice container. They emerge frozen solid and are then hacked off by a Japanese soldier, breaking like china.

The infamous decompression chamber sequence is where the director is alleged to have used a real cadaver. I can't confirm or deny that but the scene is another shocking one: a Chinese man is placed inside the chamber and the pressure gradually reduced. Eventually, the pressure is so little that the man's colon falls out of his anus.

Another notorious scene is the live autopsy: a deaf, mute Chinese boy, whom the viewer grows to like, is tricked into lying on an operating trolley. There he is anaesthetised with ether before being dissected. Rumours abound that this scene also used a real cadaver but personally I doubt that. I am convinced from the camera cuts that this sequence is just very good special effects. Once done with the boy, the Japanese simply throw his crumpled body into a trailer before he's taken away for incineration: completely inhuman and affecting.

The sequence involving the cat is the one probably most often thought to be real. I can't be absolutely sure but I don't believe this to be the case. Rather, I believe that the cat could have been drugged and certainly think the blood to be fake. In any case, the cat being eaten alive by rats is a very disturbing scene.

*** End of spoilers ***

Overall, this is a strong piece of film-making, in every sense. The story is a worthy one and the unpleasant imagery serves to drive home the message that the film carries. These are not images that are easily erased from one's mind. This film certainly affected me.

I would recommend this film as advised viewing. I wouldn't say to anyone, "If you want to see something really nasty...", or "You have to see this film because it's really gory." Rather, I would advise watching it, with caution and preparedness for what lies within, as a good, powerful film.

This film will stay with me for a long time: savage, powerful and unforgettable
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8/10
You won't enjoy this film but still watch it.
ambiguousnightmare3 January 2014
This film is very heavy, full of gore, torture and suffering. If it was a curry (the hotter the gorier) it is the phaal; certainly not one for those with a weak stomach. Snow is meant to untainted and pure white. In Men behind the Sun it is a torture device. What was once a carpet of untouched white is scarred with crimson Children, babies, women, men and animals are tortured in this film. If you have sensitivities towards any of these groups then please avoid this film. If you can't handle very graphic images that are relentless throughout the film then don't watch it either. There is no light relief. This film shows how desire to win a war turns the human heart into ice.

So who do I recommend this film to? To be honest I can't think of anything beside those with a high gore tolerance. You won't enjoy this film and it was never meant to be. Every torture scene is not art, it is a stake warning. This kind of thing happened once and could happen again. How I wish I had the ability to delete certain scenes from my mind after watching. Despite this I don't regret viewing the thing. On the contrary, it isn't just a mindless gorefest with no purpose other than to titillate and stun the audience. It is beautifully shot and the acting of the large cast is realistic. Like other reviewers have said 'one viewing is enough'. This film will live with you for a long time.
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Disturbing. Mostly because it's based on true events
JappyBoy21 February 1999
This is one of THE most disturbing movies I've seen. The thing that disturbed me the most was that it was based on the events of Squadron 731. The human testing in the movie was well done and pretty realistic. Some scenes were campy, while others made you wanna get up and vomit. The most disgusting to me was the cat thrown in a room of thousands of hungry rats. The rats tore the cat apart, and it was with real a real cat and real rats! No effects! Nonetheless, it was a good movie with a good story. Definitely don't plan to watch this movie with the family (or the cat) after Sunday dinner.
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comments....
face_of_terror15 March 2004
Warning: Spoilers
PLOT

It's the middle of WW2. The Japanese are loosing it and need some new weapons that can help them to win. They capture Chinese and use them as guinea pigs in terrible and shocking experiments to develop deadly bacterial plaques. Experiments take place in a secret 731 Squadron camp. Am not sure but it looks like this movie is based on a true story (if not fully then some elements are , that's for sure).

COMMENTS

This is not really a horror movie but it has some elements and scenes that many horror movies can't even match up with. The scenes with the experiments look as realistic as possible and are really disgusting and disturbing. Every time the scene starts it makes you wonder what makes those Japanese behave like insensible monsters. There's a scene where a child (who is about 1-2 years old) is thrown on the snow and is left for being frozen to death. Meanwhile child's mother is taken outside the camp and soldiers tie her up to the bench and make her hands freeze. Later a head doctor puts her hands in some kind of boiling acid and after that , her flesh just melts down from her hands. The General who is in charge of the 731 Squadron is very interested in getting good results from those experiments so he doesn't even care about his prisoners. A captured Russian woman along with her daughter are thrown into the cage which then gets filled with acid gas.

