Sons of the Good Earth is a 1965 war drama and epic film produced by Shaw Brothers, set during the First Sino-Japanese War. Loosely based on the novel The Good Earth from Pearl S. Buck, with some Adaptational Name Change and more action scenes thrown in for good measure.
Set in 1937 in the outskirts of China, the story revolves around two lowly painters, Yu Rui and Lao San, the former who acts as a big brother figure to the latter. While painting the exterior of a city building one day, Yu Rui unintentionally interrupts the suicide attempt of He Hua (Betty Ting) - "Lotus" - as she tries throwing herself out of a window. Learning of the fact that He Hua was actually a brothel worker oppressed by her masters, Yu Rui decides to help her regain freedom. Despite unlikely circumstances, a romance begins between Yu Rui and He Hua, and they're eventually married... only for the Japanese invasion to occur a week later.
The director, King Hu, would have his career skyrocketing with his immediate next film after this one - the martial arts classic, Come Drink With Me.
Tropes of the Good Earth:
- Actionized Adaptation: Yeah, the huge, lengthy, 15-minute long battle sequence between the town rebels and the Japanese? Nowhere to be found in the book.
- An Arm and a Leg: Before killing the Japanese Commander, Yu Rui hacks off the Commander's wrist using his own katana.
- Band of Brothels: Where He Hua was introduced working at in her first scene.
- Big Badass Battle Sequence: The final battle where Yu Rui, Lao San, and members of the La Résistance leads a brave, final assault on the Japanese forces occupying the town. Plenty of extras are used in that scene, which is likely the most expensive large-scale battle from the Shaws at that point of the studio's existence.
- Big Damn Reunion: The final scene, where Yu Rui, assuming he's lost everyone close to him, decide to leave town, only to be reunited with his presumed-missing wife He Hua while on his way out. Cue happy reunion, and roll credits.
- Contrived Coincidence: At the end of the film, Yu Rui, after his best friend's death and losing contact with his wife He Hua, decides to leave the town altogether to go Walking the Earth. But just as he's leaving the outskirts, he ends up bumping into He Hua, who is being sent back home with the rest of the women after the war had ended, and both of them ends up meeting each other at the precise same time.
- Death of a Thousand Cuts: Yu Rui, upon realizing his best friend Lao San has been killed by the Japanese Commander, guns down the Commander non-fatally, grabs the Commander's katana and whack off the Commander's arm from the wrist, before repeatedly slashing, stabbing, and hacking apart on the Commander's face.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: He Hua, the brothel worker who's a Nice Girl and ends up falling for Yu Rui after he decides to bail her out of the whorehouse. The feeling is mutual.
- Interrupted Suicide: How Yu Rui and He Hua first met.
- The Lancer: Lao San, Yu Rui's best friend and sidekick who tags along with the hero for much of the film.
- La Résistance: The local underground guerilla who operates privately, trying to liberate the town from the Japanese occupiers. They mostly consist of conscripts, volunteers and survivors of the war in the outskirts.
- Les Collaborateurs: General Ma, the commanding officer of the town's military, turns out to be secretly working for the Japanese invaders. A few of his soldiers are willingly serving the invaders as well.
- More Dakka: The final battle between the resistance and the Japanese invaders have heavy-machine guns being used on both sides, and plenty of shots fired.
- Playing Possum: How the Japanese Commander managed to kill and ambush Lao San, pretending to be killed by a grenade blast, before suddenly attacking with his katana.
- Plunder: At the end of the film, after the war is over, a lonely Yu Rui is shown polishing the katana he took from the Japanese Commander, after killing the weapon's former owner using that same weapon.
- Redshirt Army: The resistance fighters in the town battle serves this purpose.
- Sacrificial Lion: Lao San, who gets killed by the Japanese Colonel after taking down a whole Japanese platoon.
- Shot at Dawn: The town battle ends with the resistance eventually being defeated, with a scene depicting captured resistance leaders being executed by the Japanese. But Yu Rui and most of their members managed to evacuate in time, just as reinforcements arrive days later.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: The romance between the main characters, Yu Rui being a lowly street painter, and He Hua being a brothel servant and prostitute. Even after he managed to liberate her from the whorehouse, the Japanese invasion happens. They do ultimately end up together by the end of the film.
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: After the town battle ends with the population being evacuated, including Yu Rui and his surviving allies, in the next scene the narration states that the war had ended months later, due to the Japanese surrendering and leaving after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We are then treated to a montage of the survivors rebuilding town, going back to their lives, and Yu Rui, having lost contact with his wife He Hua, and witnessing his best friend Lao San's death, deciding to leave town. But Yu Rui ends up meeting He Hua in the outskirts, right before the credits.