Notable Cast: Meiko Kaji, Rie Yokoyama, Yayoi Watanabe, Yoko Mihara, Akemi Negishi, Keiko Kuni, Yumiko Katayama, Emi Jo, Isao Natsuyagi
Exploitation films can be a massively hit or miss kind of thing. Firstly, either you get it or you don’t conceptionally speaking and secondly, the quality within that concept can be hugely diversified. For every Ms. 45 in quality there are a hundred pieces of generic cash in rape and revenge flicks. That’s my opinion anyway. It’s also the reason that my expectations for Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion were decently low. *For the record, I will just be referring to the film as Scorpion from this point out as that title is a bitch to type. It might also be the reason that I was impressed with the film as a whole too. While at times the exploitation can be a bit eye rolling as it seemingly forces in tons of ‘women in prison’ clichés, the resulting film is quite steeped in artistic merit and one that deserves to be seen as such. This is not just another pinku Japanese flick, this is one that rises above it in many ways.
Nami Matsushima (Meiko Kaji) has been left in prison to rot. Framed by her detective boyfriend, she is sent to a women’s prison for trying to stab him on the steps of the police station in a fit of rage. Now she is the thorn in the side of a corrupt prison system, desperate to break out to take her vengeance. With assassins in the same four walls and world outside that sees her as a social plague, Nami will have to strive her hardest just to survive…and figure out a way to fulfill her rage.
The film is also very much driven by the titular character Nami, played with iconic face melting stares by Meiko Kaji. Oddly enough, she is hardly a character that is meant to be sympathetic to the audience. Her redeeming attributes are there in small subtle ways like how she protects the honest inmates around her, but the audience roots for her not because we feel the need for her to find justice, but because she is seemingly always at the end of a boot heel of injustice no matter if she deserves it or not and we want to see the unjust get what’s coming to them. She’s not a wholly likable character with her limited dialogue and her almost relentless pissed off demeanor, but it works in the film as she seems to be the lesser of all of the evils around her. She may not be a great hero, but she’s one hell of an anti-hero and it’s easy to see how they built a franchise around her.
|Line em up!|
Strangely enough, it’s the ending of the film that feels the most out of place and results in what might have been the perfect cult cinema film faltering a bit. By the time that Nami breaks out of prison to achieve her revenge, the film only has like 15 minutes left in its run time and her plot to kill her ex-lover seems to be rushed to fit it all in. It contains some nice moments of that dark satire and it works, but not nearly as effectively as it might have if it didn’t feel rushed.
|...nope, the stare does not stop.|