Genre: Babes (and Breasts) Behind Bars
review in one breath
Imprisoned for trying to kill a crooked cop, Matsushima Nami becomes prisoner 701 in a ruthless and sadistic prison where oodles of breast-baring and backstabbing abound. Though surviving the many plots on her life by fellow female inmates requires her constant vigilance, her sight is set on escaping in order to exact her consuming revenge.
|other Female Convict Scorpion films|
|Female Prisoner 701 Scorpion||1972|
|Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41||1972|
|Female Convict Scorpion: Beast Stable||1973|
|Female Convict Scorpion: Grudge Song||1973|
|New Female Prisoner Scorpion 701||1976|
|New Female Prisoner Scorpion Special Room X||1977|
|Female Prisoner Scorpion Murderer's Announcement||1991|
|Scorpion's Revenge / Sasori in U.S.A.||1997|
|Scorpion Female Prisoner 701||1998|
This film marks the directorial debut of Ito Shunya. From here Ito will go on to produce nine more films including two sequels to this one - Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41 (1972) and Female Convict Scorpion Beast Stable (1973).
In all three of these films the main character, Matsushima Nami, is played by actress Kaji Meiko. Kaji's career has been quite extensive and includes several well-known roles such as Mako in Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter (1970) and Kashima Yuki, the lead character in Lady Snowblood (1973) and Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance (1974).
Kaji is the singer of several film theme songs including those of Female Convict Scorpion Beast Stable (Song: "Urami Bushi") and Lady Snowblood (Song: "Sura no Hana"). The songs "Urami Bushi" and "The Flower of Carnage", both sung by Kaji, were recently used by Quentin Tarantino in Kill Bill: Vol 1 (2003) and Kill Bill: Vol 2 (2004).
Also appearing here, playing the role of Katagiri, Matsushima's primary nemesis, is Yokoyama Rie who immediately prior to this film played a lead role in director Wakamatsu Koji's wild Ecstacy of the Angels (1972).
For a directorial debut, Female Prisoner 701 Scorpion is surprisingly stylistic and often seemingly experimental. In the tradition of cult director Suzuki Seijun, Ito often uses color to convey a character's emotion -- the primary emotions here being hatred (red) and revenge (green). Ito also employs an interesting method of blending scenes and sets wherein differing times and locations can appear within the same cinematic space. To my recollection I don't recall seeing this method used so explicitly elsewhere.
I'll have to admit that this is the first "Babes Behind Bars" film I have seriously watched and so I do not have any grounds for a comparison of this film with others in the genre (though I'll be reviewing the sequel soon). Of course, you can easily guess that the main elements here consist of nudity, catfights, borderline sado-masochism and bare-breasted horny inmates. The over-arching (though often subordinated) theme here, however, is pure unadulterated REVENGE. Thus there is a method to this madness and a plausible narrative stream to connect all the roller-coater-like scenes audiences will here witness.
After being cruelly set up and deceived by Sugimi (Natsuyagi Isao), a conniving and crooked detective she had whole-heartedly fallen in love with (and subsequently lost her virginity to...), Matsushima Nami's desire for revenge knows no bounds. Her failed (and topless) attempt at stabbing Sugimi on the steps of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Headquarters (!!) results in her doing hard time in a female prison run by sadistic and horny male guards.
To Sugimi's surprise, Matsushima refused to testify against him and his connections to the mob, and now the sheer fact that she knows such secrets makes her a liability. So Sugimi and the yakuza orchestrate a plan whereby Matsushima will succumb to an "accidental" death in prison. They enlist the help of Kagiri, another female inmate with ties to both Sugimi and the yakuza and their formidable plan is quickly set in motion.
Little do they realize, however, how hotly Matsushima's desire for revenge burns within her.
This is a fairly good story revolving around the injustice and severity suffered by the innocent yet courageously resolute character Matsushima Nami. There was apparently enough emotional traction here (between audiences and the Matsushima character) to spawn two sequels, and I can see why. The potential here for creating a truly enduring heroine is quite clear, and actress Kaji undoubtedly was a good choice for this role.
But unfortunately the thematic bells and whistles, and perhaps even the experimental cinematic styles, ultimately obstruct audiences' whole-hearted connection with the heroine Matsushima. In this regard I can't help but compare this film with the far greater job of heroine creation exemplified in Sex and Fury (1973) where audiences are nearly forced to walk away with a rather endearing admiration for the lead female character.
Here, however, you will be treated to far-too-prolonged scenes of prison hardships, to the point of justifiably recommending the film's subtitle be "Women With Shovels". And while the film runs at 87 minutes, the central revenge scenes, the literal modus operandi of the Matsushima character, is squashed and crammed into its final 10 minutes. Thus I feel far too much time is spent by Ito on fulfilling the (presumed) wishes of "pink" film lovers and not enough time on Matsushima herself.
What this all means is that along with the (under)development of a heroine character (which may or may not justify two sequels), audiences will get more than an eyeful of female inmate nudity, LESBO ACTION (!!), the de-flowering of several (undoubtedly euphoric) male guards at the hands of a gazillion naked horny women, the requisite hog-tied-female-suspended-from-the-ceiling scene, border-line misogyny at the hands of obviously penile-deficient male guards, and oodles of catfights! (MEOW!!)
One last trivia tidbit: This film's theme song, Urami Bushi ("Grudge Song"), is sung by none other than Kaji Meiko who, in her day, had quite a singing career, of sorts.
Version reviewed: Region 1 subtitled DVD available at all mainstream venues.
|Directorial debut of Ito Shunya, starring the very effective heroine actress Kaji Meiko.||Plenty of brutality towards women (most often perpetrated by women). Plenty of knife and gun violence as well as some memorably graphic shovel and glass shard incidents. Some whipping, poking, probing and prodding. One screaming conflagration. One torture by light bulb. A hanging by neck from the top floor of a Tokyo high-rise. And of course, the infamous Miso Soup Incident.||bOObies galore, often attached to voraciously horny female inmates!!||Though this may make you wonder about director Ito's love of shovels, this provides a strangely interesting and memorable experience.|