Despite the fact that his filmography is quite diverse, Teruo Ishii is commonly known as the “King of Cult,” since he directed a number of movies in his quite prolific career, that definitely justify the title. “Horrors of Malformed Men” and “Shogun’s Joys of Torture” are among the most famous in this category of his works, but the omnibus “Orgies of Edo” also demands a place among his highlights.
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Set in the Gentoku era (as all of the stories), the first story follows Oito, an innocent young woman who falls victim to the mechanics of a cunning and handsome Yakuza, who eventually leads her into prostitution. Despite the extreme hardships she experiences, though, she keeps being in love with him, even when disaster hits them both quite hard.
In the second story, the focus is on Ochise, the daughter of rich merchant whose need for perversion leads her into the lowest depths of society in search of pleasure, drawing, in this downward spiral, a man who is in love with her.
The story of Omitsu has a man as its protagonist, a sadistic lord who finds a woman in his harem that seems to share his love for the sadomasochistic, but holds a secret that could ruin the whole household.
Teruo Ishii directs an anthology where love and sex are presented in the darkest and most grotesque colors. In here, love is a power that destroys people and sex an obsession that ruins even the strongest, who fall victim to their insatiable thirst for the perverse.
The first story is probably the tamest in that aspect, since love is the main ingredient, although violence and torture, eventually and inevitably, take over. The other two however, present human perversion in all its glory, with Ishii not shying away from both abnormality and extreme violence. Love is also an element in the second story, but in this occasion, its presentation is as something even more onerous than in the first one, that will even make one of its “victims” deform himself in the search for a response from the object of his feelings.
The last part is probably the most perverted in the film, with the sadomasochistic tendencies dominating the narrative, only to be topped by the truly onerous finale, which involves an unborn child.
Add to all the above much nudity, bondage, extreme exploitation elements, some great villains who also happen to be protagonists, and even a scene involving tortured “dwarves” and you have the backbone of a truly cult film.
However, what is equally impressionable, at least if someone is able to see beyond the extremity, is the film’s production values, and particularly Sadatsugu Yoshida’s cinematography, the set design, and the costumes, all of which are actually exquisite. Starting with the intro, which is much reminiscent of “Horrors of Malformed Men”, continuing with the sex scene among the motley fabrics in the first part, the “golden woman” in the last segment, and the various orgies , the visual aspect of the film is truly elaborate and one of its best assets.
Furthermore, and particularly in those lastly mentioned scenes, Ishii’s ability to direct a plethora of characters on screen simultaneously is also highlighted, as his ability to present the perverse with utmost detail.
“Orgies of Edo” is a definite cult film, and evidently, a difficult one to watch. At the same time, though, it features an artistry rarely featuring in the category, which will definitely reward anyone who is willing to see beyond the extremity of the three stories.