Monday, October 10, 2022

#2,833. Inferno of Torture (1969)


I would say the title is all you need to know about this 1969 Japanese erotic horror film, but to be honest it doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Directed by Teruo Ishii, arguably the most notorious filmmaker of the Ero-Guru subgenre (he also helmed Orgies of Edo and Horrors of Malformed Men that same year), Inferno of Torture is an ultra-violent, nudity-laced story set in what I’m guessing is the end of Japan’s Edo period, around mid-19th century, when the country was still being ruled by the military Shogunate and Feudal Lords.

To get a taste of what to expect from Inferno of Torture, you need look no further than the opening credits sequence, which, incidentally, has nothing at all to do with the rest of the movie (story-wise, that is). Several women in white robes are tied to crosses, which are standing upright in either an empty field or an abandoned quarry. A man carrying a spear walks up to one of the women and stabs her in the abdomen (or.. erm... maybe a little lower). As the spear enters her, the frame freezes and titles listing several of the film’s cast and crew appear over top of the impaled woman. The scene then continues, and the man twists the spear until blood squirts into his face. Another freeze frame, and more credits.

From there, we cut to a brand new scene, in which a Shogun and several of his subordinates are watching three women who have been buried standing up, meaning only their heads are exposed. Two men carrying a large saw approach one of the women and saw into her neck. The minute the blood flies, another freeze frame, more credits.

The opening titles alone had me convinced that anyone looking up misogyny in the dictionary would find the definition “see Inferno of Torture”, but the fact is the movie was still just getting started!

Before I delve any deeper into the gore or deviancy, here’s the synopsis: Tattooed geishas are all the rage, with horny guys willing to pay top dollar to spend some quality time with them. Two tattoo artists, Horihide (Teruo Yoshida) and Horitatsu (Asao Koike), compete against one another to win the heart of Osuzo (Masumi Tachibana), the daughter of the local Shogun.

Yumi (Yumiko Katayama) is in debt, and agrees to become a tattooed Geisha for two years to satisfy her obligations, only to discover she has been tricked, and will likely be a Geisha the rest of her life. The same happens to some women serving time at a local prison, who, in exchange for their freedom, signed on to become Geishas, serving as high-priced escorts for Clayton (Osman Yusef) and other wealthy European clients in Nagasaki.

Will the women continue to be exploited, or will someone help them escape their terrible fate?

Inferno of Torture is littered with scene after scene of women being beaten, tattooed (often against their will), and raped. There are several sequences that feature a naked girl tied to a rope and hanging from the ceiling, who is whipped by her “client”, and there is even one poor girl who is forced to wear a chastity belt, to “prevent her from ever becoming a woman”, as the sadistic madame exclaims. Even after discovering said girl is pregnant, she must wear the belt, making it impossible for her to give birth (this girl goes to great lengths to free herself, all in vain).

There’s even a scene in which a guard named Gonzo (Seiya Sato) rapes one of the Geishas. When the Madame finds out, she punishes Gonzo… by mutilating his little sister! The poor, innocent girl loses her sight when the Madame gouges out her eyes, then smiles at Gonzo, who screams for his sister to be released.

Inferno of Torture features scene after scene of violence and sexual content (the sex is never hard-core, but the violence certainly is), and while some may see it as a critique of Japanese society during the Edo period, the truth is this movie is straight-up exploitation. The acting is good and the gore is effectively shocking, and there are even some artistic tattoos featured throughout (especially the ending scene, where a few glow-in-the-dark).

But Inferno of Torture also features moments of misogyny at its most reprehensible. Those who enjoy extreme cinema may find something to their liking. Everyone else, you have been warned!
Rating: a very cautious 6 out of 10

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