films seen
13/89
average score
2.34*
nationality
Japan - 81 years old
status
R.I.P. (1924 - 2005)
more info

One of Japan's most infamous exploitation directors. If sex and violence is your thing then Ishii's definitely your man, but dig a little deeper and you might find some stylish crime cinema too. His oeuvre's pretty niche, but not without its share of fun.

Solid pieces

Screwed

by Teruo Ishii
Also known as
Neji-Shiki
Specifics
1998 / 87m - Japan
Genre
Drama
More info:
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Screwed poster

The inoffensive

The Red Silk Gambler

by Teruo Ishii
Also known as
Hijirimen Bakuto
Specifics
1972 / 86m - Japan
Genre
Action, Crime
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
The Red Silk Gambler poster

A rather stylish Teruo Ishii film. Mention gamblers and samurai and people immediately think of Zatoichi, with Ishii in the director chair you can expect something a little edgier. The film feels a little dated, but I'm quite certain that if I'd seen this when it was first released, it could have been a personal favorite.

Okatsu is an ex-con who frequents all the gambling dens in search of her one true love. She surrounds herself with a gang of outcasts to fight off the shady characters that she encounters on the way. Things get complicated Onaka, when one of her crew who is looking to avenge her father, finds the trail of her father's killer.

Plenty of kick-ass women here, but it's the cinematography that's the true star of the film. Colors are a bit murky maybe, but the camera work is energetic, compositions are beautiful and there are quite a few iconic shots. Excellent pacing, pleasantly gritty and never boring. A pretty solid film.

Horror of a Deformed Man

by Teruo Ishii
Also known as
Kyofu Kikei Ningen: Edogawa Ranpo Zenshu
Specifics
1969 / 99m - Japan
Genre
Horror
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Horror of a Deformed Man poster

One of Teruo Ishii's most notorious films, based on the work of Rampo. I was only familiar with Ishii's more recent films but there really isn't that much of a difference. You can expect the same overstated performances, weird deformations and his typically morbid sense of horror. Not bad at all.

Inferno of Torture

by Teruo Ishii
Also known as
Tokugawa Irezumi-shi: Seme Jigoku
Specifics
1969 / 94m - Japan
Genre
Horror, Crime
More info:
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Inferno of Torture poster

A classic Teruo Ishii feature. Torture and tattoos, featured in equal measures. Ishii made a name for himself directing films with rather taboo subjects and Inferno of Torture fits the bill. The nice thing is that Ishii is actually a rather gifted director, so his films are never truly cheap or sleazy.

The film highlights the "industry" of tattooed virgins and a professional feud between two tattoo masters, as they try to come up with the most unique tattoo set on the fairest skin. The contrast between their skill and aristry and the abuse of their human canvases is pretty effective and keeps the film interesting.

Performances are decent but a little overdone, the cinematography is nice though and aptly captures the beauty of the tattoos. It's a pretty impressive spectacle, though it probably should've been a little shorter as the story isn't really beefy enough to support the 90-minute runtime.

Worthy but flawed

Blind Woman's Curse

by Teruo Ishii
Also known as
Kaidan Nobori Ryû
Specifics
1970 / 85m - Japan
Genre
Mystery, Crime
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Blind Woman's Curse poster

Pretty decent Teruo Ishii film, sadly it gets a little bogged down by its story. Ishii is at his best when he's doing weird, freaky and bloody (like a Miike avant la lettre), the gang related antics are a lot less fun to watch. This is an amusing and economic film that makes for decent filler, but it's just a little too uneven.

Love and Crime

by Teruo Ishii
Also known as
Meiji · Taishô · Shôwa: Ryôki onna hanzai-shi
Specifics
1969 / 92m - Japan
Genre
Crime
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Love and Crime poster

A slightly more subdued Teruo Ishii film, though mostly because there's something else going on than just the usual exploitation elements. Not that you should expect a full-fledged drama, but Ishii's film is not unlike the inquisitive films of Wakamatsu that try to dig deeper into the darker corners of sex and romance.

A coroner gets the scare of his life when one night his wife is brought in. Inside the body he finds traces of semen, which baffles him as he never suspected his wife of cheating on him. He delves into the police archives to look for similar cases, hoping to find an answer to what might have motivated his wife to do what she did.

While essentially a mini-anthology, the strong thematic link between the different segments makes it feel like a more traditional narrative film. There are definitely some good moments here, though overall the exploitation elements with dark psychological overtones don't always mix that well. At least Ishii fans won't be bored.

Yakuza Law

by Teruo Ishii
Also known as
Yakuza Keibatsu-shi: Rinchi!
Specifics
1969 / 96m - Japan
Genre
Action, Crime
More info:
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Yakuza Law poster

Teruo Ishii's mini-anthology on the code of the Yakuza. Three shorts each handle a different aspect of the code, though the setup of each story is very much alike. I'm not the biggest fan of this format to be honest, I prefer more varied anthologies, but at least Ishii makes sure things never gets boring.

The first two shorts are set in ancient Japan (Edo and Taisho era) while the last one takes place in a more contemporary (and common Yakuza) setting. Though the title of the film focuses on the law part, Ishii has more interest in what happens when they are broken, which makes for some very gruesome punishments.

While the exploitation elements are definitely fun, Ishii seemed a little too confident in the technical side of his production. Paint-like blood and rubber body replacements don't work that well from up close. The pacing is high though and there are some very nasty kills that will no doubt please genre fans.

Dubious filler

Detonation! Violent Games

by Teruo Ishii
Also known as
Bakuhatsu! Boso Yugi
Specifics
1976 / 86m - Japan
Genre
Action, Crime
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Detonation! Violent Games poster

Shogun's Joy of Torture

by Teruo Ishii
Also known as
Tokugawa Onna Keibatsu-shi
Specifics
1968 / 85m - Japan
Genre
Horror
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Shogun's Joy of Torture poster

A lesser Teruo Ishii flick. Joy of Torture is an anthology film featuring three separate stories that each dig into classic torture tactics, but the stories are a little meager and the torture isn't that impressive either. While essentially not that different from similar Ishii exploitation films, the scattered nature of this film doesn't do it any favors.

The first story tells of a woman in an incestuous affair with her brother, the second story follows a nun who tries to seduce a monk, while the final story shows a tattoo artist who tries to create his ultimate masterpiece. All three stories end up in pretty much the same way, which makes you wonder why they even bothered with this setup.

There's a lot of screaming and whining, but the film isn't all that graphic. Performances aren't great and the stories are pretty dull. While Ishii's hand is clearly visible and there are a couple of memorable moments, as a whole it felt a bit too random and unfocused. Ishii can do better than this.

Gang vs Gang

by Teruo Ishii
Also known as
Gang Tai Gang
Specifics
1962 / 91m - Japan
Genre
Thriller, Crime
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Gang vs Gang poster

An early Teruo Ishii film. It was released just 5 years after his debut, though he already had 20+ films behind his name by then. People expecting vintage Ishii (i.e. the edgier films he's best known far) will be a little disappointed, Gang vs Gang is a pretty standard crime flick, albeit with a cooler ending.

Mizuhara served five years in jail to protect his boss. On the day he is released, his car is shot to shreds. Mizuhara discovers his former gang is behind the attack, clearly trying to get rid of any loose threads. He also learns his old boss is dealing drugs for a living, which gives him a good idea for revenge.

Gang vs Gang is a pretty basic Japanese noir, sporting sullen men in long coats and hats, doing shady business in lively bars. The first hour is a little slow, very dialogue-driven and not all that exciting, the final 30 minutes is a lot more fun, with some welcome action in a somewhat surprising setting. Not terrible, but I prefer Ishii's more extravagant films.

Sexy Line

by Teruo Ishii
Also known as
Sekushî Chitai
Specifics
1961 / 82m - Japan
Genre
Crime
More info:
rating
2.0*/5.0*
Sexy Line poster

Early Teruo Ishii film. Like most of his early work, Sexy Line isn't that remarkable and nothing like the films that made Ishii famous. It's a pretty basic Japanese noir, a crime story that sticks to the beaten path and only rises above itself in very select scenes. But even then, it's quite a bit better than some of its more famous US alternatives.

Sexy Line is a story about two individuals who find and need each other. Hiroshi is being wrongfully accused of murder, Mayumi is a pickpocket who's been forced to work for a gang of criminals. The both of them hook up to search for the real killer of Mayumi's lover, but the gang controlling Mayumi isn't too pleased with their plans.

The plot really isn't all that interesting, the jazzy soundtrack feels a bit too familiar, the actors are decent but nothing spectacular. The black and white cinematography knows a couple of remarkable spikes, especially the rich contrast and the camera work stand out. Not quite enough to save the film, but noir fans will find quite a bit to like here.

Plain forgettable

Blind Beast vs. Killer Dwarf

by Teruo Ishii
Also known as
Môjû tai Issunbôshi
Specifics
2001 / 95m - Japan
Genre
Horror
More info:
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Blind Beast vs. Killer Dwarf poster

Big nopes

Japanese Hell

by Teruo Ishii
Also known as
Jigoku
Specifics
1999 / 102m - Japan
Genre
Horror
More info:
rating
1.0*/5.0*
Japanese Hell poster