Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion Series

I read about a sweet sounding series of flicks called Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (with various sub-titles) from the 70’s that sounded pretty bad ass in the Women In Prison issue of Cinema Sewer I picked up when I subscribed and bought all the back issues The Vol 1 and 2 books didn’t already cover.

The series went for 4 entries until the actress portraying the bad ass lead character Nami Matsushima (the Scorpion) left and then series was affixed with “New” in front of the title.  I watched up to number 4, but the first 3 are the real gems.  After part 3 the series’ original visionary director, Shunya Ito, left and was replaced by Cat III director Yasuharu Hasabe.  I watched the first three in one sitting and then the 4th the night after, so I guess I went even more “ape” than I did with the Planet of the Apes flicks.  What can I say, I was just in the mood for some kick as W.I.P. Japanese exploitation.  The thing is, these shows turned out to be even cooler than just being exploitive, they had real style too.  I’d honestly equate them to the Kill Bill before there was a Kill Bill in terms of how much style drips off of these things, especially for the time.

Since I’m a lazy ass even though I haven’t done shit with this site in a month, I am once again opting for one review for all 4 flicks. 

The movies in the series are a little bit confusing for their titles (and of course have several obligatory “also known as” titles floating around that don’t help matters).  Part 1 is called Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion, then part 2 switches gears to Female Convict #701: Jailhouse 41, then we go back to Female Prisoner #701: Beast Stable and end with Female Prisoner #701: Grudge Song.  Follow?  Good.  OK, on to the reviews.

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Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion

Our story opens in a Japanese women’s prison where the guards are all congratulating themselves on how great they are only to find out that during the ceremony 2 of the prisoners have escaped, so they all high tale it out of their on foot to catch them, attack dogs and all.  One of our two escapees is Nami Matsushima (or Matsu for short, which she’s frequently called in the movie, so I will too; laziness again, I know...).  You can tell as soon as you see her; this is a woman on a mission, and guess what? It happens to be revenge.

Turns out she got royally fucked over (literally and figuratively) by her ex boyfriend Sugimi, a greedy ass-face of a narcotics cop who’s going after marijuana dealers (!?).  He de-virginizes her and then convinces her to infiltrate a yakuza-run club to get evidence for him because obviously ethics are very high on his list of life priorities, and being in love she agrees to help him.  As you can guess it doesn’t turn out very good. 

The gangsters can smell a snitch a mile away so they take her in the back room and rape her as punishment for being a narc stooly.  Just as they finish Sugimi bursts in, but instead of saving her he figures he’ll just blackmail the Yakuza guys into paying him off in return for police favours.

As you can probably imagine Matsu doesn’t take to kindly to this, so she goes and gets a knife without even getting dressed and then attempts to stab Sugimi right in front of the police station, but is taken down by a mob of cops before she can get the job done.

From here on out we have pretty much your archetypal women in prison flick: inmate catfighting, sadistic guards who torture the inmates, a healthy amount of nudity, and a solid slathering of sleaze.  The difference here though is that director Ito decided to take this thing into near art film territory by utilizing psychedelic lighting, cool looking matte painted backdrops, over the top gory violence in slow mo, and even characters transforming into weird kabuki style demonic fiends when they get pissed off.  It’s seriously W.I.P on L.S.D.   The cinematography is way above pretty much anything else I’ve ever seen in the genre which usually sits somewhere around “barely competent but there’s lots of tits so who gives a fuck” level of quality.

The other thing that makes these movies simply rule is how much of an utter ass-kicking, ball-busting bad ass Matsu The Scorpion is.  She hardly says anything throughout the whole movie, leaving her eyes to do the talking, and let me tell you, they get the message across crystal clear: “I will fuck you up!”.  You can really see how much Quentin Tarantino was influenced by these movies and the Lady Snowblood series (also starring Meiko Kaji, in a similarly lovely-but-deadly role, and also awesome!), right down to even lifting music from both of them to use in Kill Bill.

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Female Convict #701: Jailhouse 41

The second part in the series isn’t so much a W.I.P. movie as a criminals-on-the-run, fucking crazy psychedelic road trip movie.  Maybe that’s why they call this one “convict” since I guess if you’re not in prison you’re a convict instead of a prisoner.  That’s what I’m going with anyway.

Where the first movie had some cool artistic style to it mixed with the exploitation elements, this one takes the surrealism to the next level.  There are entire sequences where characters have bizarre visions one minute, to then only return to reality the next for a vicious shoot out.  It isn’t over done, but it definitely makes for an interesting experience.

The story picks up with Matsu back in prison after (SPOILER but not really unless you’re a retard since there’s more than one part here) getting her revenge.  As a result of one of the better fights in the first flick in the women’s shower room the Warden ended up with a big piece of glass stuck in his eyeball.  He isn’t too happy about how things worked out there and he blames Matsu for his now fugly deformed eye.  The problem is, he already figured out it’s impossible to break Matsu with excessive punishment, so instead he decides he’s going to have her tied up and raped by a bunch of his guards (again ethics is apparently not all that important in the justice system in Japan I guess) in some rock quarry where they have them working. He has the guards disguise themselves and then the plan is to pretend that she was whoring it up asking for it. The goal here being that the rest of the girls in the prison will stop idolizing her as the scorpion.

Matsu ends up being savagely beaten by her fellow inmates in the truck on the way back to the prison because apparently this plan somehow actually worked (!) and one of them thinks she’s dead and gets the guards to pull over. Of course that ends up being a rather large mistake when they open up the truck and end up getting killed.  Turns out Matsu isn’t dead, so all of the women form an unspoken, but seemingly shaky truce and go on the run.

