Friday, July 6, 2012

Komori Kiyoshi and the First SM Film

The name of director Komori Kiyoshi has popped up here before. Recently, I was reminded of Komori, and the fact that he had been the director of what is considered to be Japan's first full-fledged SM film, as I was reading a forum that contained a discussion about said film, History of Japanese Torture Punishment.

One of the commenters on the forum had been doing some research into the status of this nearly 50-year-old film (it was released in 1964) and reported that at least one copy of the film does still exist!

He had been in contact with Shintoho and some film archive (forget the name) but a couple of problems became apparent. First, there was the issue of who held the copyright. The second and most critical issue had to do with the miserable condition of the celluloid itself.

A purported scene from History of Japanese Torture Punishment
Film has to be stored with great care (just ask the folks responsible for looking after The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind). It seems that this print of History of Japanese Torture Punishment is in such awful condition that projecting it would be impossible. That leaves restoration which, if I understood the commenter correctly, would be an expensive and possibly futile undertaking.

I've often lamented the fact that so many of these SM classics have seemingly been lost, and I do think that at least some truly are gone, never to return. But this one, the one considered to be the first balls-to-the-wall SM film in Japan, still exists. But the possibility of ever being able to see it appears slim.

Coverage in Kitan Club magazine
Interestingly, in 1966 another film was directed by Komori which has a very similar title so I'm assuming it's a sequel. I know even less about that film than I do the original.

Perusing Komori's filmography, I noticed no fewer than five films directed by him which also listed the name of Tani Naomi in the credits. 

The 1964 film had as its technical consultant Nawa Yumio who is an interesting character in his own right. Nawa was a martial artist and a writer and did consulting work for films. I believe he wrote a book which had the same, or similar, title to the movie. Now that I think about it, the film may have been based on his book. Will have to get back to you on that one.

In the 1990s there was a series of three or so films that came out and one of them had a scene that was reminiscent of one of the scenes in History of Japanese Torture Punishment.

Scene from a 1990s film
As I recall, one of these films was pretty good while the others were kind of meh. Some folks in the West may have seen these as I think they got a bit of international distribution.

Below is the VHS box cover for one of the films I'm thinking of.

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