Blu-ray Review: Irezumi (1966)

June 12, 2021

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, director, producer, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

Otsuya (Ayako Wakao) has it all, being the daughter of a well-off merchant type back in the days of yore down Japan-way.
Not content to live a life on Easy Street, Otsuya falls head over ass for one of her father’s employees (read dirt-poor bastard), Shinsuke ( Akio Hasegawa) to be precise. Anyway, the dynamic duo decide to beat feet and elope, because you can bet demons to diamonds that Daddy Dearest would never approve of that bit of bad romance.
Speaking of “bad”, that whole eloping idea was right shit and long story short; Otsuya ends up a prostitute who’s fortune gets even more like a puddle of puke when she meets a shady-as-fuck master tattooist who decides Otsuya’s ivory-white skin would make one hell of a canvas for his latest work; a big-ass monster spider with a human face, and right on her back that shit goes.
Along with her new ink comes the ire of nearly fuckin’ everyone she comes in contact with, with decidedly shitty results for them… but damn does that arcane art seem to be enjoying the viscous violence that lines Revenge Road!
Presented as near-visual poetry, director Yasuzo Masumura and screenwriter Kaneto Shindô’s (working from a novel by famous novelist Junichiro Tanizaki) Irezumi is a heady mix of revenge, obsession, and sex (think more sensual than explicit), that is as stylish as it is mesmerizing.
While we are on the subject of “style”, the visuals here (courtesy of cinematographer by Kazuo Miyagawa of Kurosawa’s 1950 masterpiece Rashomon) are lush with plenty of flourishes that make this seem like a dream… maybe a nightmare… but you pick up what I’m layin’ down for sure…
Of course none of this wouldn’t mean much without a great cast, and fortunately this film possesses that very thing, with Masumura regular Wakao turning in a terrific performance that runs the gamut of lovelorn and proper to rough n’ rude (see: every one of my past loves) front and center!
Speaking of… shit, I can’t use that segue here… hmmm…
Anyway… (fuckin’ nailed it again cats n’ creeps!)
Anyway, our putrid pals over at Arrow Video (along with MVD Entertainment) have included some groovy bonus material on this Blu-ray release including a trio of experts weighing in on Irezumi and putting all aspects of the film’s production, themes, and use of mythology via an audio commentary by Japanese cinema scholar David Desser, an intro to the film courtesy of Japanese cinema expert Tony Rayns, and a visual essay provided by Asian cinema scholar Daisuke Miyao.
Also included are the film’s original theatrical trailer, an image gallery, and if you jump on that sweet, sweet first printing bandwagon you’ll grab yourself an illustrated booklet featuring new writing by author and Japanologist Thomas Lamarre and Miyao.
A solid entry in the “woman is wronged and gets revenge” subgenre that comprises some of the finest exploitation flicks out there (not that this is on of those… but man, it kinda is!), Irezumi is a lush, vivid, unforgettable experience and it shouldn’t be missed!

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