There's no main characters whatsoever in this movie . When a young soldier gets into friendship with a young Chinese boy we never get to know what's next….Later the doctors just lull this boy and cut his chest to take out his organs for further experiments. After the surgery this soldier takes the boy (or what left of him) to the Crematorium. All those scenes , experiments are not gory , not scary they are just disgusting , and that's what scary about this movie. Director Tung Fei Mo used real corpses in those scenes , and there's also a scene where The General throws a cat into a pit full of rats. I personally think this scene was unnecessary. In the end a soldier reports to The General that Hirosima and Nagasaki are destroyed and that Russians declare war. After that General orders to burn all documents and data , and tells every one to drink acid so no one gets captured by Russians. After seeing this movie you may be asking yourself a question that may never be answered : ` If some of this movie's is true , what was really happening during WW2 ?'

OVERALL

Recommended only for `Japan Shock Video' fans. It does look like documentary at some point, but its not. I don't think an average horror fan will like it either. If you like really sick movies and want to see how far the limits are pushed in this one , try to get the UNCUT version which is about 1 hour and 46-47 mins. Subtitles translation is not really good , stupid at times , but solid enough to understand what's happening.
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8/10
Disturbing but compelling of atrociites in Manchuria
Prof-Hieronymos-Grost5 September 2008
Men behind the Sun is based on "facts" surrounding events carried out by a secret Japanese military outfit called Squadron 731, who were based in Manchuria. They used the local Chinese as their guinea pigs in their quest to find the ultimate in chemical and biological warfare. The film really lives up to its reputation, there is a scene where a mute Chinese boy is lured to their operating theatre and is dissected while alive, the actor was replaced for actual dissection by a real corpse, the dead boys body had been donated by his parents who had allegedly wanted the film to highlight the atrocities. There's another horrible scene in a pressure tank, that has also been mooted to have also been a corpse, although the director has denied it, where the man in question has his insides shoot out his ass as the pressure builds up, Nice!. Added to all these delights are many scenes of torture, there is also some baby killing, animal cruelty and death, child nudity, the setting alight of hundreds of live rats and a live cat is thrown into a room of rabid rats, who then devour it in an extremely overlong scene that last four minutes or so, very extreme and quite sickening. A hideous film that relates just how cruel man can be to his own kind. I still found it a thoroughly compelling viewing.
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Infamous shock / gore flick that actually lives up to it's reputation
Rapeman131 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Men Behind the Sun is based on the atrocities committed during World War II by Japanese Unit 731; a biological warfare research squadron disguised as a water purification unit which specialized in human experimentation. Lead by Lieutenant General Shiro Ishii, Unit 731 was responsible for some of the most horrendous war crimes ever committed. Over 3000. Some of the experiments included live vivisection, deliberately infecting subjects with Bubonic Plague, Syphilis & Gonorrhea in order to study its effects, injecting horse urine into kidneys, testing flame-throwers on live subjects, removing limbs then reattaching them to the other side of the body… and many more horrific acts.

Right up there with other notorious pieces of exploitation cinema such as Cannibal Holocaust, Guinea Pig: Flower of Flesh & Blood, Nekromantik and Salo, Men Behind the Sun has gained a reputation amongst "gorehounds'' and lovers of extreme cinema as a must-see film. It has been viewed alternately as both a gross-out endurance test and a powerful statement on the atrocities of war and the appalling treatment of the Chinese people by the Japanese during WWII. The Japanese referred to their human guinea pigs as "Maruta'' which basically translates to "wood'' or "logs'', this was because they considered them racially inferior and basically garbage, similar to the Nazi's attitude toward Jews.

A lot of the film concentrates on the training of the Youth Corps and the conditioning of the young boys to treat their captives as human garbage. One of the boys befriends a mute Japanese youth from outside the camp and in a scene scored with touching, dramatic music the boys throw a ball to one another over the fence. Later one of the head officers convinces the boy to bring his little mute friend into the camp for an "operation'', he is then taken away and has an autopsy performed on him while still alive (cue real autopsy footage), afterward the boy is given his friends corpse to take down to the basement where a drunk & singing old man cremates all the "Maruta'' bodies.

When not focusing on the activities of the Youth Corps, the film shows some of the medical experiments being carried out at the camp, some of which include: freezing a woman's arms until rock solid, plunging them into boiling water then effortlessly peeling the flesh from the bone. Directly afterward we see a man's arms dipped into liquid nitrogen then hit with a stick which shatters them like glass. A man is put into a decompression chamber and his body implodes causing his anus to erupt and intestines & excrement burst forth. Although, I think the most repulsive scene is when a live cat is thrown into a room filled with thousands of ravenous rats and they tear it to pieces, all the worse because along with the autopsy scene it is also real.

