From the depths of Kong Kong’s exploitation film history comes Men Behind The Sun (Hei Tai Yang 731), a “holy shit this actually happened” account of one of history’s most brutal and sadistic war crimes, Unit 731, brought to the screen in 1988 by T.F. Mous.
It’s estimated that 250,000 men, women, and children were experimented on and eventually killed either by the experiment or by soldiers under the direction of General Ishii, the lunatic leader of Japan’s notorious military unit. Unit 731 was a biological and chemical warfare research facility that performed hideous experiments on captured Chinese during World War II. Officially, the operation was known as the Epidemic Prevention of Water Purification Department and was set up by the Kempeitai military police, but in reality it was designed to create the most motherfucking deadly biological plague to end all plagues to unleash on the Chinese countryside. To this end, tens of thousands of people and animals were tortured to discover how to most effectively kill them.
T. F. Mous didn’t intend to make an “exploitation” film though (Men Behind The Sun isn’t an Asian SALO by any means), he wanted to create an educational epic to inform the world of what had been done by the Japanese. In Australia the film was just outright banned, in Japan, there was such a backlash (many Japanese refuse to admit to their country’s participation in war crimes) that Mous received death threats, and there was numerous criticism for the animal abuse that takes place in the film. According to most accounts, the animal vivisections, rat massacres, live cat skinning and other hideous experiments were, in fact, done with live animals. While the director has publicly disputed this fact, many who worked on the film confirm they went all the way…up to including real autopsy footage of a young boy.
But outside of the above scenes, the endless, brutal torture inflicted on the prisoners never lets up. And while not a fantastic film by any stretch, the scenes of over the top, stomach churning torture and gore become more impactful and nauseating by their true-to-life nature…everything in the film is based on notes and “research” recovered by the US when they destroyed Unit 731, research we still use to this day for medical and cosmetic research. Now THAT is disturbing.
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