I’m a big war movie buff, particularly those involving WW2, even if my all-time favorite would have to be All Quiet On The Western Front, which is WW1. I think the best war movies are those that are not interested in patriotism, but the ones that show not only what the war can do to the body, but the morality of a human being. Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter, and Story Of A Soldier. Well, The Nanking Massacre falls into these films as one of the most brutal and realistic war films ever made, which is strange considering it was basically made to be Part 4 of the legendary exploitation series known as the “Men Behind The Sun”, where we are previewed to the Japanese atrocities done to the Chinese during the Second World War. The first one is really good, but two and three are real stinkers. This one, part 4, is pretty damn good.
The Nanking Massacre is based on the taking of the city of Nanking in China by Japan in the late 30’s, and the wholesale slaughter and rape of the city. What makes this movie so powerful is the fact that it’s completely grounded in reality. Every fact in the film is backed up by documentary footage and even photos of the massacres going on while it happens on the screen. We are previewed to crazy Japanese soldiers raping women and children (yes, children), families being slaughtered, a pregnant woman having her stomach ripped open and her fetus extracted with a bayonet, a kid thrown into a boiling cooking pot, and a grandma who sacrifices every member of her family to the fire, killing two soldiers in the process. The most disturbing aspect to me, however, were the competitions between the soldiers to cut off the heads of the Chinese people, each ranking themselves as heroes depending on how many heads they had cut with their Samurai swords. The biggest hero had taken 300. Most of the violence is done from the point of view of children, something Sam Peckinpah used to do with his films, and in the end we see two children walking through deserted Nanking streets with nobody in sight.
There’s really not a lot more I can say about this film. Like every good war film, it’s a movie that can really upset you or even ruin your mood if you watch it in the wrong state of mind, as you are previewed to things that really happened. In it’s defense however, I will say that this movie does more in showing what real war and slaughter is all about without resorting to cartoonish patriotism of a Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Dawn or other pro-Military propaganda of the sort. It’s a great film that should be discovered not just by exploitation enthusiasts, as it’s a legitimate work of art.