Shogun’s Joy of Torture
directed by Teruo Ishii
starring Yukie Kagawa, Naomi Shiraishi
In this film women nude women are drawn and quartered, put into rope bondage, decapitated, disemboweled, and burned alive; and that’s just during the opening credits. That’s right – it’s another Teruo Ishii bondage and torture joints so strap in and prepare yourself for Shogun’s Joy of Torture. The film is the beginning of what has become known as the director’s Joys of Torture series that also includes Inferno of Torture, Orgies of Edo and about a half dozen more films that set the groundwork for the Ero Goro or “Pinky Violence” films. Regardless of labels, Ishii shattered on screen taboos of sex and violence. For a director working on the fringes of both the studio system and public morality with his torture films, Teruo Ishii always managed to create some beautiful and memorable moments in what would normally be by the numbers schlock. Shogun’s Joy of Torture is a three-part perverted portmanteau threaded together by an introspective judge ruminating on the necessity for torture by recounting some particularly egregious cases including incest, an out of control convent, and a tattoo artist looking for the true face of torture.
The first segment features Mitsu (Masumi Tachibana) who resists being sold to a local merchant as payment for her brother’s medical care. Her resistance kindles an incestuous relationship with her brother. In the end she loses her brother, is tortured and dies an excruciating death by being crucified upside down on the beach while the judges sit and wait for the tide to come in.
The best staged and entertaining story surrounds a new abbess Relho (Yukie Kagawa) who is installed at a Buddhist convent rife with sin and in need of a firm hand to return the nuns to the righteous path. Unfortunately the abbess is far from righteous and indulges in pleasures of the flesh with a monk from the neighboring monastery. When she is found out she unleashes brutal and creative tortures on her rival, and lover Rintoku (Naomi Shiraishi) . The tortures including the standard flogging and caning before moving on to more inventive and personal tortures. Rintoku being covered in loaches, a tiny, wriggly, and more importantly spiny fish that would be seriously uncomfortable on naked flesh but not nearly as uncomfortable as what they do with the chili peppers and hot poker. Eventually the Shogun’s arrive and put an end to Relho’s reign of terror, by crucifying the entire convent. Part of what makes this segment so fascinating is that it sets up so many of the tropes of what would later be known as nunsploitation. The carnal desires of nuns played out in secret behind the convent walls often laced with sadism and sacrilege and usually resolved by men from the outside are all on full display before The Lady of Monza, The Devils and School of the Holy Beast set the standards for the sub-genre in Europe and Japan.
The film concludes with a tale of tattoo artist Horicho (Asao Koike) trying to capture the true agony of torture on the skin of beautiful women. When he is chided by the film’s Shogun torturer, Nanbara (Fumio Watanabe) for not truly understanding the pain and pleasures of torturer Horicho begs Nanbara to let him witness and actual torture session in order to create his masterpiece. Nanbara agrees and allows Horicho to work on his tattoo while he gleefully tortures a group of voluptuous white American christian missionaries. Things don’t go exactly as planned, but plenty of beautiful flesh is put to torment before the film’s fiery conclusion.
In addition to a luscious presentation of the film, Arrow Video also packs out the Blu-ray with powerhouse extras from a trio of heavy hitters in Japanese cult cinema. Tom Mes (Midnight Eye) delivers an entertaining and insightful commentary track, Patrick Macias (Japanese Schoolgirl Inferno: Tokyo Teen Fashion Subculture Handbook) sits down for “Terou Ishii: Erotic-Grotesque Maestro” which is an energetic 13 minute breakdown on Ishii’s torture films and “Bind, Torture, Thrill” with Jasper Sharp (Behind the Pink Curtain) dives into the deep end of Japanese torture exploitation movie history. Shogun’s Joy of Torture continues Arrow Video’s commendable job of presenting cult films in a quality, thoughtful manner providing not only a great looking film, but putting the film in context of its time and in film history.