Monday, November 20, 2006


I really should have written here before of the wonders of Meiko Kaji and Japanese exploitation films of the early 1970s. I saw Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 last year and I've seen a few more of these films and they totally rock. Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 was the second film in the series. It has two gang rapes, a lesbian scene, a prison riot (even better, a women's prison riot!), a scene where they mutilate the guards, and a scene where they attack and eat a dog. And, you know, a bunch of other scenes of violence that would outrage the average filmgoer, but are barely worth a mention in this movie.

Since then, I've seen Lady Snowblood, with Meiko Kaji as the Spirit of Vengeance, traveling around Japan in the late 19th century, seeking out (and butchering) the misguided folks who killed her father and raped her mother in the 1860s. (Lady Snowblood is one of the films that Quentin Tarantino drew on for Kill Bill. He even used the main song in Lady Snowblood for Kill Bill. And it's sung by Meiko Kaji.)

And then there's Stray Cat Rock Sex Hunter, where Meiko Kaji plays the leader of a girl gang that is experiencing a few … difficulties, shall we say? … with the boy gang they hang around with. Things get out of hand. (There's a great scene with Meiko Kaji and some of her minions lighting Molotov cocktails and burning up some of those bad boys in an apartment building. It sounds a bit drastic, but in the context of the film, it seemed like the most logical solution.)

These movies are INSANE. And I mean that in the nice way. They are not necessarily that easy to find …

Well, actually, they are easy to find. And you can see them pretty cheaply. If you do what I did last week and get a Netflix account.

I saw Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 at The Egyptian in Hollywood. I broke down and bought Lady Snowblood at Amoeba after reading about its release on DVD. And I rented Stray Cat Rock Sex Hunter at the Video Hut on Bronson in Hollywood. (I miss Video Hut.)

I've wanted to see the first Female Convict Scorpion movie for a damn long time. I decided to look into Netflix, and I found Female Prisoner 701 Scorpion after browsing a bit and I put it on my list. And two days later, I got in the fricking mail!

Wow! Netflix is my new God.

And Meiko Kaji? She's been my goddess for a while, but Female Prisoner 701 Scorpion reminds me that the holy days of the goddess must be observed regularly!

I must admit, compared to the atrocities in Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41, Female Prisoner 701 Scorpion might at first seem to be a little lacking. The first one only has a single gang rape for instance. But it more than makes up for it with a lesbian scene that must be seen to be believed. Then you have to see it again because you aren’t sure you didn't dream it. (All the times after that, you have to find some other rationalization. Artistry? Study of erotica? Cultural sexual practices? Something like that.)

You also find out exactly why Scorpion (or Matsu, as she is usually called) is in prison in the first place.

She trusted a man.

She wants to get out and take her revenge, but first she must deal with the evil warden (who is kind of an asshole, and you don't feel bad when he gets poked in the eye with a shard of glass) and the tough prison dames who get to wear orange and are mean.

So there's lots of violence and nudity and sadism and prison intrigue and torture and a riot. And a shower scene. (Which is pretty trippy.)

And digging. Lots of digging. Japanese women, dressed in grey striped smocks, are digging and digging and digging for hours. You would be surprised at how entertaining that could be.

And she also kills another dog, but nobody eats this one.

Finally, Matsu escapes and meets up with the Yakuza who raped her, and she kills them in one minute and fifteen seconds. (I timed it.) Then she gets the guy (a corrupt narcotics officer) on the roof of the police station. And the last scene shows her back in prison, with the same dour look on her face, her thirst for vengeance only temporarily sated.

Pretty nifty.

At eighty-seven minutes, this movie almost has too much in it to be a real movie. Almost. At times, it comes awfully close to being a feature-length montage. Which is one of the things I like about Japanese cinema (and Asian cinema in general.) Their movies are a lot like their comic books. You don't need to know everything, or understand everything that's going on. (What's the point when you're going to forget so many of the details within an hour?) Sometimes it's nice to just cut to the chase.

I guess they could have spent a little more time on her revenge against the Yakuza and her old boyfriend. But they might have had to cut out some of the digging. Or the scene where the female convicts rape the guards. Or the bit where a bound Matsu outwits the sadistic girl who is supposed to feed her and the girl gets hot soup poured all over her. Or the scene where the prison snitch gets most of her clothes torn off, tangled in a bunch of ropes, strung up and burnt to death.

At some point, they realized they had to save something for the sequel.

Female Prisoner 701 Scorpion may not be the best women's prison movie … what am I saying? Of course it is!


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