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Ghost Canyon

'Orgies Of Edo: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Teruo Yoshida, Toyozô Yamamoto, Masumi Tachibana, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1969) 2018 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Legendary Toei director Teruo Ishii tells three stories of moral sickness set during Japan's prosperous Genroku era in this bloody follow-up to his sexploitation classic 'Shogun's Joy of Torture, and the fourth entry in Toei's abnormal love film series.

Ishii's politically incorrect moral lessons paint a trio of tales of tragic heroines caught up in violence, sadomasochism, incest and torture.

Blu-ray Verdict: Told in anthology style by an impassive physician (Teruo Yoshida), the first story follows Oito (Masumi Tachibana), an innocent young girl deceived by a handsome yakuza and sold into prostitution who finds herself in a doomed love affair with the man who brought her to ruin.

The tale of Ochise (Mitsuko Aoi) is about the daughter of a rich merchant whose insatiable appetite for filth and perversion draws her deeper into violence, darkness and betrayal.

Finally, the story of Omitsu (Miki Obana) follows a sadistic lord (Asao Koike) whose eye is caught one day by a beautiful member of his harem who shares his strange taste for pain and blood, but who holds a secret of her own that will destroy his entire household.

A stylistic about-face from the director's prior work for Toei on the successful Abashiri Prison action series starring Ken Takakura, Ishii's erotic films grew increasingly shocking, violent and strange, and 'Orgies of Edo' finds him combining period film detail with carnivalesque grotesquerie to create his own particular vision of love and sex.

There's a wonderful line from Ryu Murakami's novel Odishon (the basis for the 1999 Takashi Miike film, which is much superior to this, but that's neither here nor there, really) which put me in mind of this film for no reason I can really discern: “Back in the day, in the geisha world, you'd run across a kind of girl like her every now and then. Breathtakingly beautiful, very popular with the clients, nothing but the top class of patrons, but basically unfathomable. They'd have an almost unnatural sort of beauty, the sort of beauty that made you wonder if it hadn't been nourished by all the misery and misfortune in the world. That sort of beauty can destroy a man.”.

In some ways, it reminds me of the main character in these three related stories, whose name now escapes me (and, surprisingly, the Internet is failing me on this; I didn't think that would happen, so I didn't jot down notes). She is played by Mitsuko Aoi, who would also appear in Ishii's other legendary 1969 pinky-violence film, the aforementioned 'Horrors of Malformed Men'.

In any case, this is reminiscent of a number of other sixties exploitation films in its episodic nature, with its female lead wandering through the stories, having a more or less central part depending on the story. She is at the center of the first, where we meet her and her sister.

As we open, financial woes have forced her into prostitution, but she meets a warrior who falls in love with her, pays her family's debts, and goes to live at the family home with the sister while our heroine is training to be a geisha. You can see where this is going, right?

The second story sees her having attained geisha status, but she's relegated to the background as we learn more about the woman who runs the house, a sadist who, talking to a psychiatrist, reveals the things that happened to her over the years that made her that way.

Finally, our heroine is taken into the household of a very rich, but insane, man who devises all kinds of deadly games for his flock of geisha to play. Indeed, the most infamous scene in the film, with geishas trying to avoid charging bulls with flaming horns, is in this bit, as is the “try to kill someone by painting them completely gold” scene—not lifted, as so many people believe, from Goldfinger, but from the 1946 Mark Robson film Bedlam—which may well have also inspired Ian Fleming.

At the end, of course, there's all kinds of big reveal and the stories all come together and Ishii tries to make something coherent out of the mess he's created, and he's about as good at doing that as Just Jaeckin and Abel Ferrara. Which is to say, not good at all.

So, and in my humble journalistic opinion, if you're looking for a film that will just give you an artistically cheap thrill, Ishii's usually a good go-to guy; it's decently acted, the perversity and gore are lovingly rendered, and there is a plot, however hard to may be to follow sometimes.

In this, it's reminiscent in many ways of the American porn industry in the mid- to late seventies, and it does hold that same sort of odd fascination. However, if you're looking for decent character development, a good plot, etc., Ishii is not your guy. Out now as a brand new Special Edition via Arrow Academy / MVD Visual, this is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
Original Uncompressed Mono PCM audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
The Orgies of Ishii an exclusive, newly filmed interview with author Patrick Maccias
Theatrical Trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Tom Mes