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Criterion Collection: Jigoku [DVD] [1960] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

Shigeru Amachi , Utako Mitsuya , Nobuo Nakagawa    DVD

Price: £14.38
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Region 1 encoding (requires a North American or multi-region DVD player and NTSC compatible TV. More about DVD formats.)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.8 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One Man's Hell Is Another Man's Heaven 27 Sep 2006
By K. Harris - Published on
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
What can I say about "Jigoku"? It was certainly a film I looked forward to seeing, one that I had heard good things about. Quite frankly, what movie called "Hell" wouldn't at least be worth a look. However, while I admired the movie and would cautiously recommend it, I have to face the facts that I didn't particularly like it. Yet it's easy for me to see some camps claiming "masterpiece" status for this peculiar film--and just as easy to see others deriding it as "trash". As a film, it's really neither--but I don't dismiss it out of hand. Given the context that it's a Japanese film from 1960--the imagery is quite striking, visually alluring and seems to have had an influence on many other films even to this day.

The setup is appealing, and the characters are well presented. But you know something is off from the beginning. There are hallucinatory elements wound into our hero's daily life and his best friend appears to be an omnipresent evildoer. But just as soon as you get used to things, we're whisked off to another city I like to call "crazytown". Most of the characters presented here are petty, mean, corrupt--and worst of all not really developed. I wondered why we were being introduced to so many one dimensional villains. Then the answer came to me as people started dropping dead left and right--I realized we would soon be seeing them in "Hell".

The message I got from "Jigoku" is that most of us are sinners and murderers in life, and we will pay for those sins. Even those characters that are seemingly without sins are punished for loving the sinners. And "Hell" is where everyone pays the price.

The finale of the film does take place in "Hell". It is beautifully constructed, and I believe quite well done. It's very theatrical--if you're looking for gory realism, you're going to need to look elsewhere. If I was to recommend the film, it would most likely be for these sequences. But by this time, I had lost all track of any narrative drive in the film--so the images were all I was left with.

So--worth seeing? I believe so. Enjoyable? I'll leave that up to you. KGHarris, 9/06.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating look at a Buddhist vision of Hell... Fine DVD from Criterion 6 Nov 2006
By dooby - Published on
I found it interesting to watch this. It is being touted as a horror film. Would I recommend it to a horror fan? A qualified maybe. It is an old Japanese film (1960). It will be something very alien to its present target audience. Most viewers will be unfamiliar with the cultural/religious context in which it is set. Although Jigoku is correctly translated as Hell, it is not the Judaeo-Christian Hell that most viewers would have in mind. This is a Buddhist vision of Hell. It may look visually similar to western portraits of Hell but the entire concept is very different. The film presupposes the audience's familiarity with Buddhist beliefs. Firstly there is no God in original Buddhism. No supernatural deity sends Shiro's soul to Hell. In this Buddhist worldview, Shiro is in Hell simply because he believes he deserves to be there for what he perceives as his crimes in his previous life. Viewed at dispassionately, Shiro is blameless in most, if not all of his "crimes" and certainly not deserving of damnation to Hell in the western sense. Hell in Buddhism is also not eternal. (In this sense it is almost like the Catholic concept of Purgatory). The Buddhist Hell is simply one stage (the lowest) in the Wheel of Life, from which everyone can leave if they make the effort. So the film is not as pessimistic, arbitrary and utterly devoid of hope as it would appear to most western audiences. Shiro and all the others will eventually work their way out of Hell to a higher plane of existence. Tamura, described here by the western term "doppelganger", is a Hell-being and a soul in his own right. Although Tamura too can work his way out of Hell, he chooses not to, and is condemned to repeat his torment until he learns his lesson and earns progression to the next level. The final scene is a visual metaphor for the Great Mandala, the Wheel of Life. Shiro is vainly trying to reach and rescue his child on the other side of the Wheel as it ceaselessly turns. We see him struggling hopelessly without success right up to the final freeze-frame. Left unsaid is what will happen given time. Shiro will eventually learn that the key to saving his child is to let go and get off the Wheel, allowing the turning Wheel to bring his child to him. That for him will be enlightenment, and with enlightenment he will be ready to leave Hell and progress to the next stage in Life. Viewed in that light, the film has an optimistic, even uplifting ending, very different from what a western audience would infer.

