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Chinese peasants fight to survive the Japanese occupation during World War II.
In the spring of 1937, in the valley of Ling, China, Ling Tan and his family busily plant seedlings in their rice paddies, unaware of the strife that is about to consume their country. Ling's wife is concerned because their youngest son, Lao San, her husband's favorite, is still a carefree bachelor, while Ling's middle son, Lao Er, worries that his wife Jade spends too much time away from home. One night, Lao Er drags Jade from a village meeting, at which the recent Japanese invasion of the north is being discussed, and chastises her for neglecting her wifely duties. Fearing that Jade, who was also courted by his cousin, is not truly in love with him, Lao Er questions her about her feelings, and she confesses her ambivalence toward him. After Lao Er agrees to share his deepest thoughts with her that night, however, Jade instantly warms to him. As they exchange confidences, Jade begs Lao Er to buy her a book, revealing that, unlike most peasant women, she knows how to read. Lao Er at first balks at the idea, saying that Jade is too independent and modern, but finally agrees to make the purchase. The next day, Lao Er asks his literate brother-in-law, Wu Lien, a city merchant specializing in Japanese goods, to recommend a title for Jade, and Wu Lien suggests the book All Men Are Brothers . Wu Lien is then confronted by a mob of angry students, who demand that he agree to stop selling Japanese merchandise. When Wu Lien refuses to comply, his shop is destroyed. That night, Lao Er presents Jade with All Men Are Brothers and swears his undying love, and she is at last persuaded to return his affection. Sometime later, after Jade reveals to Lao Er that she is pregnant, the farmers notice Japanese airplanes bombing the nearby city. Ling, an ardent pacifist, goes to inspect the city with Lao San and is shocked to see the destruction there. Back at home, Ling, Lao San and eldest son Lao Ta vow to remain on the farm despite the anticipated Japanese incursion, but Lao Er and Jade announce that they are joining a group of refugees dedicated to resistance. Soon after Jade and Lao Er leave with the refugees, the Japanese Army takes over the valley, and Lao Ta's wife Orchid is raped and killed by a group of soldiers, who also kill Wu Lien's elderly mother. Enraged by what he has seen, Lao San declares that he is leaving to fight the Japanese and is joined by Lao Ta. In the city, the traitorous Wu Lien, meanwhile, agrees to become the local leader of the new Japanese-controlled government. Jade and Lao Er then reach the mountain headquarters of the resistance movement, while many in occupied China, including Lao Ta's three children, die slowly from hunger and disease. In the midst of their grief, Ling and his wife, who have begun hiding food from the Japanese, are surprised by the return of Lao Er, Jade, and their infant son. Jade explains that they have come to foment resistance among the farmers and plan to use Ling's house as their base. After arming themselves with weapons stolen from the Japanese, the resistance fighters, including Lao San, launch a deadly surprise attack on some Japanese soldiers who are trying to force the village men into slavery. The attack is successful, but Ling is distressed to see how bloodthirsty Lao San has become. Later, Ling's third cousin and his domineering wife, who has long resented Jade for marrying Lao Er instead of her now-deceased son, visit Wu Lien at his Japanese-guarded mansion. When Wu Lien suggests that the couple act as spies for him, Third Cousin's wife blurts out that Jade and Lao Er are hiding out at Ling's house and are resistance leaders. After a shame-faced Third Cousin reveals his wife's betrayal to Ling, Lao Er and the other men debate how best to handle Wu Lien. During their discussion, Jade sneaks off to her brother-in-law's mansion and questions him about his loyalties. Feeling that Wu Lien will eventually expose his relatives, Jade slips into his kitchen, where a lavish banquet is being prepared, and pours poison into some duck sauce. Scores of Japanese officers die from the poison, and Wu Lien is shot and killed in revenge. Months later, at harvest time, Jade and Lao Er return from another trip to the mountains and tell Ling and the other elders that as their final act of resistance, they must burn their crops and farms. When Ling refuses to destroy his land, Lao San condemns him as a coward. Later, however, Jade delivers an impassioned speech to the elders and convinces Ling that he must sacrifice his present life to ensure his grandson's future. Ling and his wife then set fire to their crops and house and flee to the mountains with Lao Er and Jade. Upon arriving at the resistance camp, Ling and Lao San finally reconcile. Later, as Ling and his wife prepare to leave for free China, Lao Er and Jade, who have chosen to remain and fight, entrust their son, the "seed of the dragon," to his loving grandparents' care.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||New York opening: 20 Jul 1944|
|Release Date:||1944||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||Loew's Inc.|
|Sound:||Mono (Western Electric Sound System)||Production Co:||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.|
|Duration(mins):||146 or 148||Country:||United States|
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