Mar 5, 2011

Maruta 3 ... Destroy all Evidence


Alternately titled Men Behind the Sun 3: A Narrow Escape, Maruta 3 is a spiritual sequel to T.F. Mou's Men Behind the Sun. Having previously directed Men Behind the Sun 2: Laboratory of the Devil, Godfrey Ho returns to the reigns of schlock-shock with an entirely unnecessary sequel to a film that needn't a sequel. I had previously reviewed this film, unbeknownst to me as I set out to watch it. This must say something about the quality of the film for I only felt a twinge of Déjà vu once but kindly shrugged it off. What a coincidence it was to see that a comment had been left on my older review the day I happened to revisit the dreadful film. Regardless of this minor setback, I intend to update my previous thoughts of Maruta 3 with knowledge of the atrocities in depth as documented in the late Iris Chang's document The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II. You see, the pressure from such aggravated Japanese nationalists and the burden of the pain suffered by her people pushed Mrs. Chang into taking her own life. This itself is an event with such deadly agitation that no bargain exploitation title could ever encompass.

What Godfrey Ho succeeds at is a feat that should be, unquestionably, easy enough for a child to pull off; capturing the grueling patriotism of the Japanese. Maruta 3 takes place as Unit 731 struggles to escape with the secret of the atrocities committed intact. The comical aspect of this is Godfrey Ho's notorious ability to make even the most dramatic of instances into running gags and Maruta 3 is no stranger to this. The character Ito in Maruta 3 bears a fatal infection in a manner linearly comparable to Godfrey Ho's filmmaking,  from which stems a powerful irony. This is illustrated in keen example as a commanding officer issues the news that Japan has surrendered to the invading Russian forces. This, in turn, prompts a scene in which many-a-soldier commits seppuku and/or take their own lives with a complimentary vial of arsenic. A scene of this sort should idolize the selfless servant to state but under God Ho's command becomes that of sketch comedy. This play on death is as rigid and under-realized as a theater form - lapsing in and out of dramatic prose. The rat-trap that Ho got twisted up in past the error of his Chinese-shit aesthetic was his laziness combined with his willingness to disturb. This led him to recycle past footage of the original Men Behind the Sun within Maruta 3. While Godzilla could somewhat successfully use this to its advantage, in Maruta 3, this leads to many characters reminiscing the cruelties suffered by Chinese prisoners of war with contrived flashback sequences and the obligatory "Oh god, what have we done?" tantrum.

Regarding Godfrey's cost-effective decision to recycle scenes of grue, you'd think handling a scene in which a group of demoralized soldiers overlook a train station littered with assorted clothing and blood spilled everywhere would be moving, at least minimally. This sequel has nowhere near the same effect as the original, neither in shock value or in exploitive tone. While Maruta 3 may include scenes of live autopsies and the obligatory severed-limb-in-jar, the film can not sustain any form of shock value nor can it withhold any emotional impact, let alone impact of any kind. Maruta 3 will dissolve as salt in water after your introductory viewing. Take my prior inspection for example. I forgot I had even seen this film, let alone reviewed it. I'd recommend avoiding this title at all costs as you, too, might end up viewing this waste of entitlement twice, as I have already done. If you haven't viewed the original Men Behind the Sun, do so immediately as it serves as a rite of passage for any aspiring "cult" or "gore" fan, catering to both with its illicit controversy. 

Godfrey Ho attempts to take duty in either immortalizing the horrors of Unit 731 or slandering the ordeal. I cannot tell because either way this experiment was a failure. Maruta 3 just equates into an anti-Japanese sentiment aimed straight for the heart of Manchuria. The guilty party within the film feign a guilty conscious but to pull off an emotional effect as such, would require skilled actors, which I'm sure Godfrey Ho does not have at his disposal. Not even the angst or the cultural reconciliation make this film anything other than a visual distraction from superior daily duties such as washing dishes. The namesake of the film's English distribution alone should exist a shred of enjoyment to be had in this slice of Oriental schlock, but behold, a barren viewing experience. Maruta 3 features no sex, hardly any original performances of violence, and a whole helpings worth of dismal drama to be consumed. It is hardly a way to spend a Saturday night, that is for sure. Of course, we get it Godfrey, "casualties of war...". As far as his ethnicity goes, Godfrey Ho appealed to the title Men Behind the Sun as this doomed unit of "unspeakable evil" needed their cinematic comeuppance. Imagine a film presenting Unit 731without the cruel, hyper-aesthetic of Russian auteur Andrey Iskanov or the amiable T.F. Mou. Maruta 3 stands as a drab war drama that closes on a note of superior cinematography; a a scene of a live burial, the only iconic image in the film.



Phantom of Pulp said...

I saw this stinking carrion at the cinema on a double bill with the equally stinking 'The Sniper'. Never did a film so encompass the meaning of unnecessary.

Soiled Sinema said...

I hope you're referring to the "action" film The Sniper which was released in the 00s. If so, I've been trying to trudge through that film for months.