Japanese Tattoo Art

Legendary underground Japanese director Teruo Ishii (Orgies of Edo) unleashed Inferno of Torture on unsuspecting Japanese audiences in 1969. Cruel and sadistic, the sixth entry in his “abnormal love” series is savagely salacious and shocks even by today’s more permissive standards. One of Ishii’s outrageously daring and better films set during Japan’s historical Edo period, the unforgettable climax remains an exploitation masterpiece.

Forced to serve as a geisha girl over an unpaid debt, Yumi (Yumika Katayama) quickly learns she’s working at a brothel that serves foreigners and wealthy lords with a taste for intricately tattooed ladies. The tattoo artists make elaborate pieces of art using the girls’ bare skin as a canvas for prestige and honor. Yumi’s delicate skin becomes a battleground for two rival tattoo artists hoping to impress the Shogun.

Horihide (Teruo Yoshida) is a skilled tattoo artist that grows close to Yumi. Sadistic and cruel, the madam (Mieko Fujimoto) begins torturing Yumi, going so far as placing a steel chastity lock around her genitals.

Inferno of Torture is one of the fiercest movies ever made in Japanese exploitation, touching upon many themes in its cruel story.

Director Teruo Ishii’s psychodrama and thriller is laden with rape, bondage and lurid material despite its historical trappings. From an opening scene that sees crucified women dying gruesome deaths, to the visually stunning final act that sees Horihide get some measure of revenge, Inferno of Torture is unrelenting and visually tantalizing.

The Japanese movie escapes being yet another exercise in torture porn with an impressive screenplay that would have worked well in another setting as a spaghetti western. Not to mention Ishii’s merits as a filmmaker – the direction and art exudes style beyond mere exploitation.

Inferno of Torture is one of the fiercest movies ever made in Japanese exploitation, touching upon many themes in its cruel story. Some may see it as a pointless vehicle for tasteless S&M and perverse violence. It has been artistically crafted and staged with an intelligence that goes well beyond prurient interests. Say what you will about Ishii’s boundary-provoking underground flicks but the man was massively talented as a filmmaker.


The underground 1969 Japanese film from Toei gets a solid, workman-like film transfer from decent elements. Minor print damage is visible but negligible. It’s always difficult sussing out who did what when it comes to Arrow Video’s handling of Japanese films and press materials don’t boast about a new, state-of-the-art transfer.

This is one of the better-looking Toei releases put out by Arrow Video on Blu-ray. While still pedestrian by absolute video ratings, satisfactory grain reproduction and pleasing clarity are both fine.

Inferno of Torture runs an uncut 94 minutes, encoded in high-bitrate AVC on a BD-50. Arrow Video employs some of the best compressionists in the business and they’ve done top-notch work once again. Select scenes are a tad washed out with weaker color saturation. The palette skews red with okay color tonality and otherwise natural hues. Black levels are better than expected and handle the pivotal climax without a hitch, usually an issue with certain older Japanese productions. Torture’s contrast holds up during exterior and interior scenes.


The original Japanese mono audio comes in adequate 2.0 PCM. There isn’t much depth or presence to the monaural mix but seems faithfully reproduced with satisfactory fidelity. Minor congestion and harshness bothers the treble frequencies. Japanese dialogue is largely intelligible with few issues. The dissonant score offers the soundtrack’s few shining moments with slightly more dynamic range and bass.

Optional English subtitles play in a white font, remaining inside the 2.35:1 widescreen presentation.


Arrow Video provides an extensive commentary and academic lecture for the underground exploitation flick. The reversible sleeve features original and newly-commissioned artwork by Jacob Phillips. First pressings only include a collector’s booklet with a new essay on the film by Chris Desjardins. All together, it’s a wonderful set for a little-known cult exploitation title from Japan.

The Blu-ray is coded for both A & B regions. Released in both America and the UK, they are likely the same disc for both regions.

Audio Commentary – Arrow Video’s regular fans should recognize Japanese cinema expert Tom Mes, providing a thorough solo commentary that addresses Teruo Ishii’s artistic style and contributions to Japanese filmmaking.

Erotic Grotesque Nonsense & the Foundations of Japan’s Cult Counterculture (29:55 in HD) – A condensed version of Jasper Sharp’s lecture for the Miskatonic Institute, breaking down the movie within the ero-guro category.

Inferno of Torture Trailer (02:54 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review by the label. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Interno of Torture
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Visually captivating plunge into erotic violence courtesy of gifted Japanese exploitation filmmaker Teruo Ishii.

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