I recorded Jigoku (1960) when it was on TCM and watched it last night. It was too long, and parts are going to look hopelessly dated in that “Andy Warhol movie” way.
And, well, it’s Japanese, so it’s two hours of men who can’t hold their liquor, simpering women — and swords!
Overflowing with brackish ponds of bubbling pus, brain-rattling disjunctions of sound and image, and at times almost dauntingly incomprehensible plot twists and eye-assaulting bouts of brutish montage, Jigoku is more than merely a boundary-pummeling classic of the horror genre—it’s as lurid a study of sin without salvation as the silver screen has ever seen.
A tale of two male college students—one weak, one evil—who make a sudden detour from the path of righteousness and wind up on the road to hell, Jigoku’s plotline takes off from the same real-life Leopold-Loeb murder case that served as the basis for both Alfred Hitchcock’s Ropeand Richard Fleischer’s Compulsion. (…)
Fusing the goriest details of thirteenth-century jigoku-zoshi (hell scroll paintings) with Tsukioka Yoshitoshi’s nineteenth-century ukiyo-e illustrations of innocence disemboweled—and climaxing in a centrifugal final blast of berserk, quasi-Butoh theatrics that seems to anticipate the lysergic gyrations of the 1960s’ Living Theatre as much as the flesh-hungry flailings of Night Of The Living Dead—Jigoku’s dazzlingly art-directed and emotionally devastating evocation of unstaunchable dread continues to leave even the most stoic of modern moviegoers in a state of stunned dismay.