by Ian Jane
I don’t know what it is with Japanese cinema and it’s affinity for violence and cruelty, but man, when they pull out all the stops they sure do a damn good job of grossing me out. This movie, Shogun’s Sadism (Ushiaki No Kei), is one of those times.
Essentially what we have are two stories, totally unrelated to each other, that exist for the soul reason of piecing together assorted scenes of torture. You see, back in the sixties there was a very popular series of films entitled The Joy Of Torture (Tokugawa Onna Keibatsu-Shi) directed by Teruo Ishii. This series ran for a total of eight volumes and proved to be quite successful. Toei Studios cashed in with this film, directed by Yuji Makiguchi (which some people believe was a pseudonym for Tereo Ishii) and gave it a similar title – the film is also known as Oxen Split Torturing.
Anyway, with that brief and vague little history lesson out of the way (hey, I honestly don’t know much about this film and there isn’t a ton of information out there to work with – cut me some slack!), let’s take a look and see just what this movie is all about.
The first story, set in the feudal times of Japan, is about a magistrate in Nagasaki who derives a whole lot of satisfaction by torturing Christians. Seeing as that particular religion has been outlawed in this area, he’s able to use his power to have his minions track down and capture a few of them. But when one of the magistrate’s men, Sasaki, begins having an affair with a woman named Toyo (who the magistrate believes to be a Christian), he has to make an example of them so that the rest of his men won’t begin to think that this type of behavior is acceptable.
How exactly does the magistrate do this? Well, first he rapes Toyo right in front of Sasaki, then he burns the eyes of Toyo’s younger sister in front of both of them. Once he finishes with this, he crucifies Toyo’s parents then stabs them with spears, and finally, he binds Toyo to a board with each appendage tied to an ox. He whips the oxen, Toyo gets torn apart.
The second film also takes place years later in the same period and despite a few moments of odd comic relief, proves to be just as grisly. Sutezo is a wily man who, when he can’t pay for his night at the local brothel, is forced to work off his debt over twelve months. As he begins to get to know some of the characters who habitate the establishment, he witnesses no small amount of atrocity, including an abortion that a women performs on one of the pregnant whores using only her bare hands which she thrusts inside of her. After being forced to eat another man’s ear and chop off yet another man’s cock, Setuzo flees with a prostitute named Sato. Together they make a living as con artists until the local law enforcement catches up with them. Sato is sent back to the whore house while Sutezo is tortured to death.
These are not low budget shockers in the vein of the Guinea Pig films, these are professionally made period pieces with elaborate sets and costumes, professional actors, and very good special effects.
Certainly not for all tastes, Shogun’s Sadism is a bizarre film that leaves very little to the imagination. It’s disturbing, it’s upsetting, and it’s very well done.
I’m not really sure that I’ll be watching this one over and over again, but it is worth checking out once, even if only as a curiosity piece. Gorehounds will find a whole lotta love in this one, while Japanese film buffs will enjoy the sets and the costumes and the slick and fluid direction.