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I was fortunate to see this film on the big screen and I was very
impressed with the cinematography. There isn't much character
development, but the simmering hatred between Scorpion and a rival
inmate creates significant tension. Those who enjoy Eastwood's "man
with no name" films, other unusual Japanese films from the same time
period (Black Tight Killers, Ecstasy of the Angels, etc.) will find
this interesting... my only caveats have to do with the rape scenes,
which for some reason often find their way into offbeat Japanese films.
Some of the scenes aren't entirely fulfilling... at times I wished for
more (unbelievably) violence so the characters are more fully able to
avenge themselves. Some of the editing is a little awkward, but there
are a few scenes that have breathtaking cinematography... particularly
in the hut toward the end of the film where the camera focuses on
Scorpion as the contents of the hut rotate around her... and the
amazing transition "dream" scene on the bus. Great stuff... I
thoroughly enjoyed it. Will be buying on DVD....
I wrote that review in 2001, but thought I'd add a comment four years later. This film has worked it's way into my subconscious and has become one of my all-time favorites. Not only do I own the U.S. DVD, but the Japanese Region 2 as well (the print quality is much higher... no English subtitles, though). I have since seen all four of the Sasori films, and this film (Joshuu sasori: Dai-41 zakkyo-bô), the second in the series, is the best one.
I think the substance of the story has been well described by others already
but the look of the film has only been hinted at. It's a wonderfully
psychotic vision, I often sat there thinking "Where the heck is the camera?
How did they get that angle?". The opening shots of Matsu and the warden in
her cell were simply incredible. Throughout the film there are surreal
interruptions of the narrative in a "Theatrical" style where the location
turns into an obvious backdrop and the lighting becomes more intrusive.
These scenes usually highlight what's happening behind the eyes of the
I won't give it away, but near the end of the movie there is a transition between shots that is so incredible and unexpected that the audience broke out into applause just for a TRANSITION! If you are a fan of surreal film or 60's/70's psycho-cinema you owe it to yourself to seek out this film. It is available on DVD now as well.
It is unfortunate, but nearly unavoidable, that what is innovative and successful will be copied until new viewers find the original unchallenging or even imitative of the successive work they have already viewed. Tarantino has been entirely forthright in acknowledging his debts to the innovators in this and other genres. The primary difference between the approaches of this film and Tarantino's "tributes" is that these intend very little irony or parody, while his work is hyper-aware of such things. I think it is important to view the Scorpion films in the proper context: They are excellently produced potboilers which are very pleasing, and their use of Meiko Kaji as an unapologetically aggressive and vengeful woman looking out for herself, while praiseworthy today, was particularly innovative 35 years ago.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
FEMALE CONVICT SCORPION: JAILHOUSE 41 - the sequel to the equally
excellent FEMALE PRISONER #701: SCORPION - is another winner in the
70's Japanese exploit-style genre. I have yet to see one of these type
film that I didn't like, and at this point I've seen a pretty good
amount. There's something about this era in Japanese exploitation
cinema (and exploitation cinema from other areas as well...) that is so
refreshing. Along with having fun, sleazy, violent, sexy story lines
and characters - there is still a real emphasis on QUALITY
cinematography and storytelling that is lacking from a lot of modern
shot-on-video, micro-budget, "underground" and exploitation films. This
added dimension gives these 70's films a quality of "respectability"
and seriousness, despite usually containing some pretty off-the-wall
FEMALE CONVICT continues the tale of Matsu (aka Scorpion by the other prisoners and guards)- a hard-ass, unbreakable inmate who's short on words and long on action, and has a penchant for violence and creative jailbreak. In this installment, Scorpion has been in the "hole" for a year since we last saw her in the FEMALE PRISONER film. A prison Official is coming to check up on the prison Warden (the guy that Scorpion stabbed in the eye in the last film) - so they decide to dust Scorpion off as the prison Official wants to do a meet-and-greet with the convicts. This doesn't turn out to be such a great idea, because even in her weakened state Scorpion is still a formidable foe, and attacks the warden. This leads to a riot, and of course Scorpion is blamed for the disturbance. As punishment, Scorpion is subjected to a public gang-raping from some of the other prison guards. Afterward, during a prison transfer, Scorpion and six other prisoners cause a disturbance that inadvertently allows them to escape. Taking refuge in a small abandoned village, the group tries to remain one step ahead of the warden and his henchmen. Here we get a little background on the other prisoners - including a particularly nutty broad who is in prison for drowning one of her children and performing a harakiri-abortion on her other unborn child. Scorpion and this chick don't get along so well, and the tension between the two is palpable. Continuing their trek, the group have a run-in with a group of traveling businessmen on a bus - and problems arise when one of the girls is raped and accidentally killed. The girls hijack the bus and the occupants and continue on their run from the law. At a road-block, Crazy-Harakiri-Lady throws Scorpion off the bus as a diversion, but ends up being cornered by the cops anyway. Scorpion tells the cops that the hostages on the bus were all killed (which isn't true...) which prompts a shoot-out between the cops and the hijackers. Scorpion is carted BACK to jail - but a bungled attempt to kill her in transit to the jailhouse offers her ANOTHER chance for escape. Free again, Scorpion exacts revenge on the sinister prison warden in much the same fashion as the end scene of the first film...