The film has the feel of a pseudo documentary, which adds to the impact and can make for some harsh viewing especially when one considers all these acts and far worse were actually carried out by the Japanese. Although the director maintains he did not intend to make an exploitation film, it does come off as a little exploitive at times. Aside from the autopsy footage and a couple of other scenes, it really isn't all that gory. I think it's more the extremely bleak and depressing tone of the film that makes it what it is. Definitely a film anyone interested in confrontational or historic cinema should see at least once. 8/10
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9/10
There is a reason why this is only 9out of 10...
upptekinn20 October 2006
(excuse my spelling)

And that is because it seems in a strange way just wrong.

There are scenes in this movie that WILL just not go away, they are here to stay.

Im not going to tell you about any of the scenes, it has been done.

The thoughts it awoke are close to watching a good doc. about Chernobyl disaster in 86, and its aftermath...serious..puts you HERE and NOW

I was telling my friend here in Iceland about this movie, and in the middle of our discussion I suddenly realized that I truly didn't want him to carry this one with him. You can say that this one leaves scares behind.

Still she is a masterpiece and not a thing less then just that. Still it is not my place to show it to anybody, you are going to have to be the one to take that step (there will be no return)

thank you
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10/10
The hushed up history of the glorious Japanese empire
dirtyfinger29 May 2006
Japanese relations with it's Asian neighbors are - even nowadays - guarded, although politicians on every side work on establishing normal relationships. Some Japanese however regret that Korean children are still being taught about the 'Japanese devils' in school and young Chinese probably don't look to favorably on them either, although Japanese culture (in the form of Sony and Nintendo) offsets this somewhat racist influence.

When compared to Germany, which managed to kill over 26 million people in WW2 (mostly Russians and about 6 million Jews) the Japanese won the corpse contest by producing over 30 million civilian casualties. Germany, however, is now surrounded by friends, while the Japanese are surrounded by neighbors or outspoken enemies. The fact that they never accepted guilt for the atrocities they committed and never offered an apology might explain this.

And the reason that no victim of Japanese aggression is likely to forgive them can be seen in this movie, where you see a glimpse of what a good imperial Japanese can do to human beings.

For example, the scene where one female prisoner gets her arms amputated in a frost-brand experiment is based upon historic documents and interviews, where prisoners got all limbs removed one by one and the still living head and body were used for biological experiments.

All the butchers got away free, of course, thanks to the valuable data gained by those experiments that the USA got in exchange for immunity.

Unjust world.
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5/10
Truly terrifying
sekizuri11 November 2010
Many of you who's found your way to this page on IMDb, probably already know pretty much what you're getting yourself into. It's terrible, horrifying, sickening, disgusting yet well-made, well- acted and well-directed. It's truly a unique movie, and I can appreciate all the things it does oh so right. If you're looking for something that can show you the ugly side of war or human beings, then you've found it - this is the real deal, and makes Schindler's List look like a day at the theme park in comparison.

But I gotta say, that this is too much. While everything that's being showed doesn't feel out of place or bad in any way, this is not why I go watch movies - it made me depressed and made me feel HORRIBLY bad after I watched it. While the truth of war and reality of things can work in movies, it doesn't work here - it goes beyond whatever we call entertainment or even film, and becomes a document of the most disgusting events you can imagine. If you're a moviegoer like me who appreciates good movies and well done ones, I can't recommend this to you.

If you're just looking for something shocking and grossed out, well, this is probably for you. But damn man, I'm telling you, be READY for what to come. I expected it to affect me, but not this much. It's not so much the events that makes the film horrible - which many reviewers makes it look like - but the overall feeling of authenticity and complete darkness and depression. If this film wouldn't be so damn well-made it'd probably just be another forgotten world war 2-movie.

I've been trying my limits for a long time now, seeing "the worst there is to see" and never really being content or felt that my limit was reached. Well, now it is, and I've frankly had enough. Seeing blood and guts are fine compared to the truly depressed and sickening feeling I had after watching this.

To sum the movie review up: After I saw it I couldn't eat for a week. If that's something you're looking for, then you'll be one pleased movie-goer, but if you're like me and still value the little peace you have in your body, then stay away.
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A Shocking Film
tieman6430 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Tun Fei Mou's infamous war film documents the real life atrocities that the Japanese army regiment of Camp 731 carried out on innocent Chinese and Russian families in their alleged search for bacterial weapons. Produced by Chinese financiers, the film was intended as a big budget propaganda piece, but it works not only as a critique of the Japanese, but also of Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, Egyptian torture cells, the US military and war crimes in general.

