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Teruo Ishii
Yumiko Katayama, Teruo Yoshida, Masumi Tachibana
Writing Credits:
Teruo Ishii

Yumi becomes a geisha to pay a debt but finds herself in a sadistic brothel.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Japanese PCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 7/7/2020

• Audio Commentary with Film Critic Tom Mes
• “Erotic Grotesque Nonsense” Featurette
• Trailer


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Inferno of Torture [Blu-Ray] (1969)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 17, 2020)

If you ever wondered, “hey – did the Japanese make anything like US drive-in fare back in the 1960s?”, I can give you an answer: yup! Though perhaps more artistically inclined that the usual exploitation flick in the US, 1969’s Inferno of Torture packs enough skin and violence to suit American cinemas.

Due to a financial debt she can’t repay, Yumi (Yumika Katayama) agrees to become a geisha for two years. At the end of that term, she can go back to her old life.

However, Yumi winds up in a much different situation than expected, as this “house of geishas” instead turns out to be a brothel rife with violence for the pleasure of Westerners. She does what she needs to survive, and that leads her to become a living canvas for competitive tattoo artists.

Well, there’s a story you don’t see everyday! Director Teruo Ishii declares his cinematic intentions right off the bat, as the film’s very first scene shows a crucified woman who gets impaled in – or close to – her girlie parts.

We then follow with a shot of women buried in the ground up to their necks. One promptly gets her head sawed off.

Alrighty then! There’s something to be said for setting a tone, and Ishii ensures we understand what kind of film he’ll deliver.

Unfortunately, Ishii fails to find too much else along the way. Though it eventually attempts some form of a coherent narrative, too much of Inferno feels like little more than wanton brutality in search of a story.

I do like the non-linear manner in which Ishii tells the tale, as this creates a little intrigue. However, this approach can feel more like an attempt to hide the plot’s inherent lack of character development or depth than anything else.

Some of the problem comes from the persistently ugly sensibility of the movie. By the time we get to any stab at a real plot, we feel so disconnected due to the violence that we don’t care what happens.

As such, when Inferno tries something a bit more conventional and less graphic, it feels like too little, too late. We get a half-hearted love story between Yumi and tattoo artist Horihide (Teruo Yoshida) but this seems gratuitous and blah.

All that brutality really does make the movie tough to take. I’m no delicate flower, and if the ugliness connected to the story in an important manner, I wouldn’t mind.

I defend the much-loathed Salo for that reason. As unpleasant as the movie can be, it exists as a commentary on fascism that proves effective.

Although it tries for some social relevance eventually, Inferno lacks anywhere close to the same level of introspection. The movie revels in its crudeness and doesn’t seem to want much more than to disgust the viewer- or titillate those who derive pleasure from violence aimed at women.

That’s not me. If the film’s nastiness served a greater purpose, I’d not mind it, but as it stands, Inferno turns into an ugly, sadistic film.

The Disc Grades: Picture C/ Audio D/ Bonus B-

Inferno of Torture appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a watchable but erratic image.

Sharpness bore the brunt of the transfer’s issues, as definition seemed less than stellar. While some scenes offered good clarity, other felt somewhat soft and fuzzy.

I suspect that these issues stemmed from the source, but I couldn’t figure out why the movie came with so much softness. I discerned no storytelling rhyme or reason, so I found myself left with an image that usually demonstrated adequate clarity but that varied a lot.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. With a healthy layer of grain, noise reduction didn’t appear to become an issue, and print flaws remained absent.

Colors tended toward a sense of greens and reds, none of which boasted much vivacity. While not bad, the hues felt somewhat less than appealing.

Blacks seemed fairly deep, while low-light shots boasted mostly positive delineation. Really, the mediocre sharpness became the main issue here.

As for the film’s PCM monaural soundtrack, it fared even less well, mainly due to an awful lot of distortion. Speech always became rough and edgy, with a persistently brittle tone.

Music sounded shrill and harsh, and effects followed suit. The two-channel monaural lacked the centered quality I’d expect and leaned toward the right side of the spectrum. Though likely the fault of the source, this nonetheless became a pretty awful soundtrack.

A few extras appear, and we open with an audio commentary from film critic Tom Mes. He brings a running, screen-specific look at the background of studios and genre and the Japanese film industry of the era, director Teruo Ishii, cast and crew, and a few other areas.

Overall, Mes brings a pretty good look at the subject matter. While not the deepest exploration of the film itself, Mes offers useful insights about the genre and those involved, so this becomes a pretty informative chat.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find Erotic Grotesque Nonsense and the Foundations of Japan’s Counterculture, a 29-minute, 55-second lecture from film historian Jasper Sharp.

He discusses genre and cultural domains that connect to filmmaker Teruo Ishii and writer Edogawa Rampo. Though a fairly dry presentation, Sharp brings a fairly good history lesson.

A brutal exercise in nudity and violence, Inferno of Torture eventually attempts to redeem itself. Unfortunately, the movie seems so aimless and sadistic so much of the time that its eventual half-hearted stabs at narrative development fall flat. The Blu-ray comes with inconsistent visuals, poor audio and a few bonus features. Despite the ample views of attractive semi-clad women, this becomes a long slog to nowhere.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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