There's all kinds of stuff going on in FEMALE CONVICT. The storyline is solid, the acting is good, cinematography is excellent - everything that I love about this genre of films is present. This entry is a little more "stylized" that the previous, with a few trippy dream sequences thrown in. This doesn't impact the film negatively - in fact, they're kinda cool - it just gives FEMALE CONVICT a little less straight-forward feel then FEMALE PRISONER. Overall - another winner for fans of such films as SEX AND FURY, FEMALE YAKUZA TALE, LADY SNOWBLOOD, of course FEMALE PRISONER #701: SCORPION, or pretty much any 70's era Japanese pinky/exploit-style films. 8.5/10
It's difficult to describe a movie like Female Convict Scorpion
Jailhouse 41. First let me say that I saw it in a film class that
concentrates on the visual styles of several films. In this same class I
have seen Touch of Evil and several other "classics." I was amazed to see
that this film only had 6 votes(7 including mine), so I had to add my own
This film is masterfully shot in a classic Japanese style that emphazises color and full use of the widescreen presentation. The film also has a bit of a campiness to it that adds a flavor that is unusual for a foreign film. Most foreign films that are thought of as being campy usually are just not well done. This is not the case with Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41. The campiness that I refer to is the same campiness that has made the Evil Dead series such a success. Exaggeration of many shots and the characters themselves.
The story itself is very unique, following a group of escape female convicts lead by an awesome character named Scorpion. The filmmakers gave her a near godlike respect when shooting her, and she is very well developed even though she doesn't speak. She doesn't speak because she knows that actions speak louder than words.
Anyway, I highly recommend this film for anyone who is a fan of foreign films, and I also recommend it to those who like stories based on comic books. I believe that this film is based on a series of Japanese comics; it is put together like a comic book, so it is obvious that many shots and the story are out of this world, as movies such as The Matrix have proved to the main-stream audience.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Female Convict Scorpion is a decent sequel to my beloved Female
Prisoner Scorpion. It has the same art-house visual style mixed with
70's exploitation. It has some problems here and there which mainly
comes from the fact that this film has no real reason to exist.
This time the film is not set in prison, but follows a bunch of escaped female prisoners and their exploits. It far more brutal and tasteless than the original. Some lines of dialog are so disgusting and tasteless, that you want to punch this film in the face. Also wasn't a big fan of escapees themselves. Aside from few of them, they were so annoying and wished they would be hit by a train. This film goes for more shock unlike the original which went for a stylish character piece/revenge film. If the rest of the female convicts were a likable as Meiko Kaji and few other girls, then I wouldn't had such a big problem with the content of Female Convict Scorpion.
Female Convict Scorpion is a mediocre sequel in my opinion that has no real reason to exist. If you are a fan of Meiko Kaji like I am, then this a must see. Check it out if you are interested in 70's exploitation.
The first film in this acclaimed Japanese exploitation cycle, entitled "Female Prisoner 701: Scorpion", literally perplexed me because it was such an atypical W.I.P accomplishment. It had a great story, a likable heroine character, stylish photography and - shockingly enough - only a minimal amount of nudity and perversion. The second entry in the series, entitled "Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41", actually astonished me even more! This time because it's such an atypical sequel. The formula of the original film clearly worked, so you would expect and even respect director Shunya Ito and his crew to embroider on the same successful elements, but they don't. In fact, the concept is completely different and easily the most innovative one ever used in a W.I.P film. Most of the action takes place outside the prisons' walls, during an escape that gradually changes into a wild and surreal 7-headed girl-power road trip across the desolate Japanese countryside. Seen from a certain viewpoint the script's drastic change of direction is actually rather logic, since the protagonist's engaging background story properly ended in part one. Scorpion successfully extracted her vengeance and returned to prison to serve a deserved sentence this time. But still, the completely alternative set-up is courageously ambitious and not just the story lines vastly changed, but nearly everything else as well, including atmosphere, imagery, editing, the depiction of violence and even the Matsu's entire persona! She now fully embodies bitterness and ferocity, which is masterfully illustrated through Ito's visionary direction. Matsu barely speaks five complete sentences during the whole film, yet her stares penetrate through the thickest skulls and she catches each suspicious sound in massive stereo. Since her virulent escapades, which even cost the headmaster's eye, Matsu spent the last year in a moist pit underneath the prison. She's allowed one day of daylight when a government inspector comes to visit and this is already enough for her to cause a major hoedown. Severe punishment ensues, but Matsu and six others manage to escape. Their journey turns into a crusade of retaliation against all (male) foes. The convicts' "road trip", if you can refer to it like that, is truly surreal and artsy and often nightmarishly macabre! They encounter a witch who eerily narrates the women's stories, rapists on tour, numerous abstract and depressing tableaux and last but not least collective hatred. Especially the vicious Oba battles Matsu for the honor of most respected jailbird. There's a lot of dreamy and addictive weirdness going on during the escape, but nonetheless the actual prison and revenge footage remains the best and most exciting. Both the opening and climax are tremendously brilliant, and even though everything in between is quite uniquely experimental and accomplished, it occasionally gets in the way of the good old exploitation themes. Meiko Kaji's performance is once again marvelous and she receives excellent support from Kayoko Shiraishi (who's overacting actually works) as Oba and Fumio Watanabe as the sadist head warden. Great stuff!
