Shot as a late silent but released with music and effects, Sun's classic is pitched as a call for national defence against the Japanese, unnamed for censorship reasons. Six unemployed men leave the city to work as labourers on a new national highway. Sun starts out celebrating their camaraderie on and off the job and their flirtations with two young waitresses. The plot arrives when some of them are imprisoned and tortured by a local warlord in league with 'the enemy'. Sun was the only US-trained director in Shanghai, but his ideas are fresh and irreducibly Chinese. One scene, in which the estimable Li Lili refuses to avert her gaze from the sight of the men bathing naked, clearly derives from Borzage's The River. Otherwise, the main thing Sun picked up from Hollywood movies was his well developed sense of fun.
Cast and crew