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Shogun’s Joy of Torture - Shogun’s Joy of Torture( Blu Ray) [Arrow Video - 2021]

Here from the folks at Arrow Video is Shogun’s Joy of Torture- the next in the series of releases from the label of highly creative & transgressive Japanese director Teruo Ishii. Shogun’s Joy of Torture is a 1968 anthology film based in the Edo period of Japan (1615 –1868), and is a heady-at-times darkly playful blend of historic drama, horror, and torture-tipped sexploitation. The Blu Ray brings together a new high definition print, commentary from Japanese cinema expert Tom Mes, and a few other extras.

Shogun’s Joy of Torture ( aka Female Punishment of the Tokugawa, The Joy of Torture) was Teruo Ishii’s first try at blending historic drama, torture, horror and sex. He’d return to this blend with Orgies of Edo & Inferno Of Torture both from 1969, adding in surrealism and modern dance performance in the mix with Horrors Of The Malformed Man- also from 69( all three films have received an Arrow Video releas). The Tokyo based Ishii started directing in the ’50s going onto release films into the late 1990s. His filmography moved from early superhero films, through to crime dramas, onto historic romances, though to tacky Sci-fi. On to action crime thrillers, though to historic & erotic torture films, through to later drama & more straight-ahead horror.

Shogun’s Joy of Torture is made up of three separate stories, which are warped around by a voice-over discussing crime, punishment, and torture in the Edo period. The first story tells of Shinzô(Teruo Yoshida) who is injured by a log falling on his head, meaning he can no longer work. His household is only himself and his just past teen sister Mitsu(Masumi Tachibana). So she is forced to give herself to her brother's sleazy middle-aged boss in order to help pay for Shinza's doctor bills. The second story is set in Jukuin- a countryside all-female monastery. It's located not far from a temple inhabited by male priests, and one day one of the men meets a nun for a fleshy embrace in nature- this is spied by a senior nun who blackmails the priest. The final story tells of Horicho (Asao Koike) - a talented tattoo artist who has just given women a tattoo detailing torture on her back, while showing his work proudly off to a group of people, a local lord walks by mocking the tattoo and its lack of realism. Horicho, via dubious methods, finds a new model to tattoo his torture pictures onto- this time observing real torture & pain to get it just right.

The film opens with a voice-over about torture in the past- with a montage of several outdoor torture scenes- a woman strung up & her head, then lower body lopped off, a woman burnt alive, and a woman pulled apart by horses. When we get into the first story, things are a little tame- but the sleaziness of both the boss & his cohorts make up for this. By the time we moved to the second story, we get subtle soft-core sex moments, before getting some rope bondage, torture and death. By the last story, things really have kicked into high sleaze & horror gear- with all manner of depravity, rope bondage, naked weatherboarding, and flaming nude on the rack, hot wax pain & heavy weights on legs, etc. Each story runs around half-an-hour, and each is entertaining enough with a good blend of competent acting, good period detail, and build levels of sleaze & torture. And I’d say much of what we have here, regarding the more extreme imagery is very much ahead of western films of the time. On the whole Shogun’s Joy of Torture is a well put together sleazed & violent anthology, sure it lacks the odd/ surreal edges of Teruo Ishii’s later film- but as an excise in classy grind house depravity it’s great.

Moving onto this new Blu Ray- and we get a nice new print, that's bold and crisp in it’s late 60’s colour, and of course as you'd expect with this type of film the flesh colourings & blood reds are particularly well defined. Moving onto the extras, and we get a commentary track from Japanese cinema expert Tom Mes- and as usual this is well researched and entertaining. He begins by discussing the Toei film studios logo, the beach used behind it and it's location. He moves onto talk about the social/ political landscape at the time of the film- both worldwide & in japan. Moving to discuss Japanese film’s that revelled in the beauty of torture and their western equivalents. He goes onto talk about how/ where cruelty turns up in a Japanese cinema in general, and how it was used for impact. He discusses the shift in the late ’60s/ early ’70s to more exploitation films in the country, and how this meant that a lot of serious actors switched to work in TV. He talks about stories the films were based on, and more- making for a most worthy/ enjoyable track. Next we  get Bind, Torture, Thrill – a twenty-five-minute featurette from the author and critic Jasper Sharp which sees him the history of torture in Japanese exploitation cinema. We get a thirteen-minute interview with the author Patrick Macias, where he discusses the film to hand, and Teruo Ishii other work. In all a  good selection of content.

Shogun’s Joy of Torture is a great example of classily conceived cinematic sleaze and depravity. It’s great to see Arrow Video putting this out, adding it to the other Ishii titles they’ve released- with once again the label doing a stellar job with the films print & it’s extras.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Roger Batty
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