The horror effects may have been good in their day but they are very dated now and look decidedly amateurish. Most of the tortures depicted, are traditional tortures featured in Eastern mythological portraits of Hell and you can see them depicted in texts, temples and theme parks across East Asia. If you are seeing it mainly for the shock or horror effects, don't bother. But it is a fascinating look at a wholly different worldview from what most westerners would be exposed to. It remains a fascinating work in its own right and deserves recognition for that alone, rather than for simply being another "J-horror" movie.

Criterion's DVD is as usual very professionally produced. The print looks its age. But it is clean, undamaged, and aside from a jumping frame here and there, is very good. It is presented in its OAR of 2.35:1 (anamorphic). Colours are very sombre, drab and dark for the most part, occasionally punctuated by hellish crimsons which look impressive when they appear. Sound is in the original Japanese 1.0 Mono and is perfectly serviceable. Optional English subtitltes are provided.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crime and Punishment, and Punishment, and ... 19 Sep 2006
By Timothy Hulsey - Published on
Less gory than hardcore horror fans might hope, yet more disturbing than anyone would expect, Nobuo Nakagawa's low-rent classic _Jigoku_ (_Hell_) paints a relentlessly bleak portrait of human depravity. At first the film spins a straightforward, Dostoevskian yarn about a well-meaning college student and his increasingly guilty conscience. But in the second half, events take a decidedly more Dantean turn. Nakagawa's surrealist imagery and daring camera work recall the best of the Italian horror mavens -- except that _Jigoku_ preceded their work by several years.

Criterion has opted to give this film a single-disc treatment, with a perfectly decent (though far from spectacular) hi-def transfer and the original Japanese monaural soundtrack. An informative half-hour documentary, two still-frame poster galleries and a theatrical trailer round out the extras.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Check your copy 6 July 2008
By Jimbob - Published on
To anyone who buys this please check your copy to ensure it is the second pressing. There was a technical glitch with the original pressing which resulting in some footage not displaying in the film. Criterion quickly issued a 2nd pressing

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Contexually remarkable, but not great. 6 Jun 2010
By T. Hunt - Published on
To prelude my review, I should advise that I'm fairly new to Japanese cinema, having only seen about twenty-five movies, and not all of these were horror. If my attempt to contribute here is frowned upon by the genre's enthusiasts due to a lack of cinematic experience, I apologize profusely. For those still interested, thank you, and here goes...

Briefly, Jigoku tells the story of a young man weighted down by the guilt of his role in a fatal hit-and-run accident. Consequential manisfestations of said incident saturate this movie's duration until our protagonist's nightmarish descention into Hell.

Any admiration I can muster for this movie revolves strictly around its apparent boldness. Jigoku was filmed in 1960, and from what I've seen of Japanese horror, the surrounding five to ten years produced mostly artistic and angular scary movies that, to me, unfolded with a wonderful grace. (Onibaba, 1964, for example.) Jigoku, literally, took a giant saw to the backbone of this norm. Desensitized as I am, it was still a pleasant shock to see some of what Director Nobuo Nakagawa was trying to present.

This praise, however, ebbs when I consider what else was happening in horror cinema at the same time elsewhere on the planet. I hate to push a trite reference, but Alfred Hitchcock's Pyscho also came out in 1960. It's probably rude to compare the two in this forum, but I'm trying to make the point that Jigoku, to me, doesn't seem to have aged well.

I didn't enjoy the movie. I found the acting to be choppy and even obnoxious at times. (Which, now that I think about it, would be the best way for me to describe the abrubt, even jarring jumps from scene to scene. Not impressed.) A regular dose of glass-shattering screeches from the female actresses had me reaching uncomfortably for the volume on my remote on more than one occasion, which unfortunately had to happen during some of the film's best offerings. I'm sure this can be blamed largely on sound quality of that era and on Japanese horror in general. I've watched enough to know that screaming Asian females can hit notes of a murderous pitch. It hurts.

That being said, I think this is a movie that SHOULD be watched, if only for its importance. I was glad when it was over, but I knew that I had seen something that broke a fairly thick mold in its day. It's a trippy movie filmed on one of the most inventive sets I've seen from that time. This alone, which occupies only the last 20-30 minutes of the movie, has earned my humble recommendation.

It's definitely one of those movies that make for great conversation and I'm glad I can now weigh in on it.

Thank you for your time.

- t -
6 June, 2010
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