The Joy of Torture/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< The Joy of Torture

Teruo Ishii’s original ”torture" movie is a collection of three unrelated short stories, each clocking around 30 minutes. If you’re looking for a strong ’blood-and-guts’ movie then this one is not for you. There’s relatively little gore compared to some of the more hard edged stuff that came some years later in the 70’s. Ishii gives more emphasis for the story and flavours the soup with some pretty images. Torture and punishment usually step in near the end or after the halfway of each episode (with the last episode being an exception) to draw the story into conclution.

The first story (a woman in love with her sick brother is actually surprisingly clean. Not too many over the top elements, and no graphic violence or nudity. Some people might consider it a bit bleak, but I thought it was quite entertaining. It could even be considered a sort of peek to the early history of Pinky Violence, although this point of view will be blown to pieces before the end of the movie. The lead roles are played by Masumi Tachibana and Teruo Yoshida, who has an ironic double role. Near the end Fumio Watanabe (the warden from the Female Prisoner Scorpion movies) makes his first appearance as a nasty government official. His character will return later in the movie.

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The all-out festival of (soft core) torture and naked women of the third episode is easily the most amusing part of the film. You gotta admire Ishii’s dedication to punish Russian women!!! The story itself is culminates around a mad tattoo (Asao Koike) artist looking for perfect virgin skin (how’s that more suitable for tattooing I still haven’t figured out...) to paint his masterpiece of pain on. A bathhouse peeking scene is included for those who don’t get their kicks from Russian - and undeniably ugly in this case - women.

In a way, this episode is almost like a proto version of Ishii’s upcoming feature length (and far superior) tattoo film Inferno of Torture (1969). Asao Koike plays practically the same character in both films, while in Inferno of Torture his opponent is played by Teruo Yoshida, the star of the first episode in this film. These two actors would appear in numerous Teruo Ishii films in the late 60’s, and quite often together.

The middle episode, a nunsploitation tale of love (male monk included, sorry guys), torture and jealousy is interesting but ultimately suffers in comparison to later and wilder genre films, such as Norifumi Suzuki’s School of the Holy Beast(1974). Ishii’s movie-making is much more basic and less artistic, although the comparison is quite unfair considering Ishii’s film was made 6 years earlier. It’s an entertaining 30 minutes nevertheless. Despite not being very outrageous the ending is quite nasty.

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The film’s English title, The Joy of Torture, is a little bit misleading. The original title translates as ’The Punishment of the Tokugawa Women’ which nicely comprises the movie’s theme. Each story is ultimately about a punishment, and usually even more about actions that lead to it. The English title is only good as a sub-title for the last episode. ’The Joy of Torture’ refers to that specific emotion (of the torturer) that the mad tattoo artist of the last episode is desperately trying to capture into his final work.

Reviewed by Hung Fist

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