SHOGUN'S SADISM

Directed by Yuji Makiguchi
Screenplay by Ichirô Ootsu and Seikô Shimura
Cast: Takuzo Kawatani, Maki Tachibana, Yusuke Kazato & Rena Uchimura

1969/77 Minutes/Color/Mono
2.35:1/Japanese/Japan/PAL Region 0

Review of the Japan Shock DVD

Website: www.japan-shock.com

There seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding this infamous exploitation movie from Japan. Many people seem unsure as to who the director is and whether it's part of the infamous JOYS OF TORTURE series. Well, let me clear up some facts.

Firstly SHOGUN'S SADISM was directed by Yuji Makiguchi and not Teruo Ishii. The JOYS OF TORTURE series ran to eight films, all of which were directed by Teruo Ishii and released in Japan between 1968 and 1973. When the initial films in the series proved to be commercially popular production company Toei approached director Yuji Makiguchi to shoot his own film covering many of the same themes that film was SHOGUN'S SADISM (aka OXEN SPLIT TORTURING). Just to confuse people SHOGUN'S SADISM was later released in a number of foreign territories as JOYS OF TORTURE 2. On the liner notes to accompany this DVD release Japan Shock re-assert their claim that Teruo Ishii was the director of SHOGUN'S SADISM working under the pseudonym Yuji Makiguchi. Japan Shock have also included a Teruo Ishii filmography from Mark Schilling on the liner notes, which includes SHOGUN'S SADISM as one of his films and yet on further investigation the Teruo Ishii filmography Schilling wrote for his book, THE YAKUZA MOVIE GUIDE (published by Stone Bridge in the US) makes no mention of the film as having being directed by Teruo Ishii. So to round up Yuji Makiguchi directed SHOGUN'S SADISM and not Teruo Ishii if anyone can prove otherwise e-mail Gorezone with the details! (For anyone who is at all curious the movie is listed on the Internet movie database under the Japanese title Ushi-zaki No Kei and the release date given is 1976).

The film is set in the Tokugawa period in Feudal Japan as we are treated to two stories peppered with scenes of extreme violence. The first tale is set in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1628. In this period Christianity was outlawed and practising Christians were tortured and executed. A sadistic magistrate has Christians tortured for his own amusement. The loyalty of the magistrate's guards is crucial for his power and authority over the region to be maintained. So when one of the guards, Sasaki, starts having a relationship with a woman called Toyo, suspected of being a Christian, the evil magistrate rapes her in front of Sasaki. Then her younger sister Mitsu is also brought in to be tortured and Sasaki ordered to whip her. When he refuses she is blinded and Sasaki is banished from the magistrate's house. But not before he witnesses another incredible act of cruelty with Toyo's father and mother crucified, stabbed with spears and burnt alive as Toyo is forced to watch in horror.

The second story is set in Fukagawa in 1821. It begins in a more light-hearted vein as a man called Sutezo is forced to work for one year in a brothel as a cleaner/handyman to pay off his debts. In possibly the most shocking, offensive and depraved scene in the entire film one of the prostitutes, Tami, is given a makeshift abortion when guards repeatedly stamp on her stomach and the 'matron' reaches inside her and pulls out a dead foetus. She is then forced to work the same night. When a guard tries to help Tami escape he is tortured and has an ear sliced off, which is put in Sutezo's mouth, who is then forced to swallow it! His misery doesn't end there Sutezo is told to cut the guy's dick off with a blunt razor and if he doesn't he'll lose his instead. Soon Sutezo decides to flee with a prostitute called Sato. They commit various petty crimes on the run from the brothel, but are soon caught by the local magistrate.

You've got to have a pretty strong stomach to see SHOGUN'S SADISM through to the bitter end. With this film you get what you paid for - almost 80 minutes of shocking torture scenes. This isn't a low-budget feature, but a large scale production from company Toei - a lot of time and effort went into the costume design, the sets and the effects which makes it even more disturbing. It's one of the most violent and gruesome Japanese films I have ever seen. There isn't an equivalent to it in the West, but if you want to see how far Japanese cinema is prepared to go then SHOGUN'S SADISM should be right up your street.

This PAL DVD release from Japan Shock in Europe presents the film uncut in anamorphic widescreen with optional English, Dutch or German subtitles. It contains a suitably tasteless (and perversely amusing) animated menu screen. Also eight chapter stops and as extras a scrolling picture gallery (made up of screen grabs) and four German trailers for the first four films in the JOYS OF TORTURE series.

The picture quality of this DVD is absolutely superb, particularly when you consider the age and rarity of the film itself. The DVD has been struck from a 35mm film print and a lot of time and effort has gone into the remastering. The colours are sharp and vibrant and the mono soundtrack is free from noise or hiss. The only glitch I could see was small horizontal lines which recur on and off throughout the movie, particularly if a character is wearing a red garment this is a fault at the mastering process which could have been rectified, but thankfully isn't too distracting. The DVD is housed in a plastic keepcase, which itself comes in a card sleeve.

All in all this is probably Japan Shock Video's best DVD release to date and a major improvement on their VHS release for this film a few years ago. A couple of companies have shown an interest in bringing this title to DVD in the US, but apart from the minor technical glitch they'll have a hard job improving on this release. SHOGUN'S SADISM is recommended for fans of extreme Asian cinema and this is a top-notch DVD release from Japan Shock.

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Review by Brendan Maltman. All Right Reserved. 2003. ©

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