Blu-ray Review – Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (Joshû 701-gô: Sasori) (1972)
First time Director Shunya Itō delivers us the story of Female Prisoner #701, Nami Matsushima (Meiko Kaji). A young woman imprisoned after being seduced by a detective (Isao Natsuyagi) who is in-with the Yakuza. The detective convinces Matsu to infiltrate a gang of business class marijuana dealers. The gang rape Matsu without hesitation and are only stopped when they are caught by the detective. Upon the realisation that she was used as bait, Matsu attempts to butcher the detective with a kitchen knife. This results in Matsu’s sentence and this is where the Matsu transform from timid young woman into the deadly inmate Scorpion begins.
Firstly, the Female Prisoner Scorpion films is my first exposure to the Japanese female prison exploitation genre. I had a rough idea of what to expect – rape/revenge etc. I shouldn’t have been surprised when we see dozens of inmates giggling and laughing as they soap up for the shower scenes displaying their ‘assets’ and their collage of nasty sailor tattoos. There is also generous helpings of violence, boobs, girl/girl seduction! It is a entertaining watch, just see how Matsu is going to get out these situations. Prison isn’t kind to Matsu at all – the guards, wardens and hell even the inmates are hellbent on breaking her psychically and mentally.
Itō was not shy with some of his directing choices in this feature, when Matsu was running from a rival inmate who is wielding a large shard of glass – the distorted overly theatrical effect of the face paint and the lighting was a bizarre choice. I can only imagine that this was the directors vision on how reflect Masaki’s rage/seeing red (or blue in this case) and Masaki eventually striking the warden. Similar artist choices are used when Matsu is raped by the leering businessmen, whilst being raped on a frost glass floor, they were able to light the floor to further emphasise the seething fury seen in Matsu’s eyes as she realises that the crooked Detective had betrayed her.
I do feel I need to make it clear that whilst this is a Brand new 2K restorations, the film still looks as if you’re watching it on an old telly with a knackered ariel – it’s note grainy, it’s snowy! But what can you expect from a film of the seventies, I can’t imagine their being any stellar copies being kept in the Toei Vaults.
The Blu-ray special features include three interviews (roughly 50 minutes), one with director Shunya Itō recorded originally for the German DVD back in 2006 and two new interviews shot for this release with assistant director Yutaka Kohira and an appreciation of the series from The Raid director Gareth Evans. Shunya Itō talks of his inspirations and influences in film-making that led him to making this feature, whilst Yutaka Kohira talks of the experiences on set and working on the controversial fourth feature. Gareth Evans segment is a nice feature, he breaks down how Female Prisoner #701 popped up on his radar as a teen, his appreciation of the series and how Shunya Itō’s work bleeds through into Evans own features.
Other special features include a 50 second translation of the ending credits sequence and a set of four trailers for each of the films in this collection. Overall it’s a decent film with a decent set of special features to match!
Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (Blu-ray) – 6/10
Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion is part of the Female Prisoner Scorpion: The Complete Collection – Limited Edition Dual Format Blu-Ray + DVD available from 8th August 2016.