DVD Reviews: Sex Hell & Debauchery

Two kinky highlights from the Golden Age of Japanese erotica are now available on DVD.

Devon Ashbyby Devon Ashby


Porn fans and Japan fetishists unite in joy and celebration this month as Impulse Pictures finally unveils the first in what promises scintillatingly to be a long procession of Nikkatsu Roman Porno reissues on DVD. Highlighting two transgressive, BDSM-themed entries from the prestigious tradition of refined adult films that began to issue from respectable Nikkatsu studios during the early 1970s, Impulse’s launch of the Nikkatsu Erotic Films Collection kicks of with Sex Hell, a sleazy adolescent interpretation of the Women in Prison subgenre, and Debauchery, a low-rent Japanese Belle du Jour about an errant housewife who seeks perverse thrills as the masochistic employee of a high-end brothel.

Directed by infamous sleaze maven Koyu Ohara, Sex Hell: True Story of a Woman In Jail is set in a juvenile detention facility and follows three girls – Mayumi, Harumi, and Hiromi – as they navigate the alternately tittillating and degrading avenues of the prison system. Mayumi is a first-time offender, framed by a rich doctor who was also secretly her lover for the accidental death of one of his patients. Harumi has just landed her fourth conviction for teen prostitution, and Hiromi, the most wild-eyed and devious of the three, has been sentenced to long-term incarceration for brutally eviscerating her older lover’s mistress after discovering him cheating on her. Struggling to survive in the cutthroat universe of juvenile detention, the girls form an alliance, hoping to escape the unchecked abuses of the staff and inmates, and avenge themselves against those on the outside who have betrayed them.

More overtly preoccupied with old school, black leather bondage motifs than Sex Hell, Debauchery features Japanese porn icon Ryoko Watanabe as a bored suburban housewife who dropped out of nursing school to marry a prominent doctor. Trapped in a passionless and mundane marriage, she allows a business associate of her husband’s to convince her to interview for a position at a high-class brothel that specializes in bondage and humiliation. Startled to discover her own affinity for such cheap sexual degradation, she becomes utterly immersed in the perversity of her new profession, but when her secret is revealed, the consequences are more devastating than she ever could have anticipated.

Both Sex Hell and Debauchery are completely off-the-wall and sleazy to the core, which makes them a fun trip despite their essential plotlessness. Debauchery wears its perv badge on its sleeve a little more prominantly than Sex Hell does, but the cornucopia of niche fetishes represented in Sex Hell makes its intentions equally clear. Debauchery in particular was released during the final stages of the Roman Porno empire and its production value is slightly lower than many of Nikkatsu’s earlier and more critically recognized adult films, but its gonzo enthusiasm still makes it stand out.

Both discs are tragically devoid of special features, which is especially disappointing considering their historical relevance, but the presentation for both films is otherwise beautiful and crisp, and Sex Hell in particular is gloriously sordid aside from its strictly adult content. Both entries are highly recommended, and the series itself is an exciting development for anyone interested in Asian Psychotronia, or in erotic film generally.


Sex Hell: