Blu-ray Review: Inferno Of Torture

When you take an international cinema class at college, odds are high that when it comes to Japan, your instructor will go on about Mizoguchi Kenji, Ozu Yasujirō and Kurosawa Akira. They will talk about Samurai films. If they are cool they might discuss Yakuza films in relation to American gangsters. If they want to be goofy, they might mention Godzilla and Gamera. But they won’t be talking about Pinkeiga or showing the works of Teruo Ishii. Why? Because it’s just a bit too much. How extreme? Inferno of Torture doesn’t tease you with its name. This film from 1969 doesn’t hold back on its graphic nature.

The film opens with women on crosses being stabbed by a man with a spear. This is followed by women buried up to their necks in dirt. They receive a saw to the neck. The next scene is a woman digging up a grave to fetch a key from a body. We immediately find out the key is for her chastity belt. Now there is a basic plot to the story. Yumi (Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot‘s Yumika Katayama) owes a large sum of money. In her desperation she makes a deal to work for a brothel. But what she doesn’t count on is that the cat house is more into a perverse clientele and she has no safe word. She finds herself with a regular customer who is a tattoo artist attempting to move up in the eyes of the local Shogun. He uses Yumi’s body as his canvas. However a rival wants to prevent him from moving up and so he always does ink work on Yumi. Is she going to have any skin left by the time the film is over? Or will she be sold to foreigners looking for tattooed women for their own out of control brothels?

Teruo Ishii’s Inferno of Torture pretty much covers all the subjects found on a fetish dating website. There’s plenty of actions that would get you banned from those sites. Pinkeiga refers to films that showed too much skin and there’s plenty of that on the screen. Nothing gets held back when they show off their various tattoos. If you had picked up Arrow’s Blu-ray editions of Ishii’s Horrors of Malformed Men, Orgies Of Edo and Blind Woman’s Curse, you’ll know that Ishii isn’t a shy director when it comes to presenting grotesque situations. This was part of his “Abnormal Love” movies and he makes us experience the abnormalities without letting the camera flinch. But even with such a rough subject that seems aimed at the grindhouse, the film could easily play an art house. Inferno of Torture will leave a mark on a viewer.

The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer let you see all the tattoos and tortures clearly. The audio is Japanese LPCM mono. The levels are fine so you can here the slight jazzy score and the screams. The movie is subtitled in English.

Audio Commentary by Japanese cinema expert Tom Mes gets into the career of Teruo Ishii and the context of the movie.

Erotic Grotesque Nonsense & the Foundations of Japan’s Cult Counterculture (29:54) is a condensed version of Jasper Sharp’s Miskatonic Institute lecture. He gives a bit of background on the films that weren’t taught in film school. You’ll want to sit through this lecture and take notes.

Trailer (2:54) will give you a taste of the grotesque to come.

Arrow Video present Inferno of Torture. Directed by: Teruo Ishii. Starring: Teruo Yoshida, Masumi Tachibana, Asao Koike, Yumiko Katayama, Mieko Fujimoto and Haruo Tanaka . Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 95 minutes. Released: July 7, 2020.

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