It features actual animal mutilation, intense gore effects and scenes in which real dead bodies (known as cadavers) are used. The characters are all either clinical scientists, dispassionate soldiers, or wide eyed, tortured peasants. The film is tasteless and disturbing, but as a window into the depravities of humanity and man's fetish-like need to purify his art of killing, it is very powerful.

The film follows a batch of new Youth Army recruits as they are integrated into Camp 731's way of life. Through their eyes, we're given a tour of the workings of the camp. The film's sadness comes not only from the acts of torture, which these young men witness, but for their gradual loss of innocence, as they see what their fellowmen are capable of. In a sense, the audience become these recruits, and when the film is over, we weep, our own innocence having been lost.

The film portrays some of the saddest and most harrowing sequences you are likely to see. In all my years of film-watching, only "Salo" so shook me up. It oozes a sick atmosphere of pain and suffering. But this isn't the cloying, teary eyed suffering of "Schindler's List" or the peekaboo horrors of "Saving Private Ryan" or even the painful surrealism of "Come and See". This is simply a clinical show reel of death. It is about men conducting experiments on other human beings. Human beings whom they view as being rats. Animals beneath them.

And this is the film's most powerful statement. Once you stop viewing your enemy as "human" you become a monster. You dissect and inflict pain upon him as if he were a mere lab rat. You bomb his villages and kill his family because he means nothing to you. He is beneath you, a sub species, an animal, and you are free to slaughter and do with him as you please.

We can draw parallels to the European view of Africans during the slave trade. The black man is not a human, he is an animal, and we are free to abuse him. Similarly, in the eyes of the Japanese, the Chinese man is not a human, he is an animal. In the eyes of the West, the Arab is not a human, he is an animal. In the eyes of the Nazis, the Jew is not a human, he is a dirty animal.

To justify their own barbarianism, world leaders constantly demote their enemies. They make them out to be mere dogs, and then proceed to slaughter them like dogs.

Some of the film's "graphic" scenes now look dated and staged, while others look incredibly realistic, with real corpses and real blood and dismemberment. Mous' direction is flat and isn't anything spectacular. It's simply the subject matter and his willingness to focus on the gore in a matter-of-fact manner which makes the film compelling.

Character development is non existent, yet we carry on watching, because, like a bad car accident, we want to see more. We want the scientists to lead us to that next room. Do we watch because man is innately curious or does something darker draw us?

Some of the horror scenes are truly stomach churning. In one sequence, a Chinese woman is taken out into the snow, has ice water dumped on her arms until they freeze solid. She is then taken back inside and has her arms dipped in hot water. When she takes them out, the General pulls the skin and muscle right off. In another sequence, we see a man put into a decompression chamber. The pressure is steadily increased until he shoots his intestines out of his anus. It's disgusting, but gets even more disturbing when you learn that Mou used a real cadaver for the scene. That was a real corpse shooting out real intestines.

Later on, we see a young mute boy lured into an operating theatre, drugged, then autopsied while he is still alive. The body here is a real human corpse as well. And then there's the famous scene with the rats, in which literally thousands of starving rats attack and consume a cat.

The film was assaulted by Chinese critics upon release, and labled a snuff film and exploitation movie. But the time is now right for a re-evaluation. We've become desensitized and can now "stomach" what Mao want's to show us. What's ironic is that as man modernises and progresses he becomes desensitized to these horrors. Surely our tolerance for horror should lessen as we become more advanced. But no, these things don't shock us as they should anymore. Indifference is always proportionate to empathy.

8/10- Flawed and at times it dips into Chinese propaganda. Yet for the most part, this is powerful, compelling and disturbing cinema. Very sick and gory. Not for everyone.
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Immensely enjoyable experience
fertilecelluloid29 December 2003
If your idea of an immensely enjoyable experience is an experience that takes you way, way out of your comfort zone, then MAN BEHIND THE SUN is the film for you.

And me.

I loved it when I first saw it over a decade ago. Its parade of atrocities, based on real events, thundered by my pupils and never really faded.

The style is interesting because it's both historical and exploitive. Director T.F. Mous, no stranger to the bizarre (see LOST SOULS or BLACK SUN for further credence), directs with a clear, unflinching gaze that pays its respects to the kind of people who enjoy autopsy videos while exploring subject matter that flirts with the arthouse crowd. Not that Mous is pretentious. He simply wants it both ways. And why shouldn't he?

Mous' style is unique. It's what makes him Mous. I wouldn't want him served up any other way.

It's why he's made a film I respect enormously about a horrible subject that deserves all the airplay it can get.

MAN BEHIND THE SUN broadens the definition of "entertainment" by transporting us to places that are interesting to visit but rotten to live in.

Thrill to the incredible special effects, too, but ignore the two non-Mous sequels.
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