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Men Behind The Sun

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Posted 21st May 2009 at 01:28 PM by Sam@Cult Labs

From the annals of DVDisgo and DVDresurrections

Men Behind The Sun

The ultimate geek show movie or a harsh indictment of Japan's war crimes during the second world war? Maybe it's both but be assured, Men Behind The Sun is one of the harshest, most uncompromising films ever committed to celluloid and then inflicted on an audience.

The film open with some young male adolescents who are about to embark on special training with a secret arm of the Japanese military. They will travel to mainland China and start work in a prison camp where the inmates are used for experimental purposes. They bully a local Chinese kid while they wait.

On arrival they first need to be hardened to the atrocities they will witness. Harsh training in subzero conditions and the cold blooded murder of one of their number all serve to illustrate the inhuman and soul destroying nature of the young boys harsh regime. Of course this is nothing compared to how the prisoners are treated. Seen by the Japanese occupiers as little more than human guinea pigs, the local Chinese population are about to be experimented upon in the most evil and graphic way imaginable. In this respect the movie is true horror is the textbook sense of the word. There's no jokes here or ironic winks to the audience designed to give the viewers a safety. "Oh well, I like watching people get killed for entertainment but the directors letting me in on the gag so i don't have to question my motives...". Men Behind The Sun plays it straight and will rip your heart out!

The flimsy plot tells the story of Japan's slow slide into defeat through meetings and memos to the camp commandant. We also learn about the various types of research that the camp is undertaking in detail. But all this is just icing on the cake. The main elements of the film are a series of increasingly twisted and near unwatchable scientific torture scenes. On a first viewing the shock is incredible, mind blowing, and you will find it hard to accept this stuff isn't real (some of it is... The curse of Italian exploitation, animal death, raises it's nasty head here, don't watch this if you have an affinity for rats!).

Second viewings lessen the shock and show up some of the joins in the special effects but it's still incredibly powerful, breathtaking stuff. Among the atrocities offered up in order to "educate" us on the horror of wartime experiments are a women having her arms frozen with icy water then stripped of the flesh, a man placed into a decompression chamber till he turns inside out, a mother and child gassed and numerous prisoners tied to posts and blown up. The really distressing thing about all this carnage is that the child soldiers are always with us, taking mental notes and becoming ever more desensitized and inhuman. A scene in which a superior officer violently drums anti-Chinese racism into the boys is really shocking, especially as the boys are afforded the opportunity to beat a man senseless afterwards. It's this brain washing aspect of the movie that really grinds at your emotions. Each gory shock is a double hitter as first you take the scene in yourself and react accordingly then you take stock of the fact that a group of adolescent boys have been forced to watch the atrocity as well and that they are slowly losing the ability to see others as human. Here lies the key to the real horror of the piece.

This film purports to be based on true events and the documentary styled opening and a down played grimly realistic tone combined with fairly high production values, add a sheen of class to the proceedings that allows the film to get it's twisted, evil jollies at the expense of the viewer. I don't know whether this review is a recommendation or not. I did enjoy it, if that's the right word, but it did make me question just how jaded I'd become. This movie sits on a delicate knife edge between wishing to give a serious message about the horrors of war and being one of the most amoral exploitation flicks of all time. It's a well crafted film but the decision about if you want to wallow in it's heinous excesses I'll leave up to you.
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  1. Old Comment
    iluvdvds@Cult Labs's Avatar
    Nice review Sam! I've been meaning to see this one. Would you say it's better than The Nanking Massacre?
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 22nd May 2009 at 12:29 PM by iluvdvds@Cult Labs iluvdvds@Cult Labs is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Sam@Cult Labs's Avatar
    it's certainly a more unpleasant experience. I think they're equally interesting movies.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 22nd May 2009 at 12:47 PM by Sam@Cult Labs Sam@Cult Labs is offline
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