After beginning the brilliant "Sasori" series starring the great Meiko
Kaji, with "Joshuu 701-gô: Sasori" in 1972, director Shunya Ito carried
on to make this first sequel, "Joshuu Sasori: Dai-41 zakkyo-bô" aka.
"Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41", which comes very close to the
brilliance of the first part. "Sasori: Jailhouse 41", as it is called
where i live, is easily the most surreal of all Sasori films. As the
first part, this is THE perfect proof that it is possible to make
Exploitation and Art-house cinema at the same time. Brutal and
beautiful, sleazy and visually stunning, full of violence as well as
full of symbolism, "Jailhouse 41" is another true gem of
After disrupting a prison ceremony, which was to impress a government official, Female prisoner 701, Nami Matsushima aka. "Sasori" (Meiko Kaji) is tortured and abused even heavier than usual on behalf of the sadistic Inspector Goda (Fumio Watanbe). Sasori endures the torture with her usual stamina, and takes the first chance to escape with six other female prisoners...
As the first film, "Jailhouse 41" is again very violent. This film, however, is by far the most surreal of the entire series. Brutal tortures, murders and rapes are featured as well as visually stunning artistic elements, symbolism, and dream-like sequences. The stunningly beautiful Meiko Kaji is once again brilliant in her role of Sasori, I simply lack the words to express my admiration for this wonderful actress. Fumio Watanbe is also excellent and wonderfully sadistic as Inspector Goda. The rest of the performances are also great, especially the women who play the six other escapees are very good in their roles. As the first part and the sequels to follow, the main theme song is the iconic "Urami-Bushi", which Kaji, who is not only a brilliant actress but also a wonderful singer, sings herself.
Personally, I still prefer the first "Sasori" film, and the third part "Joshuu sasori: Kemono-beya" aka. "Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable" (1973), which is arguably the best of them all. However, "Jailhouse 41" is doubtlessly a masterpiece too, and there probably little point in arguing which of these fantastic films is No. 1. The entire "Sasori" series is an absolutely outstanding highlight of exploitation cinema, and "Jailhouse 41" is ingenious in every aspect. This is a must-see for my fellow fans of Exploitation cinema and Art-house cinema alike, and a cinematic highlight that is highly recommendable to all lovers of cult-cinema!
If looks could kill, then Meiko Kaji would win hands down. The Toei Series Joshu Sasori (aka Female Convict Scorpion) is based on a 70's comic series which ran in the Japanese Adult Manga Magazine Big Comics. Joshu Sasori Dai 41 Zakkyobou (Female Convict Scorpion-Jailhouse 41) is the second movie of the series (Kaji would star in two additional sequels). Matsu (Meiko Kaji) is the Scorpion of the title and is the near silent heroine of the movie. In classic Japanese exploitation fashion she is subjected to all sorts of cruelty and punishment at the hands of a sadistic prison warden and his equally sinister underlings. Matsu as we learn in narration was wrongly imprisoned and must fight to survive and escape imprisonment. During the course of the movie She joins a gang of other female convicts and escapes from prison. The gang creates all sorts of violent mayhem with Matsu silently watching on. Very bloody, grim and violent, Jailhouse 41 is atypical of the violent, sexploitation movies Toei released during the '70s. Directory Shunya Ito presents the movie in a surreal narrative that is both haunting and inventive. Kaji is captivating as the heroine although her character allows little for her to develop. For those who are fans of girls-in-prison movies this may be your cup of tea. On the other hand for those who are wanting more story and character development you might be better served to avoid this.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In this sequel to "Female Prisoner #701-Scorpion", the inmate known as "Matsu" (Meiko Kaji ) has been captured after her escape and placed into a harsh isolated confinement by the warden. However, due to the arrival of an inspector she is allowed to make one brief appearance outside of her jail cell. She uses this opportunity to attack the warden and cause a riot among the prisoners after which she is tortured and then raped. Although humiliated and thoroughly despised by everybody she continues to endure and nurses her hatred for the day when she will be given a chance to obtain her revenge. Now rather than reveal any more of this movie and risk spoiling it for those who haven't seen it I will just say that this was an artistic "Women-in-Prison" unlike anything else in the genre. Unfortunately, the heavy use of symbolism severely clashed with reality and in my opinion this caused the film to lose much of its credibility. In essence then, I would have preferred that it stayed more in line with the standard format. That said, although this certainly isn't a bad movie necessarily, I still have to call it like I see it. Slightly below average.
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