Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion

Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion


Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

Based on a popular Japanese comic book, this first instalment in the Prisoner 701/Convict Scorpion saga begins with our heroine Nami Matsu making a desperate bid to escape from jail.

She doesn't succeed, of course - her accomplice is something of a dead weight, cramping up with period pains at the most inopportune moment - and thus incurs the wrath of the prison governor, understandably upset at having his award ceremony for 27 years of loyal post-war service in the rehabilitation business interrupted.

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So 701 is thrown into solitary and subjected to a succession of tortures by the wardens and the other prisoners. But, remaining focussed on escape and vengeance against the ex-boyfriend who betrayed her - continuing the anti-establishment theme, he's a cop secretly in league with a yakuza gumi - she just won't break...

Meanwhile, said ex has made contact with one of the other prisoners, bad girl Katagiri, and commissioned her to kill Scorpion...

Women In Prison films were one of the staples of Seventies exploitation cinema. Whether made in the USA, Europe or Japan, the formula and situations were pretty much the same: skin, sadism and sleaze.

Well, almost.

One obvious difference between the Japanese and western variants is the ratio of skin to sadism: full frontal nudity is a no-no, but the tortures and violence tend to be more inventive and excessive than anything Jack Hill, or Jonathan Demme ever dreamt up.

Another, more specific and significant departure, is that Female Prisoner 701 is as much an arthouse as a grindhouse film, with first-time director Shunya Ito displaying a remarkable confidence in his abilities and producing some truly stunning compositions and effects that Seijun Suzuki would have been proud of.

Add in a mesmerising performance from then-queen of Japanese exploitation Meiko Kaji - she also appeared in the Stray Cat Rock and Lady Snowblood series; the latter another major influence on Kill Bill - and you've got a cult film that won't disappoint.

Reviewed on: 02 Feb 2005
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Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion packshot
After a failed escape a female convict is thrown into solitary, only for her ex to take out a hit on her.
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Director: Shunya Ito

Writer: Fumio Konami, Hiro Matsuda

Starring: Meiko Kaji, Rie Yokoyama, Isao Natsuyagi, Fumio Watanabe, Yayoi Watanabe, YĆ“ko Mihara

Year: 1972

Runtime: 83 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Japan


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