Hollywood Gothique
The Vault

Laserblast: Jigoku takes you on a trip to Hell, Japan-style

For fans of foreign cinema, classic movie, and/or cult horror, the big DVD news this week has to be the Criterion Collection release of the 1960 version of JIGOKU.

Previously available only on VHS, director Nobuo Nakagawa’s wonderful film story depicts the failings of a set of humans, including one who pops up suggestively like Mephistopholes, tempting the protagonists to wrong-doing; then, for its climactic third act, takes them all to Hell and portrays their punishment in lascivious detail. The film is surreal and bizarre, in an almost David Lynchian fashion, and deadly serious in its efforts to portray the afterlife. This is not just a gratuitous horror show; the film really wants to warn you about the perils of living an immoral life, giving it a strange kick far more powerful than typical splatter films (which it almost resembles, in terms of lurid imagery, in its depiction of Hell).

The Criterion DVD features a newly restored, high-definition digital transfer, with Dolby Digital Japanese audio and English subtitles. Bonus features include “Building the Inferno,” a documentary about the making of the film; a theatrical trailers; galleries of posters from Nakagawa’s films; and a booklet with a new essay by critic Chuck Stephens.

As for more recent films, this week also gives us the DVD release of STAY ALIVE,  another cookie-cutter teen slasher movie that finds its way to home video after a mercifully brief theatrical release. The film is available in a widescreen unrated director’s cut and in a full-screen original theatrical cut.

ALSO THIS WEEK: Battlestar Gallactica: Season 2.5; the Boris Karloff Collection (including 5 movies); Chucky: Killer Collection; The Devil and Daniel Johnston; Devil’s Wedding Night/Legacy of Blood (double bill DVD); Edgar Allan Poe; Elvira: Frankenstein’s Castle of Fear/Count (double bill DVD); Exorcist Master; Inner Sanctum Mysteries: Complete Movie Collection; Land of the Minotaur/Terror (double bill DVD); Madmen of Mandoras/Bride of the Monster (double bill DVD); Martha Stewart’s Halloween Ideas; Werewolf of Washington/Doomsday Machine.