The movie Inferno of Torture (1969) is a Japanese horror film directed by Teruo Ishii. The film is set in Nineteenth Century Japan, where a high demand for tattooed geisha generates an entire industry for their “production”. Europeans pay more for tattooed beauties².
The plot revolves around a woman named Yumi, who is sent to an unusual brothel-type institution to pay back her debt. In this institution, tattoo artists ink their masterpieces on the virgin flesh of young women when they’re not being whipped and tortured by businessmen with peculiar tastes. The geisha ladies merely become canvases in a competition to see who can gain the highest praise from the shogun².
The winner will win Osuzu’s hand in marriage, of which her father is adamant her lover, the quiet, contemplative Horihide, will win with his tranquil, sophisticated pieces. However, he has stiff competition from rival Horitatsu, whose ink creations outshine the rest but whose subject matter comes from a place of darkness and horror compared to Horihide’s work of light and hope².
With the brothel owners betting on their man Horitatsu to win and bargaining a deal with a wealthy foreigner, Clayton, to provide him with tattooed slave girls, Horihide must do everything in his power to ensure their face off is a fair fight and to win the heart of his beloved Osuzu².
- Teruo Yoshida as Horihide
- Masumi Tachibana as Osuzu
- Asao Koike as Horitatsu
- Yumiko Katayama as Yumi
- Mieko Fujimoto as Otatsu
- Haruo Tanaka as Samejima
Despite the graphic content and controversy surrounding the film, Inferno of Torture (1969) was released during the important week of 1969’s Golden Week in Japan. 
“With some unforgettable visuals and entertaining snippets of dialogue (not to mention a splendorous tattoo reveal when Otetsu’s machinations find Horitatsu blotting out Horihide’s work with his own on Yumi’s body), Inferno of Torture is one of several testaments suggesting “The King of Cult” has yet to find the wider recognition he deserves.” – 
“Compared to some of the other Teruo Ishii films that I’ve seen, Inferno of Torture is a film that aims very high but feels constrained by its exploitative chains. There is definitely an intention to deliver a visually arresting film with plenty of subtext to dig into, but it requires sitting through a substantial amount of exploitation to get there.” –