From there they end up in this weird shanty village and then a town that looks like it’s buried underneath dirt and rubble from the A-bombs that were dropped on Japan (maybe there is still places that look like that there, it’s really surreal and makes the movie seem almost post apocalyptic at times). Finally they end up stealing a bus and getting into situation criminals on the run usually get into where hostages are taken and motherfuckers end up gettin’ shot.  It’s good times trust me.

Once again Matsu (SPOILER) gets her revenge at knife point but the stabbing is taken to even more drawn out heights of epic death throes, love it.

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Female Prisoner #701: Beast Stable

Where to go after the second movie took things so far into crazy territory?  Well Beast Stable ends up slowing the pace down a little and focusing on some rather fucked up drama.  Don’t worry, Matsu is still on the run and stabby as ever, but she’s also working as a seamstress trying to lay low and make enough money for her apartment and groceries and that sort of thing. 

At first though the movie is still in chase mode as Matsu is pursued by cops in a subway resulting in one of them cuffing her to him, but then he loses his arm as a result of it and the credits roll as she runs through the streets with a bloody severed arm cuffed to her.  Awesome!

She ends up meeting up with a prostitute in a graveyard who sees her trying to break the chain by rubbing it against a tombstone and apparently figures a person with a bloody severed limb cuffed to them is good people.  Then again she spends her time “looking after” her older brother who was brain damaged in some work related accident and who has been reduced to a drooling sex crazed mongloid, so I suppose it’s probably a step up.  You notice those quotation marks around looking after I used there?  Yeah that’s because when I say looking after what I mean is she “takes care of him” and when I say takes care of him, what I also mean to say is she lets her brother have sex with her on a daily basis... yeah, that’s what I said too.

Turns out Miss brother fucker prostitute is working the streets near another Yakuza business, in this case it looks to be basically a brothel, and the girlfriend of the boss is one of the women who did time with Matsu back in part one.  Now she’s this mega King Kong bitch of a mistress who doles out punishment to hookers trying to work the gangs streets without paying protection (golf clubs are forcefully inserted) and forces her prostitutes to get abortions when they get pregnant.  Obviously a very caring individual.

Then in yet another small world situation Matsu shares her apartment building with one of the members of the Yakuza gang and when he tries to black mail her into having sex with him, she sets it up so his angry wife ends up throwing boiling water in his face.  The gang doesn’t take to well to their members getting killed via savage burns so they snatch Matsu, kick the shit out of her, shoot her up (yeah these guys graduated from weed I guess) and throw her in a cage with crows.  While lying drugged in the cage, Matsu witnesses one of the prostitutes forced into an abortion dying and decides she’s going to get revenge against these bastards and bitch.

At this point the pace picks up again and we’re treated to some solid cold blooded vengeance and an escape into the sewers culminating in some nice explosion action.  I think I liked the first two a little better, but this one does have some nice gore and fuckedupness in the plot, so I certainly don’t think it’s a big step down by any means.

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Female Prisoner #701: Grudge Song

This is where Shunya Ito left the series, and right away you can tell.  Where the first three films actually had very polished cinematography to contrast against the onscreen griminess, this one has a slightly grittier look with that smearing that you see in a lot of flicks from the 70’s for some reason along with a heavier amount of film grain.

The plot this time has Matsu on the run from the police once again after narrowly escaping them in the opening sequence, but getting wounded in the process.  She ends up being helped by a depressed dude named Kudo who works in a strip bar controlling the lights and sound board.  Apparently he used to be in some underground revolutionary group, but was caught and tortured and forced to rat out his accomplices (apparently his junk got melted, so that's pretty hard core). 

Through their shared misery the two form a bond and Matsu actually willingly gives it up to Kudo, only to have him turn out to be a whiny ass bitch when they are caught trying to pull a heist stealing police money.  The cops admittedly do pound the snot out of Kudo and force him to stay awake for extended periods of time, but what breaks him is they bring in his mother who pleads with him to stop breaking her heart so he gives in! 

Matsu ends up being thrown back in prison, which is cool because it sort of brings the series around full circle.  This time the prison is run by women guards though for a different experience.  You get a nice solid dose of W.I.P. sleaze once again with some rape action that’s a little more graphic than the series has previously been up to this point (considering replacement director Yasuharu Hasebe also did films such as Cat III Rape! 13th Hour, I guess that doesn’t come as much of a surprise).

Of course Matsu can’t be kept locked up for too long and she ends up dishing out what she knows best, vengeance on the tip of her knife blade.  Once again, no complaints here in terms of the action and violence, but this entry does feel a little lacking as it doesn’t possess the same surreal artistic flare that made the first three so unique.  It’s still there to a degree, but not the same level. 

Apparently the reason Ito left the series after part 3 was because the studio who was putting these movies out, Toei, kept slashing the budget for each new instalment (sounds just like Planet of the Apes, damn greedy studio bastards).  Since Meiko Kaji stopped at this entry so did I, and I think it ends the series fairly well without putting the franchise to shame like most sequels usually do at the number 3 or 4 point. Overall, a fucking kick ass series I would recommend to anyone into exploitation movies that are actually well made. 

I guess movies like this are often referred to as “Pinky Violence” and there was a whole shit load of movies made in the sub-genre in Japan during the late 60’s, 70’s and 80’s so I’ll definitely have to check out more of those after how good these ones were! 

If you’re wondering Pink films were softcore pornographic films made in Japan starting in the 60’s, pretty much around the same time sexploitation flicks (or nudies) were being churned out in North America and Europe before being completely overtaken by hardcore in the 70’s.  Toei was one of the first studios to combine the softcore elements of Pink films with graphic violence and action usually featuring a strong female lead to make the Pinky Violence subgenre.  Cool huh?

Seek these out!!