(aka 'Jigoku' or 'Hell' or 'Story of the Great 8-Tombed Hell' or 'The Sinners of Hell')

Directed by Nobuo Nakagawa
Japan 1960


  Shocking, outrageous, and poetic, Jigoku (Hell, a.k.a. The Sinners of Hell) is the most innovative creation from Nobuo Nakagawa, the father of the Japanese horror film. After a young theology student flees a hit-and-run accident, he is plagued by both his own guilt-ridden conscience and a mysterious, diabolical doppelganger. But all possible escape routes lead straight to hell— literally. In the gloriously gory final third of the film, Nakagawa offers up his vision of the underworld in a tour de force of torture and degradation. A striking departure from traditional Japanese ghost stories, Jigoku, with its truly eye-popping (and -gouging) imagery, created aftershocks that are still reverberating in contemporary world horror cinema.


Theatrical Release: July 30th, 1960

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DVD Review: Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC

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CLICK to order from:

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 352 - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:38:42 
Video 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.31 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s 

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio Japanese (Dolby Digital 1.0) 
Subtitles English, None

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Edition Details:

• Building the Inferno, a new documentary on director Nobuo Nakagawa and the making of the film, featuring exclusive interviews with actor Yoichi Numata, screenwriter Ichiro Miyagawa, Nakagawa collaborators Chiho Katsura and Kensuke Suzuki, and Cure and Doppelganger director Kiyoshi Kurosawa
• Theatrical trailer
• Galleries of posters from selected Nakagawa and Shintoho Studios films
• Liner notes essay by noted Asian-cinema critic Chuck Stephens

DVD Release Date: September 19th, 2006

Keep Case
Chapters: 24




Honestly this looks more like a release and transfer that, the now defunct, HomeVision would have been allocated. It is not as pristine as we have seen from some top-shelf Criterion releases - there is heavy digital/noise-grain but overall looks acceptably impressive with deep penetrating blacks. The transfer is fairly dark but I see no undo signs of black level boosting. It is progressive, of course, and anamorphic in Shintohoscope 2.35:1 ratio. The 1.0 channel audio has a shade of background hiss at times - almost imperceptible if you weren't looking for it. Subtitles are at Criterion's usual high standard.

Extras include an informative 40 minute documentary - Building the Inferno -  where people give their impression of the unassuming Nakagawa and discuss the genre-breaking uniqueness of Jigoku. It is also interesting to hear Kiyoshi Kurosawa's input on the film. There is also a gallery of amusing/campy posters, a theatrical trailer and an excellent 14-page long liner notes booklet featuring an essay by Chuck Stephens.

The film? - well, 'creepy' is probably the operative word. Shintoho was considered quite the decadent exploitation production company of films in Japan, but this is a far step above any of that. I didn't assume this was my type of film at all but I began to really get into it as it progressed. The bluesy background music certainly helps with the mood. There definitely is something to it and those at all keen on the current Asian-horror trend should see this - the granddaddy of them all.

Gary W. Tooze


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DVD Box Cover


CLICK to order from:

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 352 - Region 1 - NTSC


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