By Jerome Reuter
What happens when you take one of the most controversial films of all time, make a carbon copy of it, and have it directed by a master of low budget Kung-Fu movies? The answer is simple; you get Maruta 2:Laboratory Of The Devil. Truth be told, this one defies logical explanation. When played alongside T.F. Mau’s Men Behind The Sun, the similarities are impossible to ignore. When I say similarities, I mean segments that are blatantly ripped off. If you showed this film to someone and told him or her it was by Bruno Mattei, they’d more than likely believe you. Then again, this is a work from Godfrey Ho. He’s someone famous for using stock footage from other films, to benefit his own.
Much like the film this is copying, this is about the infamous Unit 731. The key difference between the two films is this: the presentation. Men Behind The Sun is a film that’s made to provoke your senses. T.F. Mau made a complex work that would shock the viewer, which would draw attention to one of the darker parts of human history. Aside from that, it had a interesting look at the indoctrination of youth into an ideology. Maruta 2 tries to do this, but it comes across more like an exploitation film. Copying the scenes of frostbite experiments, gassing, and conventional weapons testing.
As far as plot goes, the story seems somewhat far-fetched, even for a Ho film. Our story begins with a reunion of the surviving members of Unit 731. They’re being assembled so they can utilize what they’ve discovered from their experimentations, to build new biological weapons. It’s sort of feels like the old ‘hey dude, let’s get the band back together’ angle. However, this is only the introduction to our story. (Thank god.)
The film itself is told as in flashback. It follows the story of two young doctors arriving to work for the unit. What follow are the experiments we expect to see in a film such as this. There’s also a sub-plot about one of the doctors missing his fiancé, and her later disguising herself as a maruta to get closer to him at the compund. In case you were unaware, maruta are what the Japanese referred the prisoners they experimented on as. It roughly translates to ‘log’ in Japanese, further dehumanizing the test subjects.
The whole romance sub plot really doesn’t fit, at all. If anything it makes this work seem stale, and lacking in any purpose. When you have children being trained to think like adults under a dictatorship, it shows how a child isn’t born with hatred, it’s taught to them. Two doctors who have doubts about the ideology they’re expected to follow doesn’t fit with a story such as this. Considering that at this time Japanese soldiers still saw their emperor as a living god, it’s hard to believe.
I fully understand the fact that film is supposed to entertain. Following every historical detail might not be the goal of every auteur. However, you’re dealing with one of the worst crimes of the 20th century, you need to get your facts straight. You owe it to the victims of 731.
This suffers from the same problems Philosophy Of A Knife had. It’s simply exploiting historical fact for entertainment. This is a form exploitation we can do without. It’s poorly written, and not worth the time for a viewing. The difference between this and some of the works in the Nazi-sploitation sub genre is easy to see. In those films, the Nazi’s are simply a vehicle to show soft-core pornography, and at times a mild torture segment. Most of those films aren’t based in reality, at all. When they are, it’s something like Salon Kitty or SS Girls. (Which itself is a rip off of Salon Kitty.) This film falls into the category of what I call ‘731-sploitaion.’ I’d also like to add, it’s one that’s also completely unnecessary.