Jigoku – 地獄, “Hell”, also titled The Sinners of Hell, is a 1960 Japanese horror feature film, directed by Nobuo Nakagawa and starring Utako Mitsuya and Shigeru Amachi.
Jigoku was re-made in 1970 by Tatsumi Kumashiro, and later re-made again under the title of Japanese Hell by Teruo Ishii in 1999.
The story concerns a college student, Shiro Shimizu (Shigeru Amachi) who flees a hit-and-run accident. Even though he wasn’t the one driving, Shiro is plagued with guilt, which begins to interfere with his courtship of Yukiko (Utako Mitsuya), whose father just happens to be a theology professor who lectures on Buddhist concepts of Hell. The first half of the film sets the stage for the cast’s decent into Hell, where things start to get really strange…
Jigoku is notable for separating itself from other Japanese horror films of the era such as Kwaidan or Onibaba due to its graphic imagery of torment in Hell. It was one of the first films to use extensive gore effects.
The film was not expected to be well received, as Shintoho studio was considered to be a maker of low-budget, gory films. Jigoku was made in a hurry, and was the last Shintoho production. For the scenes which take place in hell, the cast and crew used Shintoho’s largest soundstage and put dirt over it. In a recent documentary, a crew member said that normally it would be just the crew helping to build the sets, but because it was Shintoho’s last production, all the extras were helping.
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“Jigoku is entertaining and completely over the top. Anyone expecting a slow-paced, classical-feeling foreign film will be shocked to find out that the plot writhes and turns at an almost breakneck pace. The deaths are impossibly heightened almost to level of ridiculous like we would see in The Omen. All the film is missing is a Jerry Goldsmith score with a chanting English choir.” Brett Cullum, DVD Verdict
” …Jigoku stuck in my head and made me think – not so much about fire and brimstone or the eternal suffering of my eternal soul but about how life can spiral out of control despite our best intentions and in that respect it was a powerful film with an amazing and unique visual style that captivates and disturbs at the same time.” Ian Jane, Rock! Shock! Pop!