"Shogun's Joy of Torture" revolves around the retelling of three different stories which take place during the Edo era of Japan. Each story depicts the portrayal of a different crime punishable by torture and/or death. As the initial title screen informs the viewer “An eye for an eye, in the Edo Era of Japan…punishments were very cruel. Today, the main object of punishment is re-education, judicial cruelty does not exist. But we should not forget the dark age. A judge warns, man’s nature cannot be changed, we can turn wild and cruel again.” One can only assume that we are about to view a truthful depiction of the crimes and punishments dealt by the Shogunate in feudal Japan…
I will start this review off by informing everyone of my lack of knowledge of classic pink films, essentially watching this film with no prior knowledge of the movie and viewing with an open mind. I knew there was going to be plenty of torture and lots of nudity, but to say I wasn’t a bit surprised at the amount of both would be an understatement. Before the movie even begins, we witness a woman being led to a cliff by a group of men with swords. The woman is then bound, hung from an ancient tree branch and tossed out over a gaping chasm. The Shogun approaches, unsheathes his sword and hacks the woman’s head off. Then he chops her lifeless body in two, right above her hips; flash title screen! Now that is how you start a movie folks. Grab some popcorn, sit down, buckle up, and get ready to enjoy the ride.
The movie consists of three separate stories woven around the premise that humans are bound to repeat history, that violence only breeds violence, and that torture and execution are not the answer to humankind’s corruption. Before each major torture/execution, there is discussion between the two leading members of the Shogunate usually involving the moral justification for the punishment they are about to deal. Must the criminals be exposed to such prolonged executions? Will the execution disrupt the peace of the town? Is the punishment too extreme for the crime? No. Even if the Shogun’s believe the punishment does not fit the crime, it is the law and they will uphold it.
Ishii created a plethora of nasty set pieces to dispose of his Edo Era sinners. Women are whipped, beaten, raped, stoned, drowned, speared, barbequed, split in half; Ishii really did his research. To be honest, the special effects aren’t half bad for a movie that is over 40 years old. The blood could actually pass for blood; it doesn’t look like cheap paint or strawberry jam. The acting, while sometimes cheesy, is passable. The girls appeared to be frightened and in pain, and ultimately, that is all you can really ask for in a torture film. There is also some intentional humor which occurs during sex scenes. Upon climax, the camera focuses on curling toes, flowers glistening with dew, stereotypical images which you would imagine being filmed in a movie from the 60’s; made me chuckle a bit.
After watching this movie we can only come to the conclusion that the Japanese have a fascination with rope-play and sado-masochistic tendencies. The entire film was wrought with naked women bound to posts, blocks, trees, etc. Not to say that the depiction of torture in this film wasn’t disgusting, but the mixture of erotic scenes followed by a harsh depiction of punishment creates an odd juxtaposition of themes. Are you supposed to feel titillated or disgusted…or both? On one hand, you can take the stance that this film is relaying the message that any form of sexual contact depicted in the film, either considered normal or immoral/illegal is against the law and punishable by torture/death. I highly doubt that this movie was created to depict any form of moral justification, but instead this movie is pure exploitation, with the assumption that T&A and blood and guts sell tickets.
Currently, this movie is unavailable as a Region 1 release, but if you can get your hands on a copy I would recommend doing so. This is a classic pink film and I am rather upset that I waited so long to watch this. I will definitely seek out Ishii’s other films, hopefully, they will be as sleazy as this one.