Blood on the Sun (aka "The Big Fight") (1972)
Starring: Roc Tien and Ching Ching Chang
Director: Ting Mei Sung
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars
During the Japanese occupation of northern China during WW2, a local commander of the forces occupying a small town and its corrupt, collaborating leadership engage in a campaign of oppression and terror. When resistance fighters start appearing and successfully challenging, the Japanese stage a competition where they invite the villagers to test their fighting skills against the best of martial artists in the region's occupying force, hoping pride will draw out the rebels and allow them to be killed.
"Blood on the Sun" is nicely staged martial arts drama with thoroughly despicable, perverted villains (the Japanese troops and their Chinese collaborators harass and/or rape any woman they come across... and that's just to warm up) and brave, morally upstanding peasant heroes.
This movie is one of countless Chinese movies that portray the Japanese military as evil, perverted butchers... and given what happened in places like Nanking and in backwaters like the one portrayed in this film, it's understandable. However, it is also a great martial arts movie with some great set-piece fight scenes--like the one where the girl resistance fighter whips off her skirt and reveals it to be lined with dozens of razor-sharp metal disks and ready for use as a weapon--and better-than-average dubbing (as far as obscure 1970s martial arts flicks go).
The film will also entertain those who appreciate down-to-earth, realistic martial arts battles. The most fantastic the film even gets is when the hero throws a dagger at a Japanese soldier and kills him without even turning around to draw aim. And please don't mistake down-to-earth with boring in this case. Every single fight in this film is very dramatic and exciting. In fact, I think I this film may now rank among my favorite martial arts movies of all time.
Of course, with a movie like this, one has to just live in the moment and not consider what happens to the heroes once the film is over. Given the historical truth regarding the brutality of the Japanese Imperial Army, I doubt any of the villagers in the film would survive for long once more troops arrived and that the burning rubble of their homes would serve as their graves. The triumph at the end of this film is a fleeting one at best, and while the Japanese were ultimately defeated, uprisings such as the one in this film in reality ended badly for the rebels.
Still, "Blood on the Sun" is an entertaining and well-paced film. The only real complaint I have is with the abrupt ending, but I'm not sure if the version I saw is complete. The print used for the DVD transfer was pretty ragged in places, so I wouldn't be surprised if a few seconds were completely missing at the end. (Despite this flaw, I count this film among the many pleasant surprises that I've found in the "Martial Arts 50 Movie Pack" DVD collection.