The Films Of Teruo Ishii

Ishii (1924 – 2005) is known in the West for his superhero series, the Super Giant films, as well as for guro although, in fact, his work is much wider than that. While Super Giant was not guro, it is possible to see evidence of Ishii’s guro interests in the superhero’s costume which was one of the reasons that the Japanese actor Ken Utsui hated playing the part. The character’s crotch area was stuffed beyond all imagining with cotton due to the belief of Ishii and the producers that this would be attractive to a female audience. (Super Giant was subsequently repackaged for America under the title Starman).

Ishii was a fan of the horror and suspense author Edogawa Rampo and adapted many of his books for film. Rampo was regarded as an ero guro author and films like Horrors of Malformed Men certainly fit that description. Made for the Toei Company, the film paved the way for their move into “pinky violent” movies – a move enthusiastically embraced by Ishii. Horrors of Malformed Men reflects the tteruo-ishiirauma of Japan following the atom bomb destinations that ended their involvement in WWII and has been banned in Japan for so many years that it is now spoken of in mythical terms.

An Ishii movie that is still available and highly regarded is Shogun’s Joys of Torture, made in 1968. This is a set of three separate stories with interlocking elements. In the first, the sister of a man hurt when a log hit him on the head while he was working is forced give herself to her brother’s boss to pay doctors’ bills. Next, a woman arrives at a monastery and is sexually aroused by a monk. The third concerns a tattoo mocked by a lord for lack of realism.

A brief extract from Ishii’s extremely large filmography will give the flavour for much of his guro work:

  • Shameless: Abnormal and Abusive Love
  • The Friendly Killer
  • Orgies of Edo
  • Female Yakuza Tale: Inquisition and Torture