ON DVD & BLU-RAY
Orgies of Edo (1969) dir: Teruo Ishii Blu Ray (Arrow)
Three tales of depravity
This Japanese horror anthology is set during the Genroku era of the country’s Edo period. It features three stories uncovering the rampant depravity and abuse of women which lurked beneath the surface. The stories are linked by the presence of a doctor named Gentatsu (Teruo Yoshida) who serves as a central commentator and moral compass.
The first features Masumi Tachibana as Oito, a woman who is harassed by moneylenders. When they pester her in a village market, she is rescued by the handsome Hanji (Toyozô Yamamoto). Afterwards, they become lovers and Hanji offers her some money to get her out of her predicament. Unfortunately, it turns out that he is in serious debt himself, forcing Oito to work as a prostitute and geisha.
The second story tells the tale of a wealthy madam (played by Mitsuko Aoi) who derives pleasure from being raped by men with abnormal bodies (including two dwarves during the opening sequence) before getting her revenge by beating them violently. Her manservant Chokichi (Akira Ishihama), who is in unrequited love with her, approaches Gentatsu in order to seek a cure for her psychological affliction.
The third and final tale is about a sadistic shogun (played by Asao Koike) who derives pleasure from torturing and killing his own geishas. Unknown to him, however, one of them has put an elaborate and gruesome scheme of revenge in motion.
Watch a trailer:
Artfully shot trash
When it comes down to it, Orgies of Edo is nothing more than an unashamed exploitation piece which wallows in kinky soft-core sex, rape, sadomasochism, prolonged acts of violence, splatter and mutilation. There’s also some insinuation of bestiality and incest to boot. While a few of the gruesome special effects are pretty dated and the sexual content strictly of the “no sight of the groin area” variety, it still makes for a challenging watch and most certainly warrants an 18 certificate. One might imagine that, had Videodrome’s titular TV channel existed in real life, it would have featured stuff exactly like this.
The third story is the most interesting, largely because it is the most creatively extreme. It opens with a massacre of geishas, who are dressed in red costumes and have bulls let loose amongst them. Since bulls are driven angry by the colour red (a notion subsequently debunked - but let’s just go with it in this instance), they must strip naked to survive. Cue a number of them who fail to disrobe being gored in close-up. Later on, we get a homage to the “death by gold paint” scene from Goldfinger - albeit, in this instance, we actually see the prolonged process of it being applied to her naked body and her visible discomfort as her skin suffocates. Towards the end, a pregnant woman’s belly is graphically slit open in close-up and the baby extricated before the viewer’s eyes.
While Orgies of Edo is, by and large, trash, the colourful period costumes, along with the occasional artfulness in terms of shot composition and editing, lend it some semblance of respectability. There’s a colourful sequence during the first of the stories where Hanji courts and rapes Oito amid a landscape consisting of long strips of cloth in various decorated patterns. The shot of the gold-covered geisha being reflected amid a hall of mirrors in the third story is also pretty memorable.
Nonetheless, it’s hard to recommend Orgies of Edo to anyone other than hardcore devotees of cinematic extremity. It’s unpleasant, misogynistic and nasty fare, bereft of any discernible underlying meaning beyond stating, over and over again, that “life during Japan’s Genroku era was brutal and sordid, especially towards women”.
Runtime: 93 mins
Dir: Teruo Ishii
Script: Teruo Ishii, Masahiro Kakefuda
Starring: Teruo Yoshida, Toyozô Yamamoto, Masumi Tachibana, Mitsuko Aoi, Akira Ishihama, Asao Koike
Blu Ray Audio-Visual
While the print looks a little faded, the brighter colours come through quite pleasingly.
Orgies of Ishii
Author and Japanese culture buff Patrick Macias discusses Orgies of Edo and its director, Teruo Ishii. The film was made during the so-called “Pinky Violence” era of Japanese cinema when audiences were being lost to television and major studios like Toei (who produced this one) decided to draw them back by spicing up their productions with pornographic sex scenes. Macias reveals that Ishii (who dabbled in a wide variety of genres throughout his lengthy career) made eight of such films for the studio. Actor Teruo Yoshida often appeared in his films, typically taking on the role of a rock of stability amid the madness.
A trailer, reversible sleeve and collector’s booklet round out the extras. Not much here by Arrow standards. Then again, tracking down people to contribute towards a sleazy and (outside of Japan) fairly obscure film would probably have proven difficult in any case.
You’d have to be a member of a pretty specific audience to enjoy this one. While stylishly made, it’s little more than a cinematic wallow in the gutter.