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Female Convict Scorpion: Grudge Song (Hasebe Yasuharu 1973)


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Female Convict Scorpion Grudge Song
[Joshuu sasori: 701-go urami-bushi]

Genre: Tough Girl Meets Guy, Kicks MAJOR Buttock-age

review in one breath

On the run from the cops, Matsushima Nami, aka Scorpion, hides out in a strip joint while the search for her cools off (and the LESBO ACTION heats up!). Faced with yet more abuse and injustice, Sasori once again pulls out the steely knives and metes out her own brand of final justice. This is the fourth and final Scorpion film starring Kaji Meiko.


other Female Convict Scorpionfilms
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

intro

This is the fourth of at least nine Sasori (Scorpion) films. The three films prior to this were all directed by Ito Shunya. Thus this is the first time a director other than Ito has tried his hand at Sasori. Here, director Hasebe Yasuharu takes the helm. Three years prior to this, Hasebe directed Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter which also starred Kaji Meiko as the lead femme fatale. In all of Ito's three films and in this film as well, uber-tough girl Matsushima Nami, aka Scorpion, is played by Kaji. This is the last time she will play the Sasori character despite undoubtedly earnest appeals by subsequent directors.

The three Scorpion films directed by Ito Shunya are the following:

- Female Prisoner 701 Scorpion (1972)
- Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41 (1972)
- Female Convict Scorpion: Beast Stable (1973)

The Female Convict Scorpion narratives all revolve around degrees of cruelty women face at the hands of men (and the tough-ass woman who attempts to balance the scales of justice all by herself). In Ito's three films, the trajectory is clear, with males becoming more inherently evil with each film. In the current film, Female Convict Scorpion Grudge Song, director Hasebe takes a slight step back, but not too far.

In this film more than the others, the Matsushima Nami character actually speaks (!). You may think I'm joking, but in the prior film, Female Convict Scorpion: Beast Stable, she was given a whopping two lines to memorize. This is also the only film of the four wherein Sasori falls in love (!!) and HAS SEX!! (!!!) [...Not counting Act One, Scene One of the first film which sets Nami on her now infamous path of revenge.] In other words, director Hasebe's tact toward the Sasori character is quite distinct from the original vision depicted by Ito.

But in all of this she loses not an ounce of her toughness. Heck, within the first 5 miinutes of the film you see her kill a cop with a FLOWER! (You heard that right.) She remains as steely-eyed and stoic (except for the copulations) as ever, and deftly escapes prison walls and overcomes the most hardened of detectives.

All of these films also have some degree of "pink". That is to say depictions of overt nudity or sexuality within the storyline. In the original Female Prisoner 701 Scorpion, where Ito was still only warming up his anti-misogynist social commentary, this amounted to the requisite and well-beloved Women's Prison Shower Scene (WPS2), where a veritable smorgasbord of bOObies floats before your eyes as the camera pans a room full of nekkid sudsy women. (Not that I remember those scenes...). In the second film, Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41, Ito took a darker turn, displaying nudity only as an outcome of rape or victimization of women. Rather than nakedness as a natural part of human activity such as bathing, nudity became a bitterly endured experience women undergo at the hands of brutish men. And finally, in the third film (Beast Stable) nudity epitomizes the utter degradation of the woman, whether via pathetic incest, sexual exploitation, or rather horrendous physical violence.

All of this, of course, is what fuels the fires of revenge within the formidable Matsushima Nami (and similarly outrages the audience).

Here again, however, director Hasebe discards Ito's clear trajectory and goes his own way. In Grudge Song, nudity abounds, but is for the most part (with the exception of one scene) PURELY gratuitous, thanks to the viewers' good fortune that on-the-run Sasori chooses to hide out in a nudie strip club which specializes in LESBO ACTION! (I kid you not.) Thus those of you sitting next to your mother while watching this may be in for an uncomfortable moment or two (unless, of course, your mother is a HOT LESBO! -- just kidding. heh?).

ANYWAY, all that to say, director Hasebe clearly and consciously breaks away from Ito's vision of Female Convict Scorpion and here redacts and then expands in new directions. And in fact, by stepping away from Ito's overly-dominant social philosophy, Grudge Song actually comes across as a far more plausible and sustainable tale (particularly compared to Ito's final Female Convict Scorpion: Beast Stable.)

By allowing the Sasori character to speak, feel and live more than Ito's earlier films, audiences actually can get a glimpse of the woman. And unlike Ito's latter films, the villians here are not cartoonish diabolical characters. Their own motivations for hatred and revenge are crystal clear and wholly understandable. Thus Grudge Song actually breathes some fresh air (and bOObies!) into the seemingly irrevocable nihilism intended by Ito.

story

After narrowly escaping thick-skinned Detective Kodama (Hosokawa Toshiyuki) -- by killing his henchman with a white rose!-- Matsushima Nami, aka Sasori hides out in a seedy strip joint in the back streets of Tokyo. There she encounters Kudo (Tamura Masakazu) who has also had his own unforgettable, life-changing run-ins with the police. The two strike a bond and soon set out to exact Kudo's long dreamt-about justice against detective Kodama. But their plan takes an immediate turn for the worst, setting Kodama on their trail with the fires of Hell burning within him.

When Kudo is finally captured and tortured, it will all come down to whether or not he is willing to divulge the whereabouts of his one true love, Matsushima Nami.

verdict

Well, you gotta ask yourself why you want to watch the fourth film of the Female Convict Scorpion saga. For those approaching this film without seeing any of the prior three, this narrative does briefly retell Sasori's history so you at least know why she is so revered, though you will undoubtedly wonder whether she deserves her reputation. I recommend you watch at least Female Prisoner 701 Scorpion first (and then even Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41 next) so that you too can say without doubt that HELL YES she deserves that reputation. (And if you want to see her cut off a detective's arm and then run down the street with it in the middle of rush hour, then by all means also watch Female Convict Scorpion: Beast Stable!)

For those of you who have seen Ito's prior films and are wondering whether to endure another incarnation, this may be worth your while. Personally speaking, I wish Ito had stopped after two films. While the themes in Female Convict Scorpion: Beast Stable are undoubtedly mature and nihilistic, they simply wrung the lifeblood out of the Sasori character and her trajectory. I admit that Beast Stable jaded me as to the possibilities of what I might find here. Yet as I said above, director Hasebe intentionally and quite wisely breaks free of Ito's dismal direction.

Thus fans of Female Convict Scorpion will likely find some satisfaction here, in the knowledge that the beautiful steely-eyed Queen of Revenge could in fact be redeemed from the hands of crappy story-telling.

One last trivia tidbit: This film's opening and closing theme song, Urami Bushi ("Song of Vengeance / 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.

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
Fourth of the Scorpion films and final appearance of Kaji Meiko as Sasori. Directed by Hasebe Yasuharu. Fair share of depicted and implied beatings, stabbings and shootings. One scene of rape. Three words...
GRATUITOUS. LESBO. ACTION. (!!!) Need I say more?
Refreshing re-direction of the Scorpion narrative. This will be worth your while, but perhaps ONLY if you have seen at least the first Scorpion film.

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