Female Convict Scorpion: Beast Stable

Female Convict Scorpion: Beast Stable


Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

With Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 ending with Matsu AKA Sasori/The Scorpion having escaped from jail and secured her revenge, this third installment in the series sees director Shunya Ito and star Meiko Kaji take the character in a new direction, with more social commentary and melodrama and a touch less surrealism.

But, as the superimposed wanted posters over the opening moments indicate, Sasori’s chances of being able to live a normal life fall somewhere between slim and none.

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Indeed, we’ve barely been reintroduced to her before she’s approached on the subway by Detective Kondo. The first of many shocking moments immediately follows as, having been handcuffed, Sasori severs the detective’s arm and flees through the crowded city streets, the severed limb still flapping around as she runs.

Evading the law – at least for the moment – Sasori makes the acquaintance of Yuki, who lives in a run-down shack with her brother, brain-damaged as the result of a work accident. Yuki prostitutes herself to support them, also allowing her brother to have sex with her; in time she falls pregnant by him.

Sasori gets a job operating a sewing machine in a sweatshop, and tries to live like a normal person – to the extent that this can ever be possible given the absence of such characters within the series as a whole – but soon finds her hand forced by the local yakuza, the operators of the titular ‘Beast Stable’ of slave prostitutes.

This is the kind of film that epitomises all that was best about the Japanese cinema of the period. It’s also something that it’s almost impossible to imagine coming out of Hollywood, where comparable women-in-prison (WIP), rape-revenge or blaxploitation entries were plagued by inadequate direction, performances, resources or some combination thereof. As such, they appealed to the grindhouse, who tended to focus on the more exploitative elements, but not the arthouse, who would find little in the way of artistry or serious social comment to engage with.

Indeed, if we consider Sasori’s origins in a Manga, it’s clear that Hollywood is still playing catch-up even today. Though big earners, comic book adaptations still mean juvenile-friendly superhero figures, with mature examples of the form such as The Watchmen very much exceptions that prove the rule, all the more since they often draw criticism from mainstream types who just don’t understand that comics are not (always) for kids.

Paradoxically, however, the vital contributions of director and star here is to make us less aware that we are watching an adaptation. While Ito’s direction certainly captures the visual style of the original, his use of colour and cinematic devices such as freeze frame and slow motion makes the film feel entirely his own. In a similar manner Kaji’s brings an subtlety and understatement to her performance in the quieter moments that is radically different from the characteristically more exaggerated world of the comic.

Reviewed on: 11 Apr 2009
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Female Convict Scorpion: Beast Stable packshot
The on-the-run convict is befriended by a young prostitute but it isn't long before fresh revenge beckons.
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Director: Shunya Ito

Writer: Hiro Matsuda, based on the comic book by Tooru Shinohara

Starring: Meiko Kaji, Mikio Narita, Reisen Lee, Yayoi Watanabe, Koji Nambara, Seiya Satou, Takashi Fujiki, Tomoko Mayama, Mitsuru Mori, Toshie Kimura, Koji Fujiyama, Koji Sekiyama, Nobuo Yana, Toshiyuki Tsuchiyama, Koji Miemachi

Year: 1973

Runtime: 87 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Japan


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