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Thursday, August 26, 2010

JIGOKU / HELL (aka THE SINNERS OF HELL) (1960)


Everybody goes to Hell in this cult-item by the prolific Nobuo Hakagawa, an influential figure in Japanese horror who remains little known in the West. The film follows the loves & nihilistic roaming of college pals bad-ass Tamura & his baleful bud Shiro. (Think Leopold & Loeb or, more on point, Brad Pitt & Edward Norton in FIGHT CLUB.) After a fatal car crash or two, a freakish plunge off a rope bridge, and concurrent food poisonings; our entire cast spend the second half of the film atoning in freakin’ Hades. Hakagawa relishes the assignment, pulling staging & lighting techniques from the wide range of Japanese theatrical traditions, bathing his victims (literally & figuratively) in pools of color & excrement, tying them to wheels of fire, sending them drifting on rivers of mist, dismembering, flaying, roasting and (worst of all) subjecting them to Japanese renditions of the Bossa Nova. The Horror! The Horror! It’s the mayhem of a magpie. He’s like Julie Taymor, exhausting us with too many visual ‘ideas’ and hoping something will stick. Perhaps his less ambitious work shows him in a better light.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Try 'Night On Bald Mountain' from Disney's FANTASIA/'40 if you want to see the torments of Hell.

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