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DVD Review: JIGOKU

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JIGOKU

DVD Review by David Blackwell

DETAILS: 101 minutes, documentary, theatrical trailer, two poster galleries

STUDIO: Criterion/ Shintoho/ Janus Films/ Image Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: 9-19-2006

In Buddhism, there are eight hells. Or so the film JIGOKU tells us. Director Nobuo Nakagawa is known as the father of the modern Japanese horror film. However, JIGOKU only has two things going for it, the performance late actor Yoichi Numata as the evil Tamura and the imagery of Hell in the last 40 minutes where the director didn't have much money to create. The film was created at the time when Shintoho was about to go bankrupt and be reborn as Toho (the studio best known for the Godzilla films).

Shiro Shimizu is a college student who is a guilt ridden loser. His religion brings him down and he wants to go to the police after Tamura hits a drunk Yakuza gang leader one night (with the car Shiro and Tamura are in). Shiro shouldn't be guilty. the world is better without that scumbag. Fate (or crap) happens that leads Shiro's pregnant girlfriend to die in a car accident on the way to the police station where Shiro wants to confess. Soon, he sleeps with Yuko, the girlfriend of the dead gang leader. Yuko and the gang leader's mother want to kill Shiro and Tamura. Shiro gets lucky when he gets a letter that his mom is ill. He goes home to a small village where his corrupt father is head of an old folk's home. His father has a mistress who wants to run off with Shiro to get away from the middle of nowhere. Next door is a drunk painter and his daughter that a police detective wants to marry. She is the dead ringer for Shiro's dead girlfriend. Tamura soon shows up and things start to go downhill. It is unclear whetehr Tamura is a demon, Shiro's doppleganger, or a very fast person in the way he appears and even escapes death.

Since all the characters are good for nothing people or people with the inability to act, I was glad when everyone went to Hell finally. The imagery of director Nakagawa's hell is disturbing at times, but the script still drags JIGOKU down. If what Shiro did are crimes that send him to Hell, I have to say the judge of Hell is a biased twit. The big problem is Hell is based on what values we think will get us punished in Hell. Shiro finds out he has a sister who is also in Hell too and he has to save his dead unborn son (just another torture of Hell I think). JIGOKU may have lead to better J-Horror like DARK WATER, JU-ON, and RINGU, but a bad script and characters I don't care for bring it down.

VIDEO: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Widescreen)

Criterion has done a nice job to the transfer. The film looks like the way it was shown back in 1960 to the type of film stocks used back then.

AUDIO: Japanese Mono

Subtitles: English

Dialogue and sound are clear, but it is a mono track. No surround action.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

BUILDING THE INFERNO- a 39 minute documentary on the making of JIGOKU and director Nobuo Nakagaw. Late actor Yoichi Numata wishes he understood his role better, but the director let him play it his way. I think the actor did the best job of all the actors in the film. Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (DOPPLEGANGER, CURE), the screenwriter of JIGOKU, and two Nakagawa collaborators also are interviewed.

Also included are the original theatrical trailer and two poster galleries for select movies from Shintoho and director Nakagawa.

FINAL ANALYSIS: JIGOKU is a mediocre Japan horror film with some great Hell visuals.  The documentary was more enjoyable.

this review is (c)9-1-2006 David Blackwell and cannot be reprinted without permission (except for excerpts and a link to the review). Look for additional content at http://enterlinemedia.livejournal.com and